NBA Playoffs, Celtics Magic Game 6: The legend of Nate Robinson grows taller

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NRobinson.jpgFans love Nate Robinson — he’s a guy their height who can come in and shoot their team to a win on any night.

Coaches fear playing Nate Robinson because he freelances and can shoot you right out of a game just as easy.

Doc Rivers had used Nate Robinson sparingly because of that. But he knew. Someday he was going to need Nate Robinson.

“I told him almost every practice, I made a point of going over to him and say, ‘stay engaged, at some point you’re going to win a game for us’,” Rivers said in his post game press conference broadcast on NBA TV.

That game turned out to be Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The one that sent the Celtics into the NBA finals for the second time in three years.

Nate had 13 points, all in the second quarter, having been forced into action after a nasty fall to Rajon Rondo.

“The game could have gone either way at that point, we were up 6 or 8 and Rondo gets hurt, and he came in and was such a spark plug,” Paul Pierce said.

Actually, the Celtics were up 11, but the game still felt like it was close. Robinson hit two quick threes to start a Celtics roll from which the Magic would never recover. But more important was his defense. Robinson is not exactly a shut down defender. Sort of the opposite. But on this night he was all over Jason Williams and later Jameer Nelson, keeping the Magic point guards in check.

One of the key reasons Rivers had gone away from Robinson ad been defense, but that had changed.

“He gave him confidence in Game 5 that he had bought into the defensive system and there were a couple of sets that he could have success against them with,” Rivers said.

Robinson, between his time with the Knicks and Celtics, had been off the court far more then he had been on it this season. A lot of players get soft — physically and mentally — when that happens. Not Robinson.

“I’ve been patiently waiting to play,” he said in an interview with NBA TV after the game. “I think I can help the team in so many ways… Doc told me I was going to help the team win a playoff game, today was the day.”

It couldn’t have come at a better time.

Well, maybe a game in the Finals would be better. And does anybody doubt that’s a possibility?

Aaron Gordon both legs over the mascot, ball-under-the-legs dunk (VIDEO)

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TORONTO — Zach LaVine won the NBA All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest, but in an epic night for my money this was the single best dunk.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon broke ground with this one — guys have jumped over mascots and other players before (and a Kia hood), but by splitting their legs apart. Gordon just put both legs over Stuff (that’s the mascot’s name, Stuff the Magic Dragon, I don’t make this up) — and took the ball off the mascot’s head, went under his legs, and threw it down.

Insane.

Gordon deserved a trophy for his performance in this dunk contest.

Zach LaVine edges Aaron Gordon in epic, insane Dunk Contest

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TORONTO — That. Was. Amazing.

In a dunk contest that will go down with the all-time greats — Jordan vs. Dominique, Dr. J from the free throw line — Minnesota’s Zach LaVine defended his dunk contest title. Barely. Because Orlando’s Aaron Gordon was doing dunks nobody had ever seen before.

And LaVine was bringing it just as hard.

The two men advanced to the finals — dismissing Will Barton and Andre Drummond, each of whom had good dunks — and that was when it got wild.

There were four second-round dunks, and four perfect scores of 50. (That was in spite of Shaq, who wanted to give nines for second attempts.)

“I was prepared for four (second round dunks),” LaVine said. “To tell the truth, he came with something that no one else has done. He did two dunks that were just crazy with the mascots, jumping over them. We just kept pushing each other until the last dunk. I’ve got to give it up to my boy Will “The Thrill” Barton. It’s because of him I think I won. Because he said try to go from the free-throw line. I’d never done that before, and I just tried it. So I guess it was a great dunk. I think it was the best one ever.”

The Air Canada Centre crowd was exploding with every dunk. The two men went to a dunk-off — and got two more 50s.

“If I knew it was going to be like that, I would have prepared better and we would have been here dunking all night, going back 50 after 50 after 50 after 50,” Gordon said. “We would have been here all night. I didn’t know it was going to be like that. I was just hoping Zach was going to miss, and it wasn’t going to happen. You could see as my facial expressions when Zach dunks it, it’s like okay, that’s a 50. Like I know we’re going to have to dunk again.”

So they went to a second-round of overtime, where LaVine put up another 50 and won the contest.

Gordon was close to perfect.

Zach LaVine can flat-out fly.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon with the over-the-mascot mad dunk

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TORONTO — Aaron Gordon was giving Zach LaVine all he could handle in the Dunk Contest.

He blew the lid off the Air Canada Centre with this dunk in the first round — and it wasn’t even his best dunk of the night. Never seen this before.

This dunk contest was awesome, so much more video to come.

Zach LaVine opens Slam Dunk Contest title defense with spectacular behind-the-back slam (VIDEO)

during the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge 2016 at Air Canada Centre on February 12, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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TORONTO — Zach LaVine clearly heard all the talk that Aaron Gordon or Will Barton had a chance to upset him in the Slam Dunk Contest. He came out ready to prove his superiority right off the bat. This behind-the-back slam was his first attempt of the night:

Even better was the reaction, both from Andre Drummond and from LaVine’s Minnesota teammates: