CHICAGO – The only shots Nate Robinson fears are the kind he takes at the doctor’s office.
He doesn’t like needles.
He welcomes crunch time.
Robinson showed no fear down the stretch, scoring 12 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter, and Luol Deng finished with 19 after a slow start to lead the Bulls to an 87-86 victory over the Orlando Magic on Friday night.
Robinson, who hit the go-ahead basket the previous night in a two-point win at Brooklyn, came up big down the stretch, offsetting a season-high 27 points by Orlando’s Beno Udrih.
Robinson scored nine points during an 18-4 run that turned a five-point deficit into an 87-78 lead. Deng hit two 3-pointers during that stretch, and Robinson capped it with a long jumper as he crashed to the floor with 3:51 left.
The Bulls did not score again, but they managed to pull this one out, anyway, sending the Magic to their 12th loss in 13 games.
“I’m not afraid to fail,” Robinson said. “You’re going to have to fail a lot to succeed in this game. You can’t be afraid to take that shot. And you can’t be afraid to miss it or make it.”
So when was the last time he was afraid of a shot? Robinson smiled.
“Probably the last time I’ve been to the doctor,” he said, laughing. “Probably never. I’m never afraid. That’s something that my father installed in me young – never be afraid to fail or succeed.”
Orlando was within one after Robinson lost his dribble and DeQuan Jones broke the other way for a dunk with 1:33 remaining.
Deng then missed on a drive, and after Carlos Boozer stole the ball from Nikola Vucevic, Robinson missed a 17-footer with 25 seconds left.
Vucevic grabbed the rebound, and the Magic called time. With one more chance left, though, they gave it up again.
This time, a driving Udrih threw a bad pass that Jimmy Butler recovered in the corner for the Bulls with about 10 seconds left.
“They were trying to blitz me, especially from the outside, so that’s why I attacked the other side,” Udrih said. “I tried to spin back and I fell down. Things happen.”
The Magic still had a foul to give and needed to commit two quick ones to get another chance. The Bulls kept the ball moving, though, and Orlando couldn’t stop the clock until there were 0.2 seconds left, preserving the win for the Bulls.
“Great lesson for us,” Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said.
The fifth-place Bulls moved within a game of Brooklyn for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, even though they again were missing five key players.
Richard Hamilton (back), Taj Gibson (sprained left knee), Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis in his right foot), and Marco Belinelli (abdominal strain) all remained sidelined along with star Derrick Rose.
Of course, he’s been out all year after tearing the ACL in his left knee.
The Bulls still had enough to beat a team that came in with the league’s second-worst record – barely.
They trailed by as much as eight in the third with Udrih going off for 18. But Butler put a stop to that in the fourth, limiting him to just one missed shot.
The streaky Robinson started to go on one of his rolls at the end of the quarter.
He stepped back and buried a fadeaway 3-pointer at the buzzer and started the fourth by nailing another shot from long range to pull the Bulls within 70-69.
He wasn’t finished, and Deng wasn’t either.
The Bulls were trailing 74-69 when Deng started the go-ahead rally with a 3. Robinson scored nine during that run, finishing it off with that long jumper after back-to-back 3s by Deng and Vladimir Radmanovic.
“For him, it all starts on offense,” Butler said. “For other guys, it may start on defense.”
And when Robinson hits one shot, the baskets then tend to come in bunches for him.
“He can hit a 3 and then split a screen and go dunk it,” Butler said. “You’d best believe something’s coming next whenever he gets going.”
Notes: There was nothing new on the Rose front, with coach Tom Thibodeau saying, “The same. Just steady progress.” He also said Hamilton “has a ways to go,” but Noah and Belinelli are “very close.” ... Orlando’s Maurice Harkless played just 8:22 because of a sore left knee. ... F Hedo Turkoglu missed his fourth straight game for personal reasons. ... The Magic have dropped 10 straight road games.