Nate Robinson knows how to take the energy of a game in one direction: Up.
Talking about the Celtics' bench earlier in the Finals, Phil Jackson observed that "they played desperate, and they got away with it."
Doc Rivers knows what Jackson's talking about.
When it comes to the energy level of his team, he craves balance, but he seldom gets it. Of course a team needs all those good high energy things like activity and passion, but ideally they come with a certain measure of calmness, wisdom, understanding and recognition.
Remember, Jackson has won ten championships advising his team to meditate, in no small part to engender a certain presence of mind.
But the reality is, that's just not how Rivers' Celtics team, particularly the bench players like Nate Robinson, Tony Allen, Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis approach the game.
Rivers wishes he could figure out how to make them all a little less emotional sometimes. At times -- including the second half of Game 5 -- he says their lack of restraint hurts the team. "I've tried with all of them," he explains. "Clearly none of that has worked."
Tony Allen says Rivers may have mentioned a thing or two about calming down, but it has not really become part of his game plan. "Once he says that he wants us to go out there and compete ... guys are pretty much amped up."
As he speaks, in the postgame locker room, Allen literally can't stand still, swaying aggressively side-t0-side, beads of sweat on his forehead even after a shower. The assembled TV cameras have a hard time keeping his bobbing head in the frame.
Is there such a thing, in Allen's view, as being too amped?
"Never. Never. Energy is energy and we need to have it going into every ballgame."
"Something my college coach used to say," explained Nate Robinson after Game 4, who has a very hard time sitting still on the bench, "is that the more energy you bring, you'll be surprised what the outcome of the game will be. Just play as hard as you can for as long as you can. I think our bench -- our team, but mostly our bench -- that's what we try to do when we're in there. We try to play as hard as we can for as long as we can, play through the mistakes, play through the calls, play through everything."
Robinson has used those lessons to become a pure energy explosion. No, he doesn't always notice when his teammates have mismatches. No, he doesn't always make the right play. No, not many coaches would endorse his pregame routine of practicing 3s at the tail end of spin moves, and hanging on the rim after dunks.
But no one has ever said he doesn't play his brains out at all times. In Game 5, the best example of that was the absolutely routine Laker timeout call that Robinson tried to break up by launching himself like a rocket at the ball. It didn't work, and he almost injured himself flying into the crowd, but he won lusty cheers from the Garden faithful.
A single win from an NBA championship, Rivers is prepared to joke about what a poor job his team -- which has both Kendrick Perkins and Rasheed Wallace a single technical foul from an automatic one-game suspension -- has done keeping level-headed. "That tells you how screwed up we are," says Rivers with a wry smile. "Kevin Garnett is calming our team down. It's funny now, but it was Kevin and Tony Allen in the huddle telling everyone to calm down. I jokingly told [assistant coach] Armond [Hill] this is a crazy basketball team right here."
Rivers finally concludes: "I don't know if calming down and us goes together."