CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When Marco Belinelli was weighing his options following his buyout from the Hawks, he wanted to select a team where he would have an important role.
He’s carving one out for himself on the Sixers.
The veteran guard scored a game-high 22 points Sunday in the Sixers 119-102 win over the Hornets (see observations). It was his 50th career performance of 20 points or more, so that figure wasn’t an anomaly. What stood out the most, though, was how he reached that total: an ultra-efficient 9 for 10 shooting from the field and 3 for 4 from three.
“He’s that classic weapon that you have coming off a bench that can erupt just for quick buckets,” Brett Brown said.
Belinelli signed with the Sixers in February following a buyout from Atlanta. The team was looking to boost its offensive production in the second unit as they approached the playoffs and Belinelli fit that critical need.
The Sixers saw Belinelli as almost a mirror to JJ Redick in the second unit. They knew they could also pair them in a guard-heavy lineup as well to boost their scoring power and spread the floor. Belinelli has a 37.6 three-point shooting percentage over his 11-year NBA career.
“I just love to play with these guys,” Belinelli said. “With Amir (Johnson), with Joel (Embiid), we have some other guys that set great screens for us, for me, for JJ, for (Robert Covington). It’s just important to come off the screen well, try to score the basket, but at the same time, you know, be able to create something for teammates too.”
Belinelli has a knack for making difficult shots look easy. Well, to him, they are. He’s been practicing challenging attempts long enough that they’ve become part of his game.
“He’s one of these rare players that I think shoots better off balance,” Brown said. “He came in and hits tough shots. Gosh, he hits tough shots — on the fly, on a dime, fading away, falling back.”
That’s part of the reason why the Sixers can dish him the ball and count on him to deliver.
“Just let him shoot,” Ben Simmons said. “When he is open, let him shoot, even when they’re the hardest shots you can possibly make. We just let him play his game and feed off everybody’s energy.”
The Sixers will need Belinelli’s spark on the road to the playoffs as try to make up for the absences of Joel Embiid (left orbital fracture, concussion) and Dario Saric (right elbow soreness). Belinelli is more than ready to contribute.
“He really all-in-all has been a huge pickup for us,” Brown said.