The Bulls have a little bit of a chicken-and-egg dilemma with Marco Belinelli.
Did he play well against Cleveland on Wednesday because he got the ball more often, or he did he get the ball more often because he played well?
As recently as Tuesday’s loss to Indiana, one had to wonder (or tweet, in this case) if Belinelli’s teammates had faith in him, because he touched the ball so infrequently. Even when he stood wide open at the 3-point line, teammates would often send the ball to the other side of the court.
After Belinelli produced a season-high 23 points in the 95-85 win at Cleveland, both he and coach Tom Thibodeau made reference to that general topic.
“He’s been playing well,” Thibodeau told reporters after the game.
Not everyone would agree with that statement, but Thibodeau likes to stay publicly positive with his players, so whatever.
“He got extended minutes. That’s about the biggest difference,” the coach continued. “I thought he played hard. He scored in different ways. He got to the free-throw line, he posted up, catch-and-shoot. Then I thought his teammates were searching him out, too, which is playing smart.”
Aha, searching him out, as opposed to seeing and ignoring.
It’s tough to blame the Bulls players, though. They’ve seen the same thing as the fans during games — Belinelli has often looked lost, timid or just not very good this season.
He was excellent against Cleveland, however. He shot well from the outside, went to the basket a few times and annoyed Chicago native Jeremy Pargo to the point where Jannero’s brother threw the ball in Belinelli’s face.
“It was good tonight,” Belinelli said after the game, according to csnchicago.com. “(My teammates) were ready to find me, so that was good. Just continuing this way, it’s important for us to play together like tonight, run on fastbreaks, try to score each basket and play good defense.”
The Bulls took Thursday off, their only break in a stretch of four games in five nights. The next question is whether Belinelli can do this again Friday against Detroit.
Needless to say for a guy averaging 6.2 points, consistency hasn’t been a strong suit. Before Wednesday, Belinelli had scored in double digits three times. In the three games after those double-figure outbursts, he scored a grand total of 9 points.
That’s 3 per game.
In the past, Belinelli has played well more than once every three weeks. Last year with New Orleans, he had a stretch of scoring in double-figures in 20 of 22 games. He produced back-to-back 20-point outings a couple of times.
So it’s possible Belinelli will have more good nights while filling in for the injured Rip Hamilton. He’ll most likely start off Friday against Detroit’s Kyle Singler, the former Duke star who played in Spain last year and is now starting for the Pistons.
“Even in the beginning of the year, he’s somebody who works really hard on his game and never got discouraged,” Joakim Noah said of Belinelli. “As somebody who’s passionate about the game, I’m happy that it’s paying off for him.”
Noah meets beast on boards:
One minor highlight of Wednesday’s win at Cleveland was Joakim Noah earning a slight edge in the center matchup against Anderson Varejao, the league’s top rebounder by a wide margin.
Varejao hit his average, finishing with 15 boards and 11 points, but Noah did slightly better with 15 rebounds, 13 points and 5 assists. Coach Tom Thibodeau couldn’t say enough good things about Varejao, while Noah had mixed feelings.
“Do I like playing against him? No,” Noah said, according to csnchicago.com. “I don’t like playing against him. Every time the ball goes up, he’s always going to the glass. He never takes a play off. He’s just a hard-playing dude. Good dude, too. I really respect him on and off the court. His brother (Sandro, who played at West Virginia) is a friend of mine. Brazilians are usually pretty cool people.”
Deng enjoys bench view:
Luol Deng was as shocked as anybody to be sitting on the bench late in the first quarter at Cleveland. Deng had played every minute in the first quarter this season until coach Tom Thibodeau decided to give Deng a rest and leave Marco Belinelli on the court Wednesday.
“When I went and sat on the bench, watching the game, I just told the guys, ‘So this is what you all do at this time?’” Deng joked. “No, but it was cool. I think coach realized that it was a tough game (against Indiana), I played a lot of minutes and quick turnaround. So, he realized that, gave me a quick rest early and that actually helped me a lot.”
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