The idea of journeymen is a staple in the NBA. Players like Boris Diaw, Leandro Barbosa, Mike Miller and Matt Barnes made careers through timely arrivals and departures at the nearest airport.
Last night, the Miami Heat at Philadelphia 76ers game served as a reminder of another of the league’s elite flight attendants: Marco Belinelli.
Through 11 seasons in the NBA, Belinelli has donned the threads of nine different clubs, going no more than two years without redesigning his wardrobe. Playing for almost a third of the NBA has its benefits however, as Belinelli won an NBA championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014.
In his debut with the Sixers on Valentine’s day, Belinelli gave the city of Philadelphia another player to fall in love with. After TJ McConnell’s near quadruple double against the Knicks on the February 13, Belinelli contributed 17 points off the bench on 7-for-12 from the field to spearhead a comeback win over Miami. Belinelli’s 17 points were also just three shy from matching his career high in scoring during debuts with new teams.
Despite bouncing around the league, Belinelli’s confidence was unwavering while staring down his new role and a 24-point Miami lead. The Sixers, who were without Joel Embiid due to ankle soreness, were in need of scoring to replace Embiid’s 23.7 per game, and Belinelli proved just the solution.
In tandem with 19 points from Dario Saric, 18 from Ben Simmons and 14 from JJ Redick, the Sixers secured a key victory that could serve to boost them in the standings should a tie breaker arise. The second victory over Miami this year, the Sixers ensured that, at the very least, Miami can at best tie the four game season series.
For as important as Belinelli’s scoring was last night, the threat he presents from beyond-the-arc is another boon to the Sixers’ post-season aspirations. 14th in the league in three-point percentage (36.2), Belinelli joins the Sixers as their fourth player shooting over 37 percent from deep this season.
Providing his service off the bench, particularly with Redick or Saric out, will keep the Sixers with a secondary offensive option, while his late game antics can help propel the Sixers through close games. Philadelphia is 18-16 (.529) in games within five points with under five minutes to go, and Belinelli’s willingness to shoot can change turn the tides. Against the Heat, 13 of his 17 points, including three triples came in the fourth quarter.
Philadelphia still has a long way to go before nestling into a playoff seed. Now placed seventh (30-25), upcoming, potential tiebreakers, against the Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks could be the determinant of where the Sixers land come April.