Be­linelli makes quick ad­di­tion to win­ning at­mos­phere

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - SPORTS - By Jack McCaf­fery jm­c­caf­fery@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Jack­McCaf­fery on Twit­ter

PHILADEL­PHIA » From a dis­tance, Marco Be­linelli built a pro­fes­sional fond­ness for the 76ers.

From a po­si­tion of im­por­tance in a 104-102 vic­tory over the Mi­ami Heat Wed­nes­day, the vet­eran shooter learned that his hunch was cor­rect.

“They want to win so bad,” Be­linelli said. “That’s why I think we won this game.”

De­spite play­ing with­out Joel Em­biid, and though trail­ing at one point by 24, the Six­ers re­cov­ered to win their 11th con­sec­u­tive Wells Fargo Cen­ter game. That al­lowed them to roll into the All­Star break on a five-game win­ning streak.

Be­linelli, who signed as a free agent Mon­day af­ter an At­lanta salary dump, was more than help­ful, log­ging 28:14, mak­ing three of five three-point at­tempts, and pro­vid­ing 17 points.

“I was re­ally ner­vous be­fore the game,” said Be­linelli, who scored 11 fourth-quar­ter points. “But I wanted to play on this team so bad, just to play with guys who go on the court and try to be bet­ter, try to play to­gether. The want to win so bad. And that is some­thing that I re­ally missed in the last cou­ple years. So I am re­ally happy.”

*** Two nights af­ter play­ing 24 pro­duc­tive min­utes, and just days be­fore a sched­uled three­event All-Star Week­end, Em­biid had the night off with a right an­kle in­jury.

The Six­ers had been re­port­ing that Em­biid was fight­ing an­kle pain. Though he was fine dur­ing a 108-92 vic­tory over the New York Knicks Mon­day, his avail­abil­ity for the Mi­ami game was deemed to be a “game-time de­ci­sion.”

What hap­pened in two days to make Em­biid un­avail­able for a game that Brown con­ceded had early play­off im­pli­ca­tions?

“Just his an­kle,” Brown said. “We had a great chat with Joel. The de­ci­sion was to sit him be­cause his an­kle was a lit­tle bit swollen. We didn’t think it was ap­pro­pri­ate to play him tonight.”

The game was the Six­ers’ last be­fore the All-Star Week­end. Em­biid is sched­uled to rep­re­sent the World Team in the Ris­ing Stars Game Fri­day, to com­pete in skills chal­lenges Satur­day, and to be in the All-Star Game Sun­day. It’s likely he will par­tic­i­pate in some of those ac­tiv­i­ties.

“That ex­pe­ri­ence for Joel is price­less, just watch­ing su­per­stars and how they act and con­duct them­selves and man­ner­isms,” Brown said. “It’s a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s just part of our evo­lu­tion.”

Ben Sim­mons and Dario Saric will play in the Ris­ing Stars game.

“For those guys to just share in those ac­tiv­i­ties,” Brown said, “is some­thing that they will come back bet­ter for.”

*** Just when he’d re­turned to play­ing-ro­ta­tion rel­e­vance, Justin An­der­son sus­tained a high an­kle sprain in the Knicks game.

An­der­son did not play Wed­nes­day and will be re-eval­u­ated in seven to 10 days, ac­cord­ing to the Six­ers.

“Justin had phys­i­cal­ity and ath­leti­cism, and there was just a tough­ness there too,” Brown said. “Re­cently, he had started mak­ing shots. It’s a good pack­age to look at and one that you’ll miss. I hope that he’ll be back soon. He’s some­body that you can en­vi­sion, if we’re lucky enough to get in the play­offs, as hav­ing a de­fin­i­tive de­fen­sive as­sign­ment. I can see his role if we were to ad­vance deeper.”

Brown’s loose plan is to give An­der­son’s min­utes to Be­linelli.

*** With Em­biid hav­ing been quoted as say­ing he doesn’t be­lieve some peo­ple around Markelle Fultz “have his back,” the Six­ers did the usual. They tried to go as silent as pos­si­ble on the is­sue of the No. 1 over­all pick in the last draft hav­ing played just four games this sea­son.

“We’ve spo­ken so much,” Brown said. “The Markelle Fultz story has been ex­tremely pop­u­lar. I look for­ward to the day I can coach him. Go­ing for­ward, I am bet­ter served not mak­ing com­ments about Markelle. I feel like we are get­ting there with him.”

*** Sim­mons had a triple dou­ble with 18 points, 10 as­sists and 12 boards.

“Know­ing Joel was out, I tried to be more ag­gres­sive,” he said. “And I tried to get my team­mates in­volved.”

MICHAEL PEREZ — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Marco Be­linelli, right, drives to the bas­ket past Mi­ami’s Josh Richard­son Wed­nes­day night. 17 points in his Six­ers de­but, a 104-102 win over the Heat. Be­linelli scored

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