Belinelli makes quick addition to winning atmosphere
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.”
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