Belinelli sparks Sixers big comeback
The Sixers were quiet at the trade deadline and many fans were disappointed that Bryan Colangelo didn't make a move to improve the bench. Well, the buy-out market gave the Sixers Marco Belinelli and it's safe to say the 10-year veteran has already made a memorable impression on Philadelphia fans. From the moment committed to sign with the Sixers this past weekend, Belinelli was already tweeting about the process. Shortly after he signed, he tweeted out a photo of his face over Rocky's face in the movie. Belinelli didn't get into Monday's game, but he made his mark during his debut on Wednesday, a game that saw the Sixers stage a 24-point comeback to beat Miami 104-102 without Joel Embiid.
"You remember yesterday I said, one thing I really love about this group [...] they want to win so bad, and that's why I think we won this game," Belinelli told reporters after the game. "It's not easy, being down by 20, 24, against a really good team like Miami...I'm really impressed about that."
The first half was one to forget for the Sixers. They shot 34 percent from the floor and 14.3 percent from beyond the arc, trailing 62-39 after the first 24 minutes. Whatever Brett Brown had to say at halftime got into their heads as the Sixers began to make a push in the third quarter, outscoring Miami 34-19 to climb back to within eight. The fourth quarter is where Belinelli started to heat up.
Under a minute into the final 12 minutes, Belinelli hit a triple to cut Miami's lead to six. James Johnson answered with a three, but Belinelli came right back with one of his own to trim the lead to five. A Dwayne Wade jumper put Miami back up by seven, but Belinelli drained another three to make it an 86-82 game. With the Sixers leading by four and 2:25 to go on the clock, Belinelli drove to the hoop and hit a tough contested layup to extend their advantage to 100-94. The Heat made a final push and got the ball with 3.3 seconds to go, but Dwayne Wade missed a three at the buzzer, sealing the win for Philadelphia.
"I'm really happy we played good basketball in the third and fourth quarter," Belinelli said. "Played together on offense, on defense. Everybody was ready to help each other. Just a great win before the All-Star break."
When it was all said and done, Belinelli finished his Sixers debut with 17 points, 11 of them coming in the fourth. He shot 7-for-12 from the floor and 3-for-5 from beyond the arc. Ben Simmons finished with his sixth career triple-double, scoring 18 points to go along with 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
"We needed everyone," Brett Brown said. "The level of desperation we needed to show to come back from that massive of a deficit.The execution at the end was great."
The Sixers finished their pre-All-Star break homestand 5-0 and are now 1.5 ahead of the Heat in the playoff standings. The No. 7 seed Sixers are only two games back of 4th seed Washington heading into the break.
Philadelphia won't hit the court again until Thursday, February 22 in Chicago. Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Dario Saric will head to L.A. for All-Star festivities this weekend.
Brandon Apter is a contributor to 97.3 ESPN and managing editor at SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @bapter23.