Marco Belinelli has totaled 31 minutes in the first two games of the Bulls’ first-round matchup with the Brooklyn Nets, but he’s making his minutes count.
Despite losing his starting gig to Jimmy Butler while he rested a strained abdominal, Belinelli has scored 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting off the bench, helping the Bulls to a 72-58 bench scoring advantage. He has also provided solid defense against Nets reserves C.J. Watson and Keith Bogans.
“When I go on the court, like always, I try to be aggressive,” Belinelli said after the Bulls’ shootaround at the Bero Center. “I try to play pick-and-roll and score the ball. That’s playoffs, so I try to go on the court and win the game.”
Belinelli said he still feels some effects of the injury that cost him seven games in March and April, but, like Joakim Noah battling plantar fasciitis, it’s not enough to keep him out.
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"I can still feel a little bit, but I think that’s part of the game. I need to play with a little bit of pain,” he said. “I just try to go on the court and play as hard as I can.”
Rose not ready, but still playing important role
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Derrick Rose is the only player unable to go Thursday night against the Nets, but that he still holds an important role on the team.
Rose has sat on the bench in each of the Bulls’ two playoff games—something he did just once during the regular season—and Thibodeau noted he’s not there just to have a courtside seat.
“Well he’s a great leader. He’s been here every day, he’s been practicing with us. So you guys don’t see, he’s in the locker room, he’s doing all the things he can do,” Thibodeau said. “So his role right now is to support his teammates, and that’s what he’s doing.”
Marco Belinelli also sees the benefit to having Rose on the bench and in the huddle, saying he's part of the team like anyone else who has sat with an injury this year.
"It’s important. He’s part of the team,” Belinelli said. “He’s practicing for us all the time. We don’t know if he’s gonna be back, but he’s part of the team. Even when he wasn’t on the bench he was the same person.”
Bulls expect Williams to come back strong
The Bulls know what Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams is capable of, so it wasn’t a surprise when he went for 22 points and seven assists in the Nets’ Game 1 victory. And while Kirk Hinrich and the Chicago defense did a solid job shutting Williams down in Game 2—he tallied just eight points on 1-of-9 shooting—Tom Thibodeau knows the Nets’ court general can still take over a game at a moment’s notice.
“He missed some shots that maybe he normally makes, but I thought he made a lot of good plays, too,” Thibodeau said of Williams, who also had 10 assists in Game 2. “He runs the team, he’s a big power guard. You have to guard him with your team and just make him work for things but he’s as tough as it gets in terms of matching up with him.”
Hinrich played 35 minutes of lockdown defense on the former All-Pro and will do so again tonight. Williams averaged 20.0 points and 5.5 assists in two games at the United Center this year, including a 24-point effort in December.
Bulls will be ready for fast-paced Nets
The Nets have been streaky through two games of this series, including a hot start in Game 1 that gave them a 25-14 lead after one quarter and 25-point halftime advantage. And despite a 17-point output in Game 2’s first stanza, Belinelli said Chicago is expecting a quick start from their opponent.
“I think tonight is gonna be a tough game,” I think they’re gonna be here, they’re gonna be ready to play hard, they’re gonna try to run a little bit more than Game 2 so it’s one thing we need to be ready for.”
And like they did in Game 2, limiting the Nets to 82 points on 35 percent shooting, the Bulls want to match the Nets’ aggressiveness.
“I think in Game 2 it was important to start the game well, press the ball full court and help each other,” he said. “I think that’s the most important thing we can do.”