This time, it’s Belinelli
By Joe Cowley Sun-Times Media January 18, 2013 11:04PM
BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 18: Marco Belinelli #8 of the Chicago Bulls is embraced by teammates Joakim Noah #13 and Nate Robinson #2 of the Chicago Bulls after scoring the game-winning shot with 3.1 seconds remaining in overtime against the Boston Celtics during the game on January 18, 2013 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Updated: February 20, 2013 6:13AM
BOSTON — Now it was Marco Belinelli’s turn.
Two days after watching Luol Deng play overtime hero by hitting a game-winner with 3.3 seconds left to beat Toronto, Belinelli overcame two questionable shots down the stretch to deliver the dagger, lifting the Bulls to the 100-99 win at the TD Garden Friday night.
“He was due for it,’’ veteran guard Richard Hamilton said afterward of Belinelli. “He came out and was aggressive, focused on just trying to make it and he made it.’’
With a serious degree of difficulty on top of it.
While Deng’s was more of a thing of beauty, Belinelli’s had more of a bailout feel to it. In the previous two possessions, Belinelli continued a recent trend of his by taking questionable shots from questionable positions on the court, but after Jason Terry hit a jumper with 12 seconds left in the overtime to give the Celtics the lead, Belinelli wasn’t the least bit gun-shy.
With the clock ticking down, he faded to his left, and as he was falling back to the ground, nailed the 14-footer with 3.1 seconds on the clock.
“I know it was a crazy shot, but the ball was going in so it was good for us,’’ Belinelli said.
Boston would try a desperation heave that missed, giving the Bulls an 11-1 road record against the Eastern Conference, as well as improving their overall record to 23-15.
“Often times that’s what happens, it’s a scramble play, they’re very good defensively, they take options away from you, and then you have to go to counters and be able to read,’’ Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau explained. “You can’t freeze, you can’t hold the ball. [Belinelli] bailed us out, big shot.’’
Then again, if it wasn’t for a play at the end of regulation by Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler, the Bulls would have never even been in that spot.
Trailing by two, Noah and Butler tied up Paul Pierce with 9.4 seconds left to get the jump-ball call. Noah won the tip, gave it to Belinelli, who lost the ball in the lane. It just so happened to kick back to an open Kirk Hinrich, who nailed the jumper with two seconds left, sending the game into the extra five minutes.
“The big play was Jimmy and Joakim tying up Pierce just to give ourselves a chance,’’ Thibodeau said. “Sometimes you need that. The Celtics are playing good and you have to earn the win. I thought that’s what we did.’’
Not without some collateral damage, however.
Deng left the game in the third with the same right hamstring injury that flared up in Toronto. His chances of playing against Memphis on Saturday are small.
“Percentages are very low, but we’ll see,’’ Deng said.
Then there was the trading of elbows between Noah and Kevin Garnett that have been going on for years.
“He’s always on some bull[bleep], just trying to throw elbows, cheap shots, trying to get you off your game,’’ Noah said afterward. “When we lose, I feel like he crosses the line. But since we’ve been beating their [bleeps] I’m cool with it.’’
Asked if he could ever be cool with Garnett, Noah replied, “He wants to win. I want to win. I don’t think it will ever be cool.’’