Even before he joined the Spurs as a free agent last summer, Marco Belinelli enjoyed a reputation as a big-shot maker.
It was a designation the Italian guard all but cemented in the playoffs in May, when he hit a crucial 3-pointer in Chicago’s Game 7 victory over Brooklyn, then drew a $15,000 fine for a celebratory gesture the NBA ruled obscene.
It took Belinelli only three games in a Spurs uniform to show off his late-game chutzpah.
Belinelli scored 15 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter of the Spurs’ 115-105 loss at Portland on Saturday. His three 3-pointers, all buried with a high degree of difficulty, helped keep the Spurs within striking distance.
“He’s a competitor,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s out there to compete every game and try to win.”
Belinelli’s fourth-quarter heroics could present Popovich with an interesting conundrum going forward. To get Belinelli on the floor down the stretch in Portland, Popovich had to bench the struggling Danny Green.
If Popovich also wants Manu Ginobili to close games — and he does — he will have to find a way to also keep Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs’ top perimeter defender and a key rebounder, on the floor.
It is difficult to predict how the Spurs might approach crunch time Tuesday night in Denver. Popovich’s rotation, especially early in a season, is often a work in progress that adjusts within the flow of any given game.
For now, the Spurs are pleased to have Belinelli and his big-shot ability as an option.
“He’s going to make big shots,” point guard Tony Parker said. “He’s known for that. That’s going to be a good weapon for us to have.” Mills cited:
Spurs guard Patty Mills has been issued his first warning under the NBA’s anti-flop policy.
Mills was cited for attempting to draw a charging foul on the Los Angeles Lakers’ Jordan Hill in the second half of the Spurs’ 101-95 victory on Friday.
Under the policy, instituted before the start of last season, each player receives one flop warning before an escalating series of fines kicks in. The next offense would cost Mills $5,000. New-look Nuggets:
Tuesday’s game marks the Spurs’ second of the season against a team sporting a new coach.
They knocked off Memphis 101-94 in coach Dave Joerger’s NBA debut to start the season.
With rookie coach Brian Shaw replacing George Karl after nine seasons with the Nuggets, the Spurs aren’t entirely certain what to expect at the Pepsi Center.
“We can only go off what we know personnel-wise on the players,” Green said. “We’re going to use what we’ve had in the past and use what we know personnel-wise, and go from there.”
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