Belinelli’s clutch jumper leaves San Antonio Spurs with more questions than answers

DALLAS, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 18: Marco Belinelli #18 of the San Antonio Spurs at American Airlines Center (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 18: Marco Belinelli #18 of the San Antonio Spurs at American Airlines Center (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

It’d be impossible for the San Antonio Spurs to seal a105-104 overtime victory over Sacramento without Marco Belinelli tying the game, but where does he stand now?

Experimentation has been a consistent part of the preliminary portion of this season for storied head coach Gregg Popovich. His rotations have been inconsistent with various groupings of players intertwined to try and solve the team’s many defensive woes.

Shooting guard Marco Belinelli has held a relatively consistent workload off the bench but hasn’t done much with his minutes. The 33-year-old is shooting just 31.5% from the field and 33.3% from three-point land, where he’s supposed to be at his best. However, Belinelli made a major impact on last night’s victory by contributing 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in 19 minutes that saw him post a team-best +17 plus/minus.

With roughly five seconds left in overtime, Belinelli ran off of a LaMarcus Aldridge screen, received a bullet pass from DeMar DeRozan and cashed in a jumper to send the Spurs to an extra frame of play. Surprisingly, this comes after he received a DNP in the 2OT victory led by sophomore standout Lonnie Walker IV, who played just 12 minutes against the Kings.

A large portion of the fanbase has given up on Marco, but he’s still proving himself valuable in moments like these when the team calls on him and he delivers on his specialties. One Friday night meeting with the iffy Kings isn’t going to make up for all of his shortcomings this season, but it has to make you think about his role down the stretch.

Walker is the highest draft pick by the Spurs since Tim Duncan and only slipped to them due to injury concerns. He needs to get a consistent role within the team in order to flourish as his athleticism and dynamic playmaking do dividends on both ends of the floor. It’s going to be very difficult to insert him to the lineup if Belinelli is going to have nights like these.

Marco Belinelli nails the ? to send the game to OT! #GoSpursGo x #Crunchtime

— NBA TV (@NBATV) December 7, 2019

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It’s a good problem to have at the end of the day. A surplus of talent is what every general manager longs for, but not when it comes at the expense of defensive efficiency like it does with the Spurs. Maybe inserting Belinelli can help the Spurs stay afloat against a low-level team like the Kings, but it’s not going to do it against the playoff contenders of the Western Conference.

If Belinelli can continue to improve his numbers and get back to a playable state, the Spurs will have more clarity. When he’s performing, Belinelli is a joy to watch, though it has looked like he’s lost a step deeper into his career.

Marco is also a prime candidate to be thrown into a trade as a chip because any team could theoretically benefit from his range. With that said, the priority for San Antonio needs to be defense right now and he’s never going to provide that for them.

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There’s still plenty of time left in the regular season for Popovich to figure things out, but Belinelli actually showing up, while appreciated, is going to cause some more headaches for him.