CHICAGO -- Marco Belinelli seems like the type of guy who likes to keep things simple.
After admittedly playing with nerves and putting extra pressure on himself early in the season, the veteran shooting guard has played with much more ease on the floor and has gradually eased his way into Tom Thibodeau's tough system -- and good graces -- in the process. Never was that more evident than Friday night as Belinelli knocked in a game-winning 3-pointer to give the Chicago Bulls a much needed 89-88 win over the Utah Jazz.
Instead of hanging his head after missing two big shots down the stretch, Belinelli took the ball late in the game and never hesitated, hitting the biggest shot of the season to date.
"I didn't think much on the last shot in the corner," Belinelli said. "I was just ready to shoot the ball and the ball was there."
The Italian guard, who walked out of the locker room wearing an “Eat, Sleep, Basketball” T-shirt, struggled mightily to break into Thibodeau's rotation because of continued struggles with defense and a lack of confidence in his shot. He has turned that around in recent months, playing with the type of swagger that the Bulls have needed on various nights. When told that this was the third game-winning shot he's hit this season, Belinelli didn't miss a beat.
"Only three?" he said.
The fact that he can joke about such a stat after rarely playing meaningful minutes in the first couple months of the season shows how far he's come in Chicago.
"I try to be ready every time," he said. "Be aggressive, score the ball ... I missed that shot (earlier) but I'm not scared about that situation."
Belinelli's teammates have grown confident in his game as well. They don't hesitate to get him the ball and they trust that he will make the big shot when it matters most.
"He's just a good player," Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said. "Very underrated. A good shooter, great pick-and-roll player ... it's just fun. It's fun to see everybody having fun. It's fun to see everybody playing well. A huge win for us."
It's a win the Bulls knew they had to have. With a tough west coast trip on the horizon, the Bulls knew they needed to find a way on Friday night and that's what they did.
"Like we say, at the end of the year when it's time for seeding and things like that, these are the games you want," veteran center Nazr Mohammed said. "There's no pictures (that say), ‘Oh, that was an ugly win.’ It doesn't matter. It's about, 'Hey, what's your record? Did you get the win?'"