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Marco Belinelli ties his season best

The Bulls' Marco Belinelli shoots against the Nets' Brook Lopez in Game 7. Belinelli finished with 24 points. Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

NEW YORK -- When Marco Belinelli signed with the Chicago Bulls in the offseason, the pursuit of a ring resonated deeply with the veteran shooting guard. He craved advancement in the postseason.

Saturday night, Belinelli made sure he'd continue that quest.

Belinelli tied his season-high, and the game-high, with 24 points, and helped guide the Bulls to a 99-93 win over the Brooklyn Nets in Game 7 on Saturday night. Belinelli hit several clutch 3-pointers during the game, and perhaps more important, matched Brooklyn star Deron Williams point for point.

"I wanted to win this game so bad. I have never been to the semifinals, conference finals," Belinelli said. "I'm going to be the first Italian guy that is going to play in the second round. I'm happy. I just love this team."

Belinelli had been more of a complementary player early in this series, topping out at 20 minutes through the first four games. As the injuries piled up, specifically to guard Kirk Hinrich, he became a vital cog. He played 21 minutes in Game 5 before going 46 in Game 6, scoring 22 points in that loss.

Saturday, Belinelli once again barely got a breather, playing 41 minutes and every minute of the second half. In the fourth quarter, when the game mattered the most, Belinelli scored nine points to help the Bulls win.

With the Bulls' leading 88-81 with less than five minutes left, Belinelli buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put the Bulls back up by double digits. A few possessions later, with the lead down to 93-88, Belinelli blew by Gerald Wallace for a layup to put the Bulls up seven with just 2:01 remaining in the game.

Belinelli also knocked down four critical free throws in the final 30 seconds that helped ice the game.

"I was ready to score. I want to win this game so bad. I don't want to miss free throws," Belinelli said. "I want to go to Miami, I want to play. Like coach said, we can do something big this year. We're going to play maybe the best team in the league. But we need to believe and play hard every night like tonight."

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau credited Belinelli for being able to hit big shots and operate out of different offensive sets. He also called him a very smart player who has improved defensively throughout the year. Teammate Jimmy Butler believes Belinelli is a main reason for the Bulls advancing.

"He had a lot to do with us winning this game," Butler said.

As Belinelli talked about his motivation for this game, he mentioned how when he played in Golden State, he heard he couldn't make it in the league. Even now, he believes there's still that perception that he can't be a player in this league.

After Saturday, it'd be foolish to make that argument.

"I'm happy because I played well tonight but my mentality was to win the game, to go and play Miami," Belinelli said. "I still believe we can do something big this year. Everybody believed that on our team, our organization."