Clippers’ Paul has high praise for Bulls’ Belinelli


Dec 11

Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul is one person who isn’t surprised about Marco Belinelli’s recent hot stretch.

“He’s one of the best shooters you’ll ever see,” said Paul on Tuesday following his team’s shootaround at the United Center. “The thing is, Beli can shoot off the move [and] he can shoot standstill. So a lot of times, it’s confidence and rhythm with him. Early in the season, a lot of the shots he normally makes he missed. So I’m not surprised to see him on a roll.”

Paul and Belinelli were teammates on the New Orleans Hornets in 2010-11, when Belinelli averaged 10.4 points and shot a career-best 41.4 percent from behind the arc.

Marco BelinelliHe joined the Bulls as a free agent this past summer and came off the bench for the first month of the season. But when Richard Hamilton sustained a torn plantar fascia in his left foot on Dec. 1 against the Philadelphia 76ers, Belinelli stepped into the starting shooting guard role and has since played his best basketball of the season.

In four starts, the 6-5, 195-pound guard has posted averages of 16.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.00 steals in 37.2 minutes per game. Additionally, he’s shot 47.9 from the field and 38.1 percent from three point range.

“I talk to Beli all the time,” Paul said when asked if he tried to recruit Belinelli to Los Angeles last summer. “But this situation [in Chicago] was actually better for Beli. Beli’s a great guy, somebody I loved playing with that year in New Orleans.”

Most recently, Belinelli provided a spark in Chicago’s 93-85 home win over the Eastern Conference leading Knicks, scoring 15 of his 22 points in the first quarter. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Belinelli became the second Chicago player in the post-Jordan era to score 15+ first-quarter points in a game against New York. Derrick Rose also scored 15 at United Center on February 16, 2010.

As for Tuesday’s matchup at the United Center, Paul said the Clippers hope to push the ball and take advantage of their explosive abilities in transition. But he also knows wins are tougher to come by in Chicago.

“This is a very tough place to win,” Paul said of the United Center. “We saw how well they played their last game. [Belinelli] has been hooping. I’m happy to see that because he’s a real good friend of mine. But hopefully not tonight.”

Prior to a 101-80 loss at Los Angeles on Nov. 16, Chicago had won two straight in the series.

“We got off to a good start,” Paul said of that game. “We never really let them get into a rhythm and they missed a lot of makeable shots. Our bench is what separates us apart from everybody. Just like us, they’re a lot better at home than on the road. So we’ve got to be ready.”

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