Cross posted with permission from Project Spurs

By Paul Garcia, Project Spurs.com

AT&T CENTER – “It was a good night for him, he needed it,” said San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan of his teammate Marco Belinelli’s performance (19 points) Tuesday, in a game one victory against the Portland Trail Blazers. “It was a tough first series,” continued Duncan of Belinelli, “he just needed to see a shot fall.”

Belinelli’s first shot that he got to fall was a transition 3-pointer Tuesday. From that point on, he would go on to finish the night shooting seven of nine from the floor for 19 points, including going three of five from beyond the arc in 27:48 minutes. On a night when Manu Ginobili finished without making a field goal (zero of six) and only scoring two points, it was Belinelli and Aron Baynes who provided the scoring support off the bench.

“They did a great job for us,” said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich of Belinelli and Baynes after the game. “They helped us sustain energy. They executed well at both ends of the floor, so I was obviously very pleased with that.”

Unlike the Dallas Mavericks, who made it a priority to try to limit Belinelli and Danny Green’s outside shooting in the first round, Portland elected to roll the dice and have their guards Damian Lillard and Mo Williams guard Belinelli, but also help when the Spurs penetrated.

Per Synergy, Belinelli scored 1.9 Points Per Possession that he touched the ball on a scoring possession Tuesday. How exactly did he turn around his production level from only scoring 22 total points on 9-of-24 shooting in all seven games against the Mavericks? It all goes back to how crafty and smart Belinelli can play when free off the ball.

Per Synergy, here was Belinelli’s shot types on the night, including both two and three pointers.

Shot Type Shot Count
Transition 1-of-1
Off-Screens 4-of-5
Spot-Ups 1-of-2
Hand-Offs 1-of-1
Total 7-of-9

The way Belinelli got free was by watching his defenders and waiting to move off the ball into scoring positions when his defender would lose sight of him for just a second. Belinelli’s off the ball movement is how he scored most of his points during the regular season, as he ranks 16th in Spot-Ups, 29th Off-Screens, and 67th in both transition and hand-off scoring possessions among the entire NBA per Synergy.

The video clip below shows two of Belinelli’s shots that he made, and as you can see, with the Blazers’ defense giving him room to roam freely on the perimeter, he would make them pay with his high basketball IQ in knowing when to trail off and get into a solid scoring position.

As both teams said Tuesday after the Spurs’ blow-out win, both sides will make adjustments heading into game two on Thursday. But for now, Belinelli saw one shot go in, and it may have opened the door for more to follow not just after game one, but in the series as a whole.

(Stats via NBA.com/Stats, Synergy Sports)