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Marco Belinelli comes up big when Bulls need him most

Updated: May 5, 2013 10:00PM

NEW YORK — Between his dominant performance and emotional postgame celebration with family members in his hometown Saturday, center Joakim Noah deserved every watt of the spotlight he received after leading the Bulls past the Brooklyn Nets in Game 7.

But swingman Marco Belinelli — who scored 24 points, same as Noah — also is a major reason the Bulls will be playing the Miami Heat in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference semifinal Monday instead of packing up their gear for the season.

‘‘Marco was fantastic,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. ‘‘He’s a very experienced player who has hit a lot of big shots. He can pick-and-roll. He can run catch-and-shoot. He’s a very good spot-up shooter. He’s a very smart overall player and a team player. He plays to win.’’

Belinelli is a well-traveled veteran whom the Bulls signed as a free agent last offseason. He has been a very good pickup.

‘‘My mentality was to be aggressive,’’ Belinelli said. ‘‘I wanted to win this game so bad.’’

With forward Luol Deng and guard Kirk Hinrich out, the Bulls were in need of perimeter scoring. And Belinelli, who previously played for the Golden State Warriors, Toronto Raptors and New Orleans Hornets, provided it.

‘‘Marco came through in the clutch,’’ guard Nate Robinson said. ‘‘It just shows that guys can step in for other guys.’’

P.J. gone

One day after the Nets came up short in Game 7
against the Bulls, general manager Billy Hunter said Sunday that interim coach P.J. Carlesimo wouldn’t return next season. Hunter told reporters he intends to see whether former Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson would be interested in coaching
the Nets.

Carlesimo stepped in as interim coach Dec. 27, when Avery Johnson was fired after the Nets started the season 14-14. Under Carlesimo, the Nets went 35-19 and reached the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

The ‘O’ in Noah

Noah’s 24 points Saturday were one short of his playoff career high of 25, which he set April 19, 2010, against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Noah, who has been troubled by plantar fasciitis in his right foot for a couple of months, backed up his prediction the Bulls would win Game 7.

‘‘I just take what the defense gives me,’’ he said. ‘‘They were really trying to take [Carlos Boozer] out of the game, double-teaming him a lot and basically daring me to shoot. I was just trying to be aggressive.’’

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