San Antonio Spurs guard Marco Belinelli torched the field in the Three-Point Contest during NBA's All-Star Saturday in a thrilling, down-to-the-wire championship round with Bradley Beal. The win only further proves that Belinelli is one of the best shooters in the game.
Halfway through Beal's second (and potentially final) round, it seemed that Belinelli would take the crown with 19. However, the Washington Wizards youngster mounted an epic comeback, making his last seven shots in order to tie it up and force another round to decide the winner.
In that fateful round, however, Belinelli caught fire. He finished with 24 points, the highest single-round score of the night, and Beal's 18 couldn't stand up against that. ESPN congratulated him on Twitter:
Belinelli has emerged once again as an underrated performer in the Association, now with his fifth NBA team to date. In his first season with the Spurs, he's averaged 11.3 points per game—just half a point shy of a career high.
He's also tearing it up from outside, shooting at a .448 clip from three-point range—fifth in the NBA and by far the best of his career. The 27-year-old led the league in outside shooting for much of the first half of this season.
Belinelli had his ups and downs in his lone season with the Chicago Bulls in 2012-13. He was able to start 27 of 73 games thanks to being on an injury-riddled Bulls squad and logged a lot of minutes, but didn't average double-digit points and nearly posted a career-low in field goal percentage (.395).
But since joining Gregg Popovich's squad in San Antonio, he's regained his shot, hitting 50.3 percent of his field goals this season and getting closer and closer to a career high average in points (11.8/game in 2011-12 with New Orleans).
Belinelli has always been a productive shooter from outside, but he's become much more of a complete player in San Antonio this year and perhaps this title will help more people take notice.
Where does Belinelli rank among top active shooters?
There were many standout performers heading into the Three-Point Contest, but Belinelli was far from the most talked about one. Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and plenty of other stars received most of the attention.
While they received the spotlight, however, Belinelli stayed under the radar until the time was right to showcase his abilities.
Belinelli's sneaky win didn't go unnoticed among NBA circles. Lakers point guard Kendall Marshall, who ranks third in the league in three-point percentage himself, noticed the Spurs guard's quiet victory:
As basketball's biggest stars and personalities gathered in New Orleans for the weekend festivities, Belinelli was a rare player selected for a skills competition directly, not appearing in any other event.
But if there was any question as to whether he deserved to be in the Big Easy this year, there shouldn't be one any longer.
The Italian native has, once again, shown the basketball world why they shouldn't count him out of anything—even an All-Star weekend competition.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted