For a brief moment in the 4th quarter of the Spurs’ Monday night victory over the Grizzlies, they found the 3-and-D wing they’ve been missing for the last year-and-a-half. Marco Belinelli — much maligned for his defensive shortcomings — contained penetration on consecutive plays, drilled back-to-back threes and did this to Ja Morant in the process:
Morant, who is having an incredible first season and appears to be heading towards Rookie of the Year honors, jawed at Dejounte Murray the entire game. The two appeared to relish the opportunity to go at each other on both ends of the floor. For much of the game, Morant got the better of their individual exchanges. But after getting juked to the floor by the guy who wears knee pads and goggles in pick up games at the YMCA, there’s no question who walked away from the game as the loser on both the real and figurative scoreboards.
Before we get to that, though, let’s go back a few possessions and watch Marco be the nearest defender on a miss at the rim for only the 4th time this season.
Dejounte Murray saves Marco and the Spurs by sprinting back into the picture to pick up Morant, so Marco recovers back to Jae Crowder just in time to defend his drive. Is this good defense? No. Could he have been called for a foul with the body? Against a lot of offensive players he probably would have, but Crowder doesn’t have that level of cachet. Marco doesn’t swipe at the ball or do anything more than be present and it’s just enough to help Crowder leave the lefty layup a little short.
Trey Lyles grabs the board and tosses it to Dejounte, who pushes it up court. Crowder, meanwhile, has gotten tangled up on the baseline a little and is trailing the play. A quick pair of swing passes later, Marco nails a three over Brandon Clarke to stretch the lead back out to 16 and force a Grizzlies’ timeout.
After the break, the Grizzlies came right back after the Spurs’ new stopper.
Dillon Brooks sets a screen on Dejounte and the Grizzlies get the switch they’re looking for. Morant goes to work on Marco on the right wing and quickly gets into the paint. But a timely little step in from LaMarcus Aldridge gets him to spin back to his right and try to put it up over Marco’s outstretched hands. Once again, Marco doesn’t swipe or do anything more than just sort of be in the way. Is this good defense? Not really, but it worked.
Just like the last play, Trey grabs the rebound and gets it to Dejounte who pushes up court. After sprinting down the left side of the floor (seriously, watch it again, he outruns pretty much everyone), Marco circles under the rim out to the right corner, where Dejounte feeds him the ball.
Marco first gets Morant to bite on that weird pump fake of his, where he just quickly raises the ball above his head with both hands. That leaves Morant a little off balance and too far forward. So when Marco drops the ball off to LaMarcus on the block then starts a cut along the baseline, Morant isn’t quite ready, as his response shows. The move and it’s result prompt a fully synchronized response from Lonnie Walker IV and Derrick White, who pop up out of their seats in a combination of surprise and joy.
However, the moment would not be complete if Marco hadn’t knocked down the shot. Fortunately, he does, giving the Spurs bench plenty of opportunity to do all the celebrating the Professional would never do on his own. That might’ve been the first one-man 6-0 run of Marco’s career when he was the primary defender on both of the opponent’s attempts to score, and it may very well be the last. Still, whatever your thoughts on Marco, that was quite a sequence and one heck of a move.