Nets’ Gerald Wallace takes play to new level in playoffs

Carlesimo, center, has no problem with Wallace, left, sharing his opinion. Credit: Getty Images
Wallace, left, finally had a breakout performance in Saturday’s Game 1.
Credit: Getty Images

No matter how many shots he took in practice and pregame warm-ups over the course of six months, shots just weren’t falling for Gerald Wallace.

In Game 1 of the playoffs, it was a different story, as Wallace made his first five shots and scored 14 points. After a regular season that saw him average 7.7 points per game and shoot 39.7 percent, Wallace forgot about that with an offensive performance that was one of his best as a Net.

After showing a reluctance to shoot because of confidence issues, even during Monday’s win over Washington when he was the only starter to play, Wallace showed a more aggressive side with his offense.

“My main thing was to be more aggressive, put more pressure on their defense [and] get in situations where they’ve got to guard,” Wallace said. “They probably didn’t see that in the first four games we played them. It’s probably something new to them. It forced them to do something they didn’t want to do defensively.”

His first shot in Game 1 against the Bulls was a driving finger roll in the first quarter, a transition basket that came after he intercepted a pass from Richard Hamilton. His second shot was a put-back layup off a Brook Lopez miss. That was followed by another transition layup just before halftime and his final two shots were a 3-pointer and another layup.

Wallace made five shots for the first time since going 5-for-12 in Portland on March 27. It also was the ninth time Wallace made five shots, though only three of those games occurred after Dec. 14.

“I am just playing right now,” Wallace said. “This is a totally different season, so I am out here enjoying myself, just playing and trying to have fun right now. You know I am not ready to go home right now, so my main thing is to leave it all out on the court.”

However, even if Wallace did not produce offensively, his aggressiveness on defense would have been sufficient. Wallace had two blocked shots and a highlight moment when he leapt and caught the ball after it left Jimmy Butler’s hand.

If the category of mid-air steals existed, it would have gone as that. Instead it was a blocked shot. It was the defense that stood out for interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo, especially after watching him hold Luol Deng to 3-for-11 shooting.

“He could’ve had zero points and been one of our two or three best players,” Carlesimo said.

“That’s what we need him to do,” Lopez said. “That’s what we know he’s capable of. He’s always going to be an energy guy and when he’s playing like that, he takes us to another level.”

Another level of play was on display Saturday night and although the rigors of a long playoff game made Wallace tired, it was the good kind of tired.

“I’m tired right now,” Wallace said. “That’s how you’re supposed to feel after a playoff game — tired, sore.”

Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.


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