Nets starting small forward Gerald Wallace, in the midst of one of the worst shooting seasons of his career, told the New York Post on April 8, “My confidence is totally gone.”
In Game 5 of the first-round series between the Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls Monday night, Wallace scored 12 points on 5-8 shooting, including a five-point-in-17-second stretch in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter to help the Nets defeat the Chicago Bulls, 110-91, and stave off elimination.
As Wallace said after the game, “We’re not ready to go home.”
Crash has made six three-pointers in just five playoff games, more than the five treys he converted on in the final 21 games of the regular season. Wallace made two threes Monday night to go along with two from the heartbreaking triple OT loss in Chicago on Saturday, the first time he has made multiple triples in consecutive games since December.
“I felt pretty good. I think I’m pretty good,” Wallace said when asked about his confidence. “The main thing is just don’t think about it, just play.”
As for his approach on the offensive end? “Didn’t hesitate, didn’t think about it,” Crash said, adding that he wants to “stay in attack mode, be more aggressive.”
From defensive intensity to focus down the stretch, Wallace preached the need for the Nets to play a full 48 minutes.
“We feel like in all eight games (against the Bulls this season) we was in control of the game for like 40, 45 minutes in every single game,” Crash said. “It always seems like those last four or five minutes in the fourth quarter they kind of take control and get us out of what we’re doing; they make shots, they make a run and we don’t respond well.”
“We feel like we’re the better team, we just gotta play a 48 minute game, play it completely and stay in attack mode. I think we kind of relax when we’re up with like four or five minutes left.”
The Nets didn’t relax last night. After blowing a 14-point lead in the final three minutes of the heartbreaker in Chicago on Saturday, Brooklyn turned a seven-point advantage into a nineteen-point victory in the same timeframe Monday.
Key to late game explosion was the above sequence from Wallace. With 2:17 remaining, Gerald hit a catch-and-shoot corner three on an inbound pass from Deron Williams to put the Nets up 10. On the ensuing Bulls possession, Crash aggressively intercepted a Robinson pass and raced down court for a rack attack to put the Nets up 12 and solidify a trip to Chicago for game 6.
While Wallace’s offensive acumen and shooting touch have been questioned this year, his swarming defense and nightly-effort have not. If you need any evidence, look no further than this “Plantar in your fasciitis” block of Bulls center Joakim Noah in the second quarter of last night’s game:
For much of this series Wallace has been matched up with Bulls All-Star forward Luol Deng. While Deng’s ankle breaking cross-over of Crash on Saturday may be what the casual fan on social media knows of this match-up, in reality Deng has been relatively neutralized. The Bulls leading scorer from the regular season has shot a woeful .381 from the field in the playoffs, including an abysmal 1-18 from beyond the arc (.056). Deng’s PER of 8.0 in this series is almost half of his career mark of 15.3 in 48 playoff games.
Crash and the Nets now head to Chicago for game 6 on Thursday, still down 3-2 and one game from elimination at the United Center, where they have lost in all four games – regular season and playoffs – in 2012-13.
“We just gotta prove we’re a better team. I think we’ve played them tough in all four games in Chicago, but we haven’t finished the game, we haven’t played for 48 minutes. That’s what we gotta do.”