Wallace Complicates Durant's Still-Effective Offense
He would never come close to suggesting it, but Gerald Wallace gets a raw deal.
When the Nets start “small,” as they often have recently, Wallace is banging against power forwards, who can be as many as five inches taller and 40 pounds heavier. When they go “big,” Wallace draws a small forward, a daily danger at the most stocked position in the league.
Wednesday, it was the latter.
In his first game back after a one-game absence, Wallace lined up opposite Kevin Durant, who has thrice led the league in scoring and currently ranks third in that title defense (28.4 PPG). The Nets forward helped his team “limit” Durant to 27 points on 11-of-17 (.647) shooting in 41 minutes during a 110-93 victory in Oklahoma City.
By all accounts, that ranked as a successful outing.
“It was big,” said Nets guard Joe Johnson. “I thought he played Durant pretty well. Durant made some tough shots, but Gerald done a lot of things that don’t show up in the stat sheet. So it was big having him back tonight.”
What Wallace did was force Durant off his favored spots. According to NBA.com/Stats, Durant took one less 5-to-9-foot shot than average and two fewer from 15-to-19 feet; he added one more from 10-to-14 and two from 20-to-24. Only three of the nine baskets Durant made with Wallace on the court didn’t involve Wallace being screened or otherwise removed from the play.
This extends a trend from their two matchups last season, when Durant attempted 15.3 percent of his field goals in the paint and 33.5 percent from midrange; with Wallace playing, those numbers flipped to 10.0 and 38.0, respectively. Also, Durant shot just 3-of-15 from three-point range in those games.
In the teams' previous game this year, Durant scored 32 points, shooting 7-of-14 against Wallace; half those attempts came in midrange, where Durant connected but once.
Durant, however, still hits more than he misses. Whether taking pivoting, turnaround fades, driving layups or open jumpers, Durant puts them all in the cup with astounding efficiency. His one (relatively) weak area is on the left side, between 15 and 24 feet, where he is just 7-of-28 (.250) this season. Anyone thinking about giving him space over there should be aware Durant has connected on 16-of-33 (.485) of his three-point attempts from the left wing.
“The main thing is try to keep the ball out of his hands, keep him from getting easy spots,” Wallace said. “The farther out he catches the ball, the more it gives you, as the defender, an opportunity to have your teammates help. He’s not isolating and kicking or just raises up and gets his shot off before the double team.”
Wallace’s mere presence helps the Nets’ defense, with teammates aware of his ability to help erase mistakes and foes, that the man known as “Crash” is ready to fly after any loose ball and leave them bruised for any opposing efforts. With Wallace sitting out against the Spurs due to a bruised right knee, point guard Tony Parker decimated the Nets’ defense with precision pick-and-roll play.
Two days later, Wallace had returned to the lineup, and the difference was evident from the opening quarter.
“Gerald Wallace is a monster,” said Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo. “You want to talk about something that wasn’t in San Antonio? Gerald Wallace is the head and the heart the way he plays, so it’s not easy for us to play without Gerald Wallace.”
Visit the Nets vs. Thunder Game Center for a full recap.
Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo, who oversaw the Thunder's transition to Oklahoma City from Seattle, where they played as the (Super)Sonics, discussed the comparative move made by the Nets, who left New Jersey for Brooklyn:
"The reception and the enthusiasm were just incredible in both situations. (The Thunder) was different because it was just new – it was the only professional basketball team in the state; it happened so suddenly: all of a sudden, July 2nd (2008), the team was coming here.
"The fans here are great, so you expected it to be like that. The other thing that was a little bit different was they had had New Orleans for a little bit (post-Katrina, the Hornets played in OKC). So we had played games in this building when it was New Orleans playing here. They had a touch of it, but the situation was unique. Different circumstances, but I think the reaction was the same: you probably couldn’t have gotten a better reception in Brooklyn or Oklahoma City than both these teams got. It was welcome with open arms, great enthusiasm, great fan support, ticket sales, merchandise, all that stuff.