NEW YORK - Mired in a slump that looked like it may never end, Gerald Wallace picked the perfect time to finally snap out of it.
Having scored a total of 14 points over the last nine regular season games, the 12th-year small forward matched that total to go along with six rebounds. The team's best perimeter defender, he also held Bulls versatile All-Star small forward Luol Deng to just six points on 3-for-11 shooting in a 106-87 Game 1 victory at Barclays Center.
"My main thing was just be aggressive, put pressure on their defense, force them into situations where they gotta guard," Wallace said. "They probably didn't see that in the first four games we played them, so it's probably something new to them and forced them to do something they didn't want to do defensively."
The 14 points was his highest output since scoring 15 back on March 23 at the Los Angeles Clippers. Wallace was one of six Nets in double figures on a night that marked the first professional sports playoff game held in the borough of Brooklyn since the Dodgers fell to the Yankees in Game 7 of the 1956 World Series.
Additionally, Wallace broke a streak of 10 games without hitting a 3-pointer with one from the right wing with 9:42 to go in the third quarter.
Over the final 22 games of the regular season, he went 3-for-37 from 3-point range. The struggles from the perimeter prompted him to publicly state at one point that his confidence was gone and he didn't think his teammates or coaches trusted him.
After practice on Friday afternoon in East Rutherford, Wallace could be seen breaking a heavy sweat as he worked his way around the perimeter shooting jumper after jumper in an effort to get right.
Hitting one jumper may not signal Wallace's confidence has fully returned, but it certainly can't hurt.
"I'm pretty good, it's a fresh start, new season, playoffs is totally different," Wallace said. "We probably got these guys for seven games, four games, five, whatever it is, so our main focus is not about your offense. It's about execution and whoever wants it the most."
If Wallace stays on this track, he brings an extra element to the offense that the Nets have not seen nearly enough of this season. A slasher and a finisher at the rim throughout his career, teams may have to begin respecting it more when Wallace tries to get to the rim, which could open things up for other perimeter shooters like Joe Johnson, Keith Bogans and Jerry Stackhouse.
As it stands right now, a normally stout Bulls defense is on its heels after allowing the Nets to shoot a whopping 80 percent in the second quarter and 55.8 percent for the game. The potential reemergence of Wallace as an offensive threat isn't likely to help that cause.
"I am sure it is going to be great, especially with what he did on the defensive end," Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "He was arguably one of our two or three best players tonight. Gerald Wallace is a warrior."
Josh Newman is SNYNets.com’s Field Reporter. Follow him on Twitter for up to the minute news and banter on all things related to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA