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NEW YORK — Nets fans and players alike have been frustrated by the team's somewhat inconsistent play this season. Two steps forward, two steps back; that's been the mantra.

Gerald Wallace

Along the way, we have seen Avery Johnson and P.J. Carlesimo both employ different strategies to try to solve some of the team's woes, and the latest strategic initiative employed by Carlesimo has been to bench Kris Humphries.

The power forward spot is one thing that has been somewhat uncertain for Brooklyn this season, but one thing that Carlesimo seemed certain of was Gerald Wallace. On Tuesday, Wallace proved his coached correct.

Wallace earned the moniker "Crash" for a reason. He plays a reckless brand of basketball and is usually suffering at this point in the season because of it. Last week, Wallace spoke with about the Nets injury woes, but he was not making any excuses for himself or for any of his teammates.

Thus far this season, Wallace has struggled mightily, but when healthy and engaged, he provides the Nets with a host of intangibles that no other player on the roster provides consistently. Before the Nets took on the Hornets on Tuesday night, Carlesimo, though uncertain about many things about his team, was certain about Wallace.

"Gerald brings 18 things to the table that are as or more important than if he's not shooting the ball well or if he's struggling offensively," he said before the game. "He's so important to us because of the intensity with which he competes and because of his defense."

Wallace responded with one of his best games in quite some time. He ended up with 11 points on 3-of-9 shooting, but he got to the free-throw line nine times and played with the energy and passion that made Brooklyn fall in love with him in the first place. The 11 points he scored was his first double-figure scoring output in a month. The last time Wallace scored in double-figures was back on Feb. 11 when he chipped in a double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds against the Indiana Pacers.

Defensively, he battled with Anthony Davis and Robin Lopez on the boards and fought over screens and ran with Eric Gordon on the perimeter. That versatility is what the Nets need from Wallace on a consistent basis.

Wallace's supreme effort was epitomized with the game already decided and just 80 seconds left on the clock. With the Nets leading by 11 points, he outhustled both Robin Lopez and Davis for an offensive rebound and earned the Nets an extra possession that they did not even need. Barclays gave him a rousing applause for the effort.

Carlesimo's praise of Wallace must have been an omen, because he was singing his praises after the game, as well.

"Gerald played really well and aggressively," he said. "When Gerald guards you, you're going to have to work for your points and that's what he did," he said in reference to the good defense Wallace played on Gordon.

That final sequence was indicative of the fight and spirit that Wallace played with throughout the night. Afterward, he called the game a "must win," because of the team's disappointing loss in Philadelphia on Monday night. He played like it.

"[The win] was very important," he said. "We felt like we gave that game [at Philadelphia] away. We didn't come prepared... So this was a 'must win' for us."

With Joe Johnson getting the night off to rest his still mending heel ailment, the Nets took a calculated risk by attempting to defeat the Hornets without him. Fortunately, they got this one correct. The Nets managed the 108-98 victory without Johnson and a big reason why was because of Wallace's effort and his 11 points were needed.

"My thing is to be more aggressive and to try to  help the team out by scoring more," he said. "My shot isn't falling right now, so the best thing I can do is try and attack the rim and make my free-throws and try to build some confidence offensively."

He played a major role for the Nets tonight, even if his numbers on the box score don't pop out at you. This Wallace can help the Nets win the Atlantic Division, and that remains an attainable goal with the Knicks battling injury issues and the Nets just two games behind them.

The Nets now have four days off before they host the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday. Carlesimo will give his troops Wednesday and Friday off, but will hold full practices on Thursday and Saturday.

Wallace told that he has not specifically practiced with a unit featuring Andray Blatche and Brook Lopez, but a lineup featuring those two big men is something that we saw Carlesimo employ down the stretch against the Hornets and it's something that we can probably expect to see a bit more of.

Hopefully, for Nets fans, they will see a bit more of "Crash," as well.

Tags: Editorial Aside, Columns , Moke Hamilton
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