Blog Entry

Gerald Wallace key as Blazers down Lakers

Posted on: January 6, 2012 3:04 am
Edited on: January 6, 2012 5:52 am
 

Posted by Ben Golliverwallace-windmill

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Gerald Wallace has spent a full decade in the NBA now, overlooked and underrated, a favorite of basketball purists who never quite cracked into the "superstar" conversation despite two-way play and boundless energy matched by few.

It was fitting, then, that his signature performance as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers was obscured, for a half, by a television black hole that made the game unwatchable for virtually the entire country. The first game of TNT's doubleheader -- a short-handed Miami Heat team with just one of its "Big 3" active versus an Atlanta Hawks team that broadcaster Charles Barkley admitted he "couldn't stand" -- dragged into three overtimes, keeping the Blazers vs. Los Angeles Lakers nightcap off the air for the first two quarters. 

By the time the nation was able to tune into the second half, Wallace already had 17 points, matching Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant point-for-point for the first two frames. He was just getting started.

Wallace finished with a game-high 31 points plus five rebounds and two steals, and TNT managed to catch up just in time to air the highlight of his time in Portland, a tenure that began when he arrived in a trade with the Charlotte Bobcats at last year's trade deadline.

Halfway through the third quarter, Bryant missed a deep 3-point attempt with Wallace closing late to contest. Without stopping, Wallace leaked out behind the play, catching a well-timed pass from center Marcus Camby in stride. With none of the Lakers in pursuit, Wallace took a rare opportunity to add an unnecessary flourish, finishing the play with a windmill slam dunk that set the Rose Garden crowd into hysterics.

"I was down there by myself for about two minutes," Wallace joked afterwards. "I had time to get myself together and wake my legs up. I needed something to get the team off their feet. Get our defense going. I think that was a game-changer right there for us."

A game-changer for sure, the emotional key in a 32-18 third quarter that pushed Portland to a lead it wouldn't relinquish on its way to a 107-96 home victory.

"You've got to let Gerald go and allow him the freedom to play," Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. "His hustle, his energy -- we feed off of that, just scrapping and making plays, rebounding the ball, starting the break as well as finishing on the break. Then defensively, disrupting, coming up with some steals. We've been good when he plays like that."

With Bryant finding a shooting touch that has escaped him in recent games -- finishing 13-for-24 for 30 points -- Wallace did his best to harass him from first touch to follow-through, through screens and in transition. The effort earned Bryant's respect. 

"I love Gerald. He's a high-energy player. He's really worked on his game. His outside shooting, his ball-handling. His defense. He's been a tremendous player. He's been kind of below the radar."

The Blazers now sit at 5-1, tops in the Western Conference despite depressed preseason expectations that had them on track for a lower-half playoff seed, at best, following the losses of guard Brandon Roy and center Greg Oden to ongoing knee issues. In their absence, Wallace has been the difference, as his pairing with new point guard Raymond Felton has combined to transform Portland from one of the slowest teams in the league for years to one of its fastest so far this season. On Thursday, Felton finished with a season-high 10 assists.

"They pushed the ball down our backs," Bryant said flatly.

Indeed, the pace was furious from the opening tip. The crowd played a big role in that, with both teams looking ready to go from the opening seconds. Crisp play matched the pre-game excitement. The lockout-shortened schedule reduced the number of Portland's home dates against Los Angeles to just one rather than the customary two. Because of that, this early season game had a "now or never" feel, with fans of both teams arriving well before the television-delayed tip and the decibel levels approaching triple digits multiple times.

"I tell you what, it seems like everybody has a rivalry against the Lakers," first-year Lakers coach Mike Brown said before the game, after maintaining for days that he wasn't aware of the level of passion Portland fans feel when the Lakers come to town. 

Brown, like Phil Jackson before him, left Portland on Thursday night looking for answers. The Blazers, meanwhile, left with their eleventh win in their last 13 times hosting the Lakers.

"It drives me crazy," was all Bryant would say about L.A.'s continued struggles in the Northwest. 

On a night when the first half was lost to television scheduling and the second half unfolded while most of the country was already asleep, we would all do well to heed the three words Brown kept repeating after the loss: "Give Portland credit."

Especially Wallace. He's gone plenty long without getting his fair share.

Comments

Since: Jan 7, 2012
Posted on: January 7, 2012 5:43 pm
 

Gerald Wallace key as Blazers down Lakers

I don't disagree with you. Wallace probably does not care if he is regarded as a superstar. However, the author of the article is implying that fans and critics have failed to give him due credit as legitimate superstar in the league. I think the author misses the mark here. While I think Wallace is a good player, he is far from being an elite player. An elite player would not be so erratic with his performance. He would also be a better scorer and rebounder.




Since: Apr 11, 2007
Posted on: January 7, 2012 11:56 am
 

Gerald Wallace key as Blazers down Lakers

Honestly, a lot of that has to do with where he was playing, for whom he was playing, and for now, he simply does not NEED to score 20 points a game with this team. Take a look at the body of work, I also do think, Gerald could "care Less" if anyone regarded him as a superstar.



Since: Jan 7, 2012
Posted on: January 7, 2012 10:28 am
 

Gerald Wallace key as Blazers down Lakers

Gerald Wallace does not get his "fair share" because he is not a major scorer or rebounder. In ten full seasons, he has only reached 10 rebounds pp. game once and has never scored 20 pps per game. His play is also very erratic. For instance, he has already been completely shut down in two games this season (0 and 1 point ). Therefore, NBA commentators are correct; they need not waste their time pondering whether Wallace is a “superstar.”




Since: Apr 11, 2007
Posted on: January 6, 2012 4:25 pm
 

Gerald Wallace key as Blazers down Lakers

I have to be completely honest. I have been a blazer fan since the early 1970's (yes I'm old) and this team, has the chemistry to be very good. It would seem on paper that they do not have the "superstar" to go far in the playoffs. What they do have though, is two all star calliber forwards in Aldridge and Wallace, an aging, but still game 2 time defensive player of the year center (Camby) who still has a little mojo left, Another aged space eater and mid range jumper maker in Kurt Thomas, to go along with three Guards that might start on almost any team in the NBA in Ray Felton, Wes Mathews, and Nicloas Batum, with a former perenial all star in Jamal Crawford comming off the bench getting about 20-25 minutes a game and scoring about 15-20. This team has an embarrasment of riches in almost all spote, they are a team full of 6'7- 6'11 guys that can and will block shots, get on the ground and generally out athelete you. Nick Batum could be a potential starter for almost anyone (not all just most) and he is now the 7th guy on the floor. I'm excited to see these guys, the chemistry is there, the coaching is there, the talent, while not overwhelming, and taken as a whole, is there. As a season ticket holder I feel at least mildly rewarded for the last few years of waiting for Oden, and hoping Roy would heal. Even if they do not go very far in the playoffs, the team has turned a new leaf, moved in a new direction, it's about Da_n time!!!




Since: Jan 13, 2011
Posted on: January 6, 2012 3:24 pm
 

Gerald Wallace key as Blazers down Lakers

As an avid Blazer fan, it was particularily frustrating to miss the first half of the Blazer/Laker game. TNT really dropped the ball on this one. I have no problem with them staying with the Heat/Hawks game. They are two of the top teams in the east, and triple overtime doesn't happen that often. But the Blazer/Laker game was a big game as well. It's not a if it were the Kings playing the Warriors. But TNT seems to be mired in the 1970's. They could have easliy put the Blazer/Laker game on a split screen and treated both games with the same respect. In the end, TNT looked like a small-time bush league operation.

As for Gerald Wallace, he is a huge part of what makes the Blazers successful. I think the other guys on the team play a little harder because of the example he sets. Fans love to root for a player that gives 100%, 100% of the time. He's also very unselfish, his ego's not tied up in stat's, and he plays an all-around game- a game that fits in well with the up-tempo style of play the Blazers are playing. I think some fans and media types may underrate him, but he's not underrated by the players who have to play against him. I'm guessing his teammates love having him on their side. He just wants to win, and does everything he can to make that happen.



Since: Sep 19, 2011
Posted on: January 6, 2012 2:46 pm
 

Gerald Wallace key as Blazers down Lakers

Gerald Wallace has been underrated.  My question though, why isnt Nate McMillan getting any of the credit for keeping this team afloat? He def deserves it.



Since: Oct 17, 2006
Posted on: January 6, 2012 2:35 pm
 

Gerald Wallace key as Blazers down Lakers

Roll Tide Gerald!



Since: Jan 6, 2012
Posted on: January 6, 2012 1:21 pm
 

Gerald Wallace key as Blazers down Lakers

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Since: Sep 19, 2006
Posted on: January 6, 2012 1:05 pm
 

Gerald Wallace key as Blazers down Lakers

and he's humble to boot!  i saw that TV special where they followed Wallace around and he was staying at an ok hotel with his family after he was traded to Portland.  He seemed very humble and was talking about how hard you have to work in the NBA.  he seems like a keeper for the Blazers.  Good find Portland, you got one of the rare good guys in the NBA.



Since: Mar 27, 2009
Posted on: January 6, 2012 12:48 pm
 

Gerald Wallace key as Blazers down Lakers

Well, first of all, thanks TNT for ruining half of my evening by making us all watch the 3 OTs of the Chris Bosh led Miami Heat and the inept Atlanta Hawks try to finish a game.  Why couldn't they have at least switched to the Blazer/Laker game in the LA. and Portland markets?  As the boring OTs went on and on I finally gave up the TV to my wife and daughter so they could watch "Gray's Anatomy"... which made my evening even worse and chased me upstairs!

This Portland team is definitely a pleasant surprise, even here in Portland.  With Brandon Roy gone and more bad news from the Greg Oden camp, nobody expected the Blazers to come out of the gate this fast.  I don't know whether or not they can keep it up, but from all indications, they look like they are for real.  The team has a lot of speed and quickness, and with Nate's decision to continually push the ball and look for fast break opportunities, they can certainly score plenty of points.  The other intangible is the cohesive team chemistry and their unselfish style of play.  Most of that can be attributed to the group of players that management has assembled since the days of the "Jail Blazers".  These are classy players and for the most part classy individuals. 

The one weakness that I see is in their aging bigs.  Marcus Canby is like 100 years old (albeit playing great), and his backup Kurt Thomas is even older.  That's where a healthy Greg Oden would have really helped reduce some of their mintutes.  I don't see both Canby and Thomas making it through this condensed season without getting hurt, which will force Portland to once again look through the scrap heap to find more help at C or PF. 

Other than that however, this team is in it's prime and VERY deep.  When you have guys like Nicolas Batom and Jamal Crawford coming off the bench, you know you have a very talented team.  Could the Blazers be the best in the West?  Only time will tell, but right now they look very, very good.


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