|Wallace Makes Unexpected Return to Starting Five||12.22.09 at 11:31 pm ET|
It had been nearly eight months since Rasheed Wallace found himself in this position.
Wallace had not started a game since April 26, when the Pistons were eliminated by the Cavaliers in the first round of the 2009 playoffs. Back then, Wallace had hours to prepare. On Tuesday night, he didn’t have the same luxury when he was called upon to start in place of Kevin Garnett, who was suffering from a bruised right thigh.
“KG’s telling me his leg is a little sore, so I knew it was a 50-50 chance,” Wallace explained after the game. “So its just preparing yourself mentally, and I found out about maybe 10-20 minutes before our meeting started.”
After establishing himself as the leader of the second unit this season, Wallace was thrown into a situation he had never been in before in Boston. He had to quickly shift his mindset to adjust to his new role and new matchups to make his first start as a Celtic.
“It’s a different preparation,” he said. “You know when you’re coming off the bench, you’re looking more at the guys that they have coming off of the bench. At first I was more focused on [Tyler] Hansborough and what they have coming. But I had to turn that focus to [Roy] Hibbert and [Troy] Murphy and try to do what I can with them.”
Wallace jumped out early in the first quarter. He scored five points (including a three-pointer), grabbed five rebounds, and dished two assists in the first 12 minutes. Hibbert was held scoreless while Murphy posted only three points.
He honed in on defense as the game went on. Wallace nabbed seven boards in the second half to finish the game with nine points and 13 rebounds. He banged his shoulder and was sidelined as Murphy got hot late in the final two quarters. But fortunately for the Celtics, the other starters picked up the pace while their leading rebounder was on the bench.
“It’s cool. A little sore but nagging injuries, I’m good,” he said of his shoulder, which was wrapped in ice after the game. “Lord knows [how it happened], scuffling around in there with those big guys and came up a little bit sore. But I’m alright though. It’s all normal.”
Although his start was unexpected, the Celtics like what they saw from his impromptu performance. Once the first unit gelled with their new member — Doc Rivers was happy to see them making the extra pass — they clicked with Wallace in the lineup.
“He’s just got like a totally different focus [as a starter],” Kendrick Perkins said. “He goes out there and rebounds, his defens[ive] energy is up, and he just goes out there and does the little things. He doesn’t worry about scoring the ball or nothing like that.
“He just goes out there and plays his role to the fullest.”