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With Brooklyn Nets in stretch run, Gerald Wallace stepping up

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USA TODAY Sports

Without playing since Tuesday night, the Nets have moved closer to securing a playoff spot for the first time in five years and catching the Knicks for the Atlantic Division title.

With the Raptors loss to the Celtics Wednesday, the Nets magic number for making the playoffs is now four. Any combination of Nets wins and Raptors losses equaling four and the playoffs come to Barclays Center. Meanwhile, in Denver, the Knicks were blown out for the second straight time on their West Coast road trip, the Nets moved to within a game and a half of first place.

Now, increasingly, the Nets are looking for a rotation of closers, players who can help them close out games and close out seasons. Gerald Wallace, the veteran and leader, was expected to be one of those players, but injuries and sub-par play have made him somewhat of a disappointment. On Tuesday, he looked like the old Crash, filling the stat sheet, with 13 points (his first double-figure performance in a month), eight rebounds and two steals. After the game, he was asked if fans should look for more of the same going forward.

"I hope so," he said. "I won’t have to beat myself up tonight, so that’ll help. Hopefully this is a starter. I was able to get to the rim a lot more. I was able to get to the free throw line and make some free throws, so just seeing the ball go into the basket and my momentum getting to the rim is kind of a positive thing."

His coach notes the other things Wallace does and thinks he'll be fine.

"I’m not overly concerned," P.J. Carlesimo said. "Gerald brings 18 things to the table that are as, if not more important, than if he’s not shooting the ball well or he’s struggling offensively. He’s so important to us, because of the intensity with which he competes, [and] his defense."