<
>

Kidd makes difficult shot to stun Pistons

5/20/2003

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Jason Kidd's 20-foot fadeaway took a
lap around the rim before falling in. It was the biggest
game-winner of his career, capping a day when nearly everything
else was way off the mark.

Kidd's floater over 7-footer Mehmet Okur somehow found the net
with 1.4 seconds left Sunday to give the New Jersey Nets a 76-74
victory over the Detroit Pistons in Game 1 of the Eastern
Conference finals.

"Coach called my name and my number, and my teammates believed
in me,'' Kidd said. "I told them I was riding their shoulders
because I couldn't throw it in the ocean. You want the ball in your
hand in crunch time. The opportunity presented itself.

"And I finally made one.''

Kidd was hard-pressed to remember his last game-winner --
certainly not this season, he said -- and he seemed the unlikely
candidate to finally sink one on a day in which he missed 13 of 19
shots. Forced down the right wing by Chauncey Billups, Kidd didn't
have a good look at the basket and never saw the ball go in.

"He has hit a lot of big shots, but that's the biggest shot for
us,'' coach Byron Scott said. "It gives us home-court advantage.
As we always said, we want the first game.''

Kenyon Martin had 16 points, nine rebounds, four steals and
three blocks for the Nets and helped hold rookie Tayshaun Prince to
0-for-6 shooting in the fourth quarter. Kidd finished with 15
points, nine rebounds, seven assists and three steals in a game of
ugly offense or tough defense, depending on the point of view.

"People just look at our offense, man,'' Martin said. "We
didn't get this far by just trying to outscore people. We're a
decent defensive team.''

The Pistons led the NBA in scoring defense this season, allowing
an average of 87.7 points. But the Nets were second, giving up just
90.1 per game.

The Pistons nearly won despite making just two field goals, both
by Richard Hamilton, in the fourth quarter. The Nets were horrible
in the third quarter, making just four field goals, including three
by Martin.

Okur actually had two chances to tie it in the final 1.4
seconds. He missed when he tried to tip in a lobbed inbounds pass
from Prince. He got the rebound but couldn't convert the follow.

Hamilton had 24 points to lead Detroit, which hosts Game 2 on
Tuesday. The loss was an especially tough blow because the Pistons,
for the most part, achieved their goal of slowing the up-tempo Nets
to a half-court game.

"In the fourth quarter, 11 points is not going to get it
done,'' Prince said. "We did a great job in third quarter as far
as getting back in the game. We just didn't have the same energy in
the fourth.''

The Pistons, playing some 40 hours after closing out
second-round foe Philadelphia on the road in overtime Friday, were
on the verge of setting standards for fourth-quarter futility,
scoring just two points in the first eight minutes. That allowed
the Nets to turn an eight-point deficit into a 72-65 lead with four
minutes remaining.

But New Jersey suddenly went cold, with Kidd missing open shots
and rushed ones. Billups, fouled as he drove to the basket, made
two free throws to complete a 7-0 run and tie the score at 74 with
22 seconds left.

Then Kidd hit the game-winner.

"We've been down before, and we've bounced back,'' said Pistons
coach Rick Carlisle, whose team recovered from a 3-1 deficit to
beat Orlando in the first round. "We'll have to do it again.''

Ben Wallace had 22 rebounds, including a team playoff-record 13
in the fourth quarter, for the Pistons.

The Nets, bursting with energy after a five-day break,
threatened to run the Pistons out of the building in the opening
minutes. Kidd had three steals in a 16-2 run, and the Pistons were
so out of whack offensively that Wallace chucked an air ball from
long range.

The Nets got 18 of their 28 fast-break points in the first
quarter. The Pistons, meanwhile, finished with just four points off
the break.

The bench kept the Pistons in it in the second quarter as the
Nets' running game slowed. Kidd was just 3-for-11 from the field in
the half, although Martin (4-for-7) and Richard Jefferson (5-for-7)
made up the slack as New Jersey led 43-36 at the break.

By the third quarter, the Nets were totally bogged down. Kidd,
hounded by Billups, simply lost the ball out of bounds trying to
drive on one possession, then missed a contested fast-break layup
the next time down.

The Pistons took their first lead when Hamilton's suspenseful
3-pointer bounced above the shot clock and grazed the backboard
before falling in with 6:59 to go in the third.

The Nets rediscovered the break in the fourth, pulling within
four on Kerry Kittles' layup, then tying the score on a four-point
possession after Okur was called for a flagrant foul on Rodney Rogers' layup.

Game notes
New Jersey entered with a 1-16 record in Detroit since
1994, all in the regular season. ... Detroit had won six straight
playoff games at home. New Jersey has now won four straight on the
road. ... The Pistons lost for the first time this season with
Anita Baker singing the national anthem. Baker inspired Detroit to
a 5-0 record before Sunday.