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Kidd, Nets run Pistons to brink of sweep defeat

5/27/2003

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- After two games cooped up in
low-scoring drudgery, the New Jersey Nets felt oh-so-good to get
running again.

And run they did. Led by Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin, the Nets
turned a 32-4 advantage in fast-break points into a 97-85 victory
over the Detroit Pistons on Thursday to move within one win of a
sweep in the Eastern Conference finals.

"We played their game up there. We wanted to play our game at
home,'' said Martin, who scored 19 points. "The games up there
were too close, and we wanted to come up here and get a little
distance between us and them. We did a great job of that early. We
didn't look back from there.''

Dominant at both ends, Kidd scored a career playoff-high 34
points, making 11 of 21 shots and 11 of 13 free throws. He also had
12 rebounds, six assists and four steals, and he heard chants of
"M-V-P! M-V-P!'' as he shot free throws in the fourth quarter.

"It felt good to get out and get some easy baskets,'' Kidd
said. "We got our hands on a lot of balls, and we got a lot of
rebounds that led to fast breaks. Anytime you can do that, the
basket gets bigger.''

The Nets sputtered before winning the first two games of the
series by two points apiece with fourth-quarter rallies, with the
scores in the 70s and 80s. The defending conference champions have
won nine straight playoff games and can close out their second
straight sweep Saturday night when they host Game 4.

"It's what we talked about all season long -- getting back to
the finals, having a chance to win the championship,'' coach Byron
Scott said. "We thought about this in October, when training camp
started. We haven't got there yet, but we're one game away.''

Richard Hamilton scored 21 points -- but only six in the second
half -- to lead the Pistons, who now must attempt to become the
first team in NBA history to come back from 3-0 down to win a
series.

"We've got to play as a team,'' said center Ben Wallace, who
had 15 rebounds. "We came into this series as a team. We went
through struggles as a team. Right now we're not playing team
basketball.''

Martin scored 14 points in the first quarter, when New Jersey
took the lead for good. Kidd scored 15 of New Jersey's 19 points
and had two steals during a 9{-minute stretch starting late in the
second quarter.

Desperate to find a winning formula, Carlisle benched struggling
starters Chauncey Billups and Tayshaun Prince for much of the
second half, but there was no solution for 18 turnovers, a 50-39
rebounding deficit and a fast Nets team that seemed to have its
hands everywhere.

"I'm not going to take anything from there,'' forward Clifford
Robinson said. "But we haven't played well, and they have.''

Only a few pingpong balls kept the night from being a total loss
for the Pistons, who won the No. 2 overall pick in the draft
lottery held just before tipoff. The pick comes from a 1997 trade
with the Memphis Grizzlies, who would have kept the selection had
it been No. 1.

The Detroit took an early 13-6 lead, but then Martin -- along
with the Nets' fast break -- turned the tide quickly.

An airball by Billups turned into a 3-on-1 break and a
three-point play for Martin, and Martin's block of Billups' jumper
created another 3-on-1, with Richard Jefferson finishing it off
with a layup. Martin also stripped Robinson of the ball to start
another break, and before long the Nets had the lead for good after
an 11-2 run.

Kidd's 3-pointer in the final seconds put New Jersey up 28-23
going into the second quarter, and the Nets kept up the pace with
jump shots from reserves Anthony Johnson and Lucious Harris to push
the lead to 12.

Martin came back and made two memorable plays, converting an
alley-oop after Aaron Williams fought to win an offensive rebound,
and spinning for a reverse layup while drawing a foul on Corliss
Williamson.

Detroit made 14 of 17 free throws in the second period to stay
in the game, but Kidd blew past Billups and made a layup over
Wallace as the half ended to put the Nets ahead 57-46.

The third quarter was mostly Kidd, who had two steals and layups
and eight points in the first four minutes. Jefferson's breakaway
dunk increased the lead to 17, and the Pistons' sagging body
language told the rest of the story.

Detroit didn't get closer than 14 points the rest of the way,
until Robinson hit an anticlimactic 3-pointer in the final two
minutes.

"We've put ourselves in a great position,'' Martin said. "We
don't want to prolong this thing. We want to take care of it on
Saturday.''

Game notes
The Nets' nine-game playoff winning streak is the
fourth-longest all-time, tying them with the 1996 Bulls and 1982
Lakers. The record is 12 by the Spurs in 1999. ... The Pistons have
lost 15 of 17 playoff games on the road. ... Billups, still
recovering from an ankle sprained in the Philadelphia series, was
3-for-7 and scored seven points. He is 10-for-32 with eight
turnovers in the series. ... The Nets sold out their arena for only
the second time in six postseason home games, but they're 5-1 in
their building. "You go into Boston, Milwaukee, Detroit, you have
these unbelievable places that everyone's just all crazy and fired
up,'' Jefferson said. "It's not like that in New Jersey. Maybe
that catches people off guard.'' ... Martin got a technical in the
second quarter for grabbing his jersey in a celebratory gesture.
It's something he's done many times before, but this time it seemed
to be interpreted as a taunt.