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After blasting East, Nets hungry for more

5/27/2003

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Before there was a celebration,
there was an almighty hush. Jason Kidd lay on the court grabbing
his right ankle, a towel stuffed in his mouth to help him fight the
pain.

Amazingly, Kidd didn't miss a second. He got up and scored eight
points in a 13-1 fourth-quarter run that put the game away and led
the New Jersey Nets back to the NBA Finals.

Kidd, his ankle only twisted, finished with 26 points, 12
rebounds and seven assists Saturday night as the older, wiser and
better Nets defended their Eastern Conference title with a 102-82
victory to complete a sweep of the Detroit Pistons.

"I'm nervous. Our best player's on the floor,'' coach Byron
Scott said. "But I also know he's one of our toughest players.

"He's going to be sore for the next three, four days. It's good
this series is over. After he got hurt and came back, for some
reason our guys had a lift. He came back in the game and the crowd
went crazy, and the guys pretty much fed off that, and we went on
an unbelievable run.''

The Nets, who had five days off between their sweep of Boston
and the start of the Detroit series, will have 10 days to prepare
for the start of the NBA Finals on June 4. They will play either
San Antonio or Dallas, who resume their Western Conference final
series Sunday with the Spurs leading 2-1.

The Nets made the NBA Finals in a surprising season a year ago,
but were swept by the Los Angeles Lakers.

"This year, unlike last year, we're not just happy to get
there,'' Scott said. "We feel we can win a championship with what
we have right here. That one-hit wonder stuff is gone. We have
something special here.''

The Nets have won 10 consecutive playoff games, the
fourth-longest single-season playoff streak in NBA history, behind
the 1999 Spurs (12), the 2000 Lakers (11), and the 1989 Lakers
(11). The all-time winning streak is 13 by the Lakers, spanning the
1988 and '89 seasons.

"We just ran into a Nets team that is like a steamroller right
now,'' Detroit coach Rick Carlisle said. "Our undoing in this
series was letting the first two games get away. We were in a
position to win both, and Kenyon Martin and Jason Kidd simply would
not let them lose those games.''

Martin had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Nets, but it was
the Kidd-led fastbreak that again put its stamp on the game. The
Nets outscored the Pistons 19-0 in transition -- and 94-15 for the
series.

"Get back on defense,'' said Carlisle, asked what advice he
would give the Western Conference champion.

The victory came one day after the New Jersey Devils, the Nets'
co-tenants in the Continental Airlines Arena, advanced to the
Stanley Cup finals. It's the first time two teams who share the
same building have advanced to the NBA and Stanley Cup finals in
the same year since New York's Knicks and Rangers in 1994.

Clifford Robinson scored 21 points, and Richard Hamilton,
Detroit's only reliable scoring threat in the series, had 20 for
the Pistons.

As in Game 3, the Nets took the lead for good in the first
quarter although this time things got uncomfortably close early in
the fourth quarter -- especially when it appeared Kidd might have a
serious injury.

The Pistons, showing the heart they lacked in the second half of
Game 3, cut a 15-point third-quarter to six on Clifford Robinson's
3-pointer with 9:29 to play.

Then came the scare: Kidd twisted his ankle grabbing the rebound
off Hamilton's missed jumper with 6:59 to play. Kidd's right foot
landed awkwardly on Ben Wallace's right foot, and the New Jersey
point guard had a towel stuffed in his mouth to fight the pain as
he lay on the court with the crowd chanting "M-V-P!.''

"It got my heart pumping faster,'' Kidd said. "Once I knew I
could stand up, I was all right. ... I tried to keep my composure.
I took some deep breaths, some Lamaze techniques. When I could
stand up on my own, I knew I could continue. That was my one and
only goal, to see if I could walk to the bench.''

Scott called a timeout, and asked Kidd if backup Anthony Johnson
should enter the game.

"He said, 'No.' I also knew then we'd better win this game -- so
we can get some rest,'' Scott said.

With 5:27 to go, Kidd started his own personal 8-1 run by
getting free on a screen to hit a 17-foot jumper that made it
90-74. The series was over. He left to a standing ovation and a hug
from Martin -- and more chants of "M-V-P!'' -- with the score 96-75
with three minutes left.

"We're going back,'' Martin told Kidd as they hugged. "We're
going back. We're not going to lose this year.''

The Nets, as they have all series, had big advantages in
rebounds -- 51-27 -- and points in the paint -- 50-26.

Game notes
Detroit point guard Chuancey Billups, who played the series
on a sprained ankle, shot just 1-of-8 and scored six points. He was
11-for-40 for the series. ... Detroit has lost eight straight
Eastern Conference finals games, having been swept by Chicago in
their last appearance in 1991. ... The Pistons have also dropped 16
of their last 18 postseason road games. ... Although they advanced
to the Eastern Conference finals, the Pistons finished the
postseason with a losing record (8-9). The Nets, by contrast are
12-2. ... Wallace got a technical foul for saying something to an
official in the third quarter, giving Detroit five technicals in
the series to New Jersey's one. ... Jefferson said before the game
that he'd like to have both his team and the NHL's New Jersey
Devils win their respective league titles, but had one question.
"If you have a parade, where does it go?'' Jefferson said. "The
parking lot? Only in Jersey.''