Detroit wins series 4-3 (Game 3 of 7)

Detroit wins series 4-3

Game 1: Monday, May 3rd
Game 2: Friday, May 7th
Game 3: Sunday, May 9th
Game 4: Tuesday, May 11th
Game 5: Friday, May 14th
Game 6: Sunday, May 16th
Game 7: Thursday, May 20th

Pistons 64

(54-28, 23-18 away)

Nets 82

(47-35, 28-13 home)

    8:00 PM ET, May 9, 2004

    IZOD Center, East Rutherford, NJ

    1 2 3 4 T
    DET 13 25 14 1264
    NJ 31 16 19 1682

    Top Performers

    Det: B. Wallace 15 Pts, 24 Reb, 4 Ast, 2 Stl, 2 Blk

    NJ: R. Jefferson 30 Pts, 8 Reb, 5 Ast, 1 Blk

    Nets look to tie series on Tuesday

    EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Richard Jefferson was the reason why Kenyon Martin's foul trouble and Jason Kidd's poor shooting didn't make much of a difference.

    The Nets used their fast break to take a big early lead, and Jefferson scored a career playoff-high 30 points to help New Jersey finally put together 48 minutes of decent basketball and defeat the Detroit Pistons 82-64 Sunday night.

    The Pistons still lead the Eastern Conference semifinal series 2-1, with the Nets looking to tie it in Game 4 Tuesday night.

    In order to do so, they'll likely stick with what worked best -- using their superior speed as much as possible, letting Jefferson carry a bigger load on offense and keeping things relatively even on the boards.

    "I would say I was due more than anything," said Jefferson, who shot 6-for-25 in Games 1 and 2 before going 11-for-19 in Game 2. "I've progressively gotten better in this series. You get used to the way they're playing you, you make adjustments, you find your shots and you've just got to knock them down."

    Ben Wallace grabbed 24 rebounds but was the only Detroit player to display the same type of energy that fueled lopsided victories in Games 1 and 2.

    Plenty of factors could have hurt the Nets, including another awful shooting performance by Kidd (2-for-14) and foul trouble for Martin that limited him to 21 minutes.

    But New Jersey never let an early 21-point lead get too diminished, answering each time the Pistons got anywhere near striking distance.

    "The resolve and determination and will of this team, it should never be questioned," Nets guard Kerry Kittles said. "Whether we win or lose a series or a couple games, our integrity and the makeup of this team should never be questioned."

    After Games 1 and 2, plenty of people were questioning whether the Nets had enough to compete with a Pistons team that's much improved from the one that was swept by New Jersey in the conference finals a year ago.

    Detroit's defense shackled the Nets throughout most of the first two games, but the Nets went back to their biggest strength -- the running game -- to set the tone.

    "They were really prepared. They played great," Pistons coach Larry Brown said. "I think their effort was phenomenal. It was a carbon copy of Game 1 only the teams were reversed. If it wasn't for Ben, this might be a 50-point blowout."

    Kerry Kittles scored 17, but his biggest contribution was his defense on Chauncey Billups, who averaged 17 points in the first two games of the series but was limited to two on 1-for-10 shooting. Taking that defensive assignment away from Kidd was probably the best strategical adjustment made by Nets coach Lawrence Frank.

    Ben Wallace and Richard Hamilton had 15 points each for the Pistons, who shot only 22-for-76 (29 percent).

    The game got away from the Pistons quickly, Rasheed Wallace going to the bench with two fouls before Detroit even scored a point. Seven of New Jersey's first 11 points came on the fast break, and the Nets took their first double-digit lead before the game was even four minutes old.

    Jefferson drained a 3-pointer with 0.3 seconds left in the first quarter for a 31-13 lead, then opened the second quarter with another 3.

    Martin picked up his fourth foul -- a charging call -- just 21 seconds into the third quarter, but Jefferson didn't let his absence become a problem. He hit a 3-pointer while being tightly defended for a 60-46 lead, then nailed a tough turnaround jumper from 20 feet as the shot clock expired to make it 64-48.

    "Winning two Eastern Conference championships was not easy, and we know this is not going to be easy," Jefferson said. "This (0-2 deficit) is just something we haven't faced yet, and we still have a long way to go."

    A double foul was called on Rasheed Wallace and Martin with 9:33 left in the fourth quarter and the Nets ahead by 14, forcing Martin back to the bench with his fifth personal.

    But Jefferson reached 30 points on a floater just seconds after Martin departed, and Kittles came up with a steal and turned it into a dunk off a 2-on-1 break for an 18-point bulge.

    Suspense was at a premium thereafter, as it was throughout a slow-paced, foul-filled game -- New Jersey's first at home since April 20.

    "They won, but I'm putting an asterisk by this win," said Rasheed Wallace, who was upset with the officiating. "Don't even waste your time with no more questions."

    Game notes

    The series has featured some bitter back-and-forth between Pistons coach Larry Brown and Nets president Rod Thorn. After Thorn criticized Brown for his critical comments on the firing of former Nets coach Byron Scott, Brown tossed a barb back at Thorn for trying to scuttle the Rasheed Wallace-to-Detroit trade. "Rod's a hothead anyway. I know, I've played golf with him. He throws clubs and screams and yells," Brown said.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 64 82
    FGM-FGA 22-76 (.289) 29-70 (.414)
    3PM-3PA 0-10 (.000) 4-15 (.267)
    FTM-FTA 20-26 (.769) 20-26 (.769)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 19-45 11-48
    Assists 10 22
    Turnovers 18 20
    Steals 6 11
    Blocks 7 7
    Fast Break Points 2 8
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 25 (2/0) 30 (2/0)

    Top Performers

    New Jersey
    Ben Wallace Wallace
    Points: 15
    Reb: 24
    Ast: 4
    Stl: 2
    Blk: 2
    Richard Jefferson Jefferson
    Points: 30
    Reb: 8
    Ast: 5
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 1