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Nets look to tie series on Tuesday

5/10/2004

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.