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Hamilton's jumper helps seal it

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Nothing deterred the Detroit
Pistons -- not their three straight losses, their three-overtime
heartbreak or an early double-digit deficit -- from forcing a Game 7
against the New Jersey Nets.

Richard Hamilton pump-faked Jason Kidd off his feet and drilled
a clutch 18-footer with 15.5 seconds remaining, capping a 24-point
performance that kept the Pistons' season alive.

Hamilton's shot, Ben Wallace's rebounding and the Pistons
refusal to quit added up to an 81-75 victory Sunday night, evening
their Eastern Conference semifinal series at three games apiece.

"We knew what kind of game this was going to be, what kind of
environment this was going to be. We knew it was tonight or it's
over," Pistons guard Chauncey Billups said.

After two blowout victories and one close win for each team, the
series will be decided on the Pistons' home court.

Game 7 is Thursday night, the winner advancing to the Eastern
Conference finals beginning next Saturday. New Jersey will be
looking to make it there for the third straight year, while Detroit
will try to get there for the second consecutive season.

"We let an opportunity go, but it's not the end of the
series," Kidd said.

Hamilton was the most productive member of Detroit's offense for
the second time in three games, the Pistons choosing to attack
whichever player Kidd was defending.

Ever since Nets coach Lawrence Frank switched Kerry Kittles onto
Billups in Game 3, Kidd has been the primary defender on Hamilton --
a matchup that favors Detroit.

"I know he expends so much energy on the offensive end -- he's
the catalyst for that team, he's got to score, pass and rebound, so
I just tried to make him work on the defensive end," Hamilton
said. "I think I'm in the best shape in the league running-wise --
I can run forever.

"I kept pushing and pushing -- nobody wants to go home,"
Hamilton said.

His final shot capped an 11-for-24 performance that also
included five rebounds and four assists. Rasheed Wallace added 14
points, Ben Wallace grabbed 20 rebounds -- all in the first three
quarters -- and Billups added 11 to lead an otherwise anemic Pistons
offense.

"It's an accomplishment," Rasheed Wallace said. "Nobody (is)
in here with pompoms jumping up and down like we won the World
Series or something like that. We've still got to stay composed
because there's still one game left."

The Nets got 23 points from Richard Jefferson and 19 from
Martin, but Kidd scored just 11 and made several bad plays in the
final three minutes.

New Jersey had three chances to tie it when trailing 72-70, but
Kidd threw his second straight bad pass, the Nets committed a
24-second violation and Martin couldn't draw iron on an inside shot
with 1:45 remaining.

One free throw apiece by Billups and Jefferson preceded a
turnaround by Rasheed Wallace with 1:01 left for a 75-71 lead.
Jefferson answered with a driving layup after having a putback
attempt rejected by Ben Wallace, but Hamilton put Detroit back up
by four on his 18-footer over Kidd with 15.5 seconds left.

"I wanted to take my time and get to a spot. I knew could shoot
over the top of him," Hamilton said.

Martin scored to make it a two-point game with 9.6 seconds
remaining, but Billups went to the line and sank a pair with 8.8
seconds remaining to restore a four-point lead.

Lindsey Hunter added two more foul shots with 0.2 seconds left
for the final margin.

After getting off to a slow start and falling behind 13-2, the
Pistons caught up early in the second quarter and went ahead 37-27
on a jumper by Mike James that capped a 14-2 run.

The Pistons outrebounded the Nets 26-13 in the first half, with
Wallace matching New Jersey's total by himself.

Detroit led 50-36 at intermission, but New Jersey steadily made
up ground over the course of the third quarter with a 19-4 run.

The Pistons' lead was down to 60-57 entering the fourth, but
they scored the first four points of the period and stayed in front
the rest of the way.

"This team has always been doubted on different occasions, and
now we get a chance to go into Game 7 and get a win," Jefferson
said.

It'll be the first Game 7 for the Nets in the franchise's NBA
history.

Game notes
Brian Scalabrine, the unlikely hero of Game 5, played 10
minutes and did not score or grab a rebound. ... Detroit forward
Tayshaun Prince, who has struggled since Game 2, never returned in
the first half after playing 3 minutes and committing two fouls.
... Mehmet Okur played 22 minutes for Detroit, hit both his shots
and grabbed six rebounds.