Saturday, May 8, 2004

Pistons clamp down on New Jersey 95-80


Defensive Detroit grabs 2-0 series lead

By Larry Lage
The Associated Press

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Chauncey Billups scored 28 points and had a career-playoff high 13 assists to lift the Detroit Pistons to a 95-80 win Friday night over the New Jersey Nets, and a 2-0 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal.

"They kept making shot after shot, you look up and all the sudden you're down 12," Nets point guard Jason Kidd said.

Richard Hamilton, Billups' backcourt partner, also scored 28 points as Detroit's guards outscored New Jersey's - Kidd and Kerry Kittles - 56-14.

Billups and Hamilton made 18 of 33 shots. Kidd and Kittles were 5-for-22.

"When we can get it going like that, we're tough to beat because we know our big men are going to do the dirty work," Billups said.

Rasheed Wallace had 15 points and three blocks and reserve Corliss Williamson had 11 for the Pistons, who took control of the game by outscoring the Nets 27-11 in the third quarter. Ben Wallace had eight points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.

Game 3 of the best-of-seven series is Sunday night in New Jersey.

"We haven't done anything yet," Billups said. "We just held our serve."

Detroit's victory in Game 1 snapped the Nets' streak of 14 consecutive postseason victories against Eastern Conference teams, dating back to the first round last year. The streak included a sweep of the Pistons in the conference finals.

The two-time Eastern Conference champion Nets are trailing a playoff series 2-0 in the East for the first time since adding Kidd before the 2001-02 season.

"There's a first for everything," Kidd said. "We've come a long way in three years. We've had some success, now this is a bump in the road and we'll see how we handle it."

Just seven teams in NBA history have won best-of-seven series after trailing 2-0.

New Jersey's Kenyon Martin, who had 19 points and eight rebounds, fouled out with 1:10 left. Richard Jefferson also had 19 and Rodney Rogers scored 11 off the bench. Kidd had 11 assists.

The Nets took their first lead late in the first quarter, led 46-34 at halftime, and didn't trail again until Hamilton's two free throws with 3:43 left in the third.

Williamson's basket about a minute later capped a 19-2 run and gave the Pistons a 57-52 lead.

New Jersey pulled within two points twice early in the fourth quarter before Detroit went on a 17-4 run - highlighted by Rasheed Wallace's two 3-pointers - to take an 81-66 lead with just under six minutes left.

The Nets cut their deficit to seven, but couldn't get closer.

"I think we just played our best half of basketball," Pistons coach Larry Brown said. "I don't know if we can play better than that."

In Game 1, Detroit held the Nets to 56 points - the second-lowest total in NBA playoff history - in a 22-point loss. The Nets shot a franchise-playoff low 27.1 percent, and tied an NBA postseason record for fewest field goals with 19 on Monday night.

New Jersey looked like it might be in for another rough shooting night when it missed its first six shots. But then the Nets scored some fast-break baskets, and relentlessly went after offensive rebounds for second and third chances.

They led 46-34 at halftime, scoring just 10 points fewer than they did in Game 1. New Jersey also had 27 rebounds, two fewer than they did in the previous game.

Martin had 12 points in the first half and Jefferson had nine, each with one more point than they scored Monday night.

But the game turned in the second half when the Nets tied another franchise-playoff record with an 11-point third quarter.

When New Jersey needed its two top scorers most - in the game-turning third quarter - Martin and Jefferson combined for just five points on 1-for-6 shooting.

"I don't think we were great in the first half - it was just a good, solid half of basketball," Jefferson said. "We know we are capable of playing like that. In the second half, we just stopped doing it."

Notes: Both teams shot 43 percent. ... The Pistons scored 30 points off New Jersey's 20 turnovers. ... NBA commissioner David Stern attended the game. ... Billups' previous career high for assists in a playoff game was 10, in Game 2 of the conference finals last year against New Jersey. ... "American Idol" reject William Hung sang two songs at halftime, and was booed.

NEW JERSEY (80)-Martin 8-15 3-4 19, Jefferson 5-13 9-11 19, Collins 4-5 0-2 8, Kittles 2-9 1-2 6, Kidd 3-13 1-2 8, Rogers 5-8 0-0 11, Harris 2-5 0-0 4, Williams 2-4 1-2 5, Planinic 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 31-72 15-23 80.

DETROIT (95)-Prince 0-8 2-2 2, R.Wallace 6-14 0-0 15, B.Wallace 4-9 0-0 8, R.Hamilton 9-17 10-11 28, Billups 9-16 7-7 28, Williamson 5-8 1-2 11, James 0-0 0-0 0, Hunter 0-2 1-2 1, Campbell 0-1 0-0 0, Ham 0-0 0-0 0, Okur 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 34-78 21-24 95.

New Jersey19271123-80
Detroit18162734-95

3-Point Goals-New Jersey 3-15 (Rogers 1-3, Kittles 1-4, Kidd 1-5, Harris 0-1, Jefferson 0-2), Detroit 6-13 (Billups 3-4, R.Wallace 3-6, Hunter 0-1, Prince 0-2). Fouled out-Martin. Rebounds-New Jersey 48 (Collins 10), Detroit 48 (B.Wallace 11). Assists-New Jersey 18 (Kidd 11), Detroit 21 (Billups 13). Total fouls-New Jersey 25, Detroit 22. Technicals-New Jersey coach Frank, Detroit coach L.Brown, R.Wallace. A-22,076.

NBA playoffs

CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS

(Best-of-7)

May 2

San Antonio 88, L.A. Lakers 78

May 3

Detroit 78, New Jersey 56

Tuesday

Sacramento 104, Minnesota 98

Kings lead series 1-0

Wednesday

San Antonio 95, L.A. Lakers 85, Spurs lead series 2-0

Thursday

Indiana 94, Miami 81,

Pacers lead series 1-0

Friday

Detroit 95, New Jersey 80,

Pistons lead series 2-0

Today

Miami at Indiana, 7 p.m.

Sacramento at Minnesota, 9:30 p.m.

Sunday

San Antonio at L.A. Lakers, 3:30 p.m.

Detroit at New Jersey, 8 p.m.

PACERS: Coach Rick Carlisle missed practice Friday to be with his wife as she gave birth to a baby girl. Associate coach Mike Brown ran the team's workout, but Carlisle is expected to be back on the sideline for Game 2 today.

BRYANT CASE: Prosecutors in Denver for Kobe Bryant's case asked the judge to bar the defense from calling experts to testify about the proper handling of crime-scene investigations.

In a court filing made public Friday, prosecutors said the defense wants to use an expert from the O.J. Simpson trial to discuss the investigation done at the Vail-area hotel where Bryant is charged with raping a 19-year-old employee.

The prosecution said such testimony would be "irrelevant and misleading at best."




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