AUBURN HILLS, Mich. Detroit's defense was so dominant, it was almost offensive at least to those who believe basketball should be about scoring points.
The New Jersey Nets found out that this year's series against the Pistons will be nothing like last year's.
Holding the Nets to the second-lowest point total in NBA playoff history, the Pistons defeated New Jersey 78-56 Monday night in a Game 1 that featured the lowest-scoring first half ever in a postseason game.
''We wanted to come out and make a statement,'' Detroit's Richard Hamilton said.
And that statement was this: Go ahead and try to score.
The Nets couldn't come up with an answer, scoring only 25 points in the first half and 39 through three quarters. Only reserve Tamar Slay's jumper with 42 seconds left allowed New Jersey to avoid tying the lowest playoff total in league history 54 points by Utah against Chicago during the 1998 NBA Finals.
''It was almost like we thought we were playing a different game where the lowest score wins,'' Jason Kidd said.
The loss snapped New Jersey's streak of 14 consecutive postseason victories against Eastern Conference teams since last April. Included was a sweep against the Pistons in the conference finals last season.
''The whole Eastern Conference needed this,'' Detroit coach Larry Brown said. ''It's unbelievable what they have done.''
The Nets now have until Game 2 on Friday night to figure a way to solve Detroit's defense.
Tayshaun Price had 15 points and 10 rebounds, Hamilton also scored 15 and Ben Wallace had 13 points, 11 rebounds, four steals and three blocks. Detroit outrebounded the Nets 48-29.
New Jersey shot just 27.1 percent and tied the postseason record for fewest field goals 19 in what was easily its worst offensive performance of the season.
The teams combined for just 62 points as the Pistons held a 37-25 halftime lead. The old record of 63 was reached three times, most recently in Game 3 of the NBA Finals last June when San Antonio led the Nets 33-30 at halftime.
Kenyon Martin scored just 11 for the Nets, 12 below his playoff average. Richard Jefferson had eight after missing 11 of 12 shots.
''I'm a 50-percent shooter for my career, so 1-of-12 is absurd,'' Jefferson said. ''It's unbelievable almost. But give them credit, it was one of those nights.''
A lot of teams have said similar things after running across the Pistons.
Detroit gave up 84.3 points a game during the regular season, the third-lowest scoring average since the NBA began using a shot clock during the 1954-55 season. It set a league record by holding 11 opponents including five straight under 70 points, and 36 in a row to less than 100.
The Pistons' under-70 streak stopped at New Jersey in their last regular-season meeting when the Nets committed an intentional foul to stop the clock with 13.1 seconds left. Aaron Williams then made a tip-in with 1.1 seconds remaining in an 89-71 loss, and the Pistons mocked New Jersey for celebrating the basket.
Now, they can mock the Nets again, if they so choose, after imposing their will in the opener of the best-of-seven series.
''I don't think it will do anything but wake up that team,'' Brown said.
The Nets may have been rusty after a full week off after sweeping New York in the first round.
When New Jersey tried to run, arms and bodies got in the way of its passes and running lanes. When the Nets had open shots, they seemed to rush them. Even 14-year veteran Elden Campbell got in the act, blocking Rodney Rogers' dunk attempt late in the third quarter.
The Nets, who had oozed confidence thanks to their streak, looked dazed as the Pistons shut them down.
Kidd, Kittles and Jefferson stared at the court as they walked to their bench when Detroit called a timeout with four minutes left holding a 17-point lead.
The first and only outward sign of frustration came when rookie coach Lawrence Frank took a few steps onto the court, wanting a flagrant foul called when Chauncey Billups fouled Kidd early in the third quarter. Frank was called for a technical.
Martin and Jefferson New Jersey's top two scorers combined for twice as many fouls (10) as field goals. Looking at it another way, the Nets lost by 22 points despite holding the Pistons to no more than 21 points in any quarter.
Detroit took the lead for good on Prince's jumper with one minute left in the first quarter, making it 16-14 and starting a 9-0 run.
New Jersey pulled to 37-31 early in the third quarter before Ben Wallace started a 12-0 run in which Prince scored six points. The Nets got no closer than 15 in the fourth quarter.
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