AUBURN HILLS, Mich. Jason Kidd's 20-foot fadeaway took a lap around the rim before falling in. It was the biggest game-winner of his career, capping a day when nearly everything else was way off the mark.
Kidd's floater over 7-footer Mehmet Okur somehow found the net with 1.4 seconds left Sunday to give the New Jersey Nets a 76-74 victory over the Detroit Pistons in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
''Coach called my name and my number, and my teammates believed in me,'' Kidd said. ''I told them I was riding their shoulders because I couldn't throw it in the ocean. You want the ball in your hand in crunch time. The opportunity presented itself.
''And I finally made one.''
Kidd was hard-pressed to remember his last game-winner certainly not this season, he said and he seemed the unlikely candidate to finally sink one on a day in which he missed 13 of 19 shots. Forced down the right wing by Chauncey Billups, Kidd didn't have a good look at the basket and never saw the ball go in.
''He has hit a lot of big shots, but that's the biggest shot for us,'' coach Byron Scott said. ''It gives us home-court advantage. As we always said, we want the first game.''
Kenyon Martin had 16 points, nine rebounds, four steals and three blocks for the Nets and helped hold rookie Tayshaun Prince to 0-for-6 shooting in the fourth quarter. Kidd finished with 15 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and three steals in a game of ugly offense or tough defense, depending on the point of view.
''People just look at our offense, man,'' Martin said. ''We didn't get this far by just trying to outscore people. We're a decent defensive team.''
The Pistons led the NBA in scoring defense this season, allowing an average of 87.7 points. But the Nets were second, giving up just 90.1 per game.
The Pistons nearly won despite making just two field goals, both by Richard Hamilton, in the fourth quarter. The Nets were horrible in the third quarter, making just four field goals, including three by Martin.
Okur actually had two chances to tie it in the final 1.4 seconds. He missed when he tried to tip in a lobbed inbounds pass from Prince. He got the rebound but couldn't convert the follow.
Hamilton had 24 points to lead Detroit, which hosts Game 2 on Tuesday. The loss was an especially tough blow because the Pistons, for the most part, achieved their goal of slowing the up-tempo Nets to a half-court game.
''In the fourth quarter, 11 points is not going to get it done,'' Prince said. ''We did a great job in third quarter as far as getting back in the game. We just didn't have the same energy in the fourth.''
The Pistons, playing some 40 hours after closing out second-round foe Philadelphia on the road in overtime Friday, were on the verge of setting standards for fourth-quarter futility, scoring just two points in the first eight minutes. That allowed the Nets to turn an eight-point deficit into a 72-65 lead with four minutes remaining.
But New Jersey suddenly went cold, with Kidd missing open shots and rushed ones. Billups, fouled as he drove to the basket, made two free throws to complete a 7-0 run and tie the score at 74 with 22 seconds left.
Then Kidd hit the game-winner.
''We've been down before, and we've bounced back,'' said Pistons coach Rick Carlisle, whose team recovered from a 3-1 deficit to beat Orlando in the first round. ''We'll have to do it again.''
Ben Wallace had 22 rebounds, including a team playoff-record 13 in the fourth quarter, for the Pistons.
The Nets, bursting with energy after a five-day break, threatened to run the Pistons out of the building in the opening minutes. Kidd had three steals in a 16-2 run, and the Pistons were so out of whack offensively that Wallace chucked an air ball from long range.
The Nets got 18 of their 28 fast-break points in the first quarter. The Pistons, meanwhile, finished with just four points off the break.
The bench kept the Pistons in it in the second quarter as the Nets' running game slowed. Kidd was just 3-for-11 from the field in the half, although Martin (4-for-7) and Richard Jefferson (5-for-7) made up the slack as New Jersey led 43-36 at the break.
By the third quarter, the Nets were totally bogged down. Kidd, hounded by Billups, simply lost the ball out of bounds trying to drive on one possession, then missed a contested fast-break layup the next time down.
The Pistons took their first lead when Hamilton's suspenseful 3-pointer bounced above the shot clock and grazed the backboard before falling in with 6:59 to go in the third.
The Nets rediscovered the break in the fourth, pulling within four on Kerry Kittles' layup, then tying the score on a four-point possession after Okur was called for a flagrant foul on Rodney Rogers' layup.
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