New Jersey rallies to defeat Detroit, take 2-0 series lead

Nets go two up

Posted: Wednesday, May 21, 2003

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. Down 11 points early in the fourth quarter, the New Jersey Nets were in dire need of offense from somebody anybody.

Kenyon Martin came through, scoring 14 of his team's 16 points in the comeback run as the Nets rallied to beat the Detroit Pistons 88-86 Tuesday night and take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

''I didn't have a great three quarters, so I wanted to come out in the fourth quarter and be aggressive and attack the rim,'' said Martin, who had 16 of his 25 points in the final period. ''I got a couple of calls, a couple of shots fell for me. I got my team back into the game.''

The Nets head home for Thursday's Game 3 with two two-point victories, neither of them pretty, but they now have a load of history on their side. Only two NBA teams have won a best-of-seven series after losing the first two games at home.

''We feel pretty good where we stand right now,'' Nets coach Byron Scott said.

As for the Pistons, they were left to regret another blown fourth-quarter lead. Another two-point loss. Another last-second shot that didn't go in, this time by Chauncey Billups. The team that has pulled so many out of its hat suddenly can't find the magic. They have scored a total of 30 points in the two fourth quarters of this series.

''Forget the last play,'' coach Rick Carlisle said. ''It shouldn't come down to the last play when you have a lead in the fourth like we did. We just made too many careless mistakes down the stretch: turnovers, defensive mistakes, a technical foul. We just did things you just can't do at this stage of the playoffs.''

Richard Jefferson's two free throws with 48 seconds remaining were the winning points, but the Pistons had two chances to tie or win. Corliss Williamson missed a short hook with about 30 seconds left, and Billups couldn't put any mustard on a 3-pointer at the buzzer with Jason Kidd in his face.

''I thought he pressed up into me with his body a little bit,'' said Billups, whose attempt came on an inbounds plays with 1.8 seconds left. ''But they didn't call anything. So I guess it's not a foul. It shouldn't matter what time of the game a foul is a foul.''

Not surprisingly, Kidd said it was just close defense. Very close.

''I didn't do too well in math, so I don't know how close,'' Kidd said. ''I didn't jump. I just put my arm up to contest. Once he pumped faked, I just tried to get closer to him.''

The Nets came back from 10 down late in the third quarter in Sunday's 76-74 victory in Game 1, with Kidd hitting the winning shot with 1.4 seconds left.

New Jersey has won eight straight playoff games, including five in a row on the road.

Richard Hamilton, an offensive spark for the Pistons in the second half, led Detroit with 24 points, while Ben Wallace had seven points and 19 rebounds. Billups, playing on a sprained left ankle that is still not 100 percent, was 4-of-13 from the field for 15 points and had 10 assists.

Kidd had 20 points and seven assists for the Nets, while Jason Collins held his own against Wallace with 11 points and a career-high 14 rebounds.

The game included 14 ties and 16 lead changes and little sustained offense until Hamilton got going in the third quarter. The Nets stayed in the game with a 19-7 edge in offensive rebounds for the game.

The Pistons seemed in control when Hamilton's short baseline jumper made it 69-58 early in the fourth quarter.

But Martin would not let Detroit go easily. His personal run included two three-point plays and a putback. Detroit's Jon Barry lost the ball and drew a technical foul for complaining after Martin rammed home a breakaway dunk.

And Martin did it all after getting his fourth foul late in the third quarter.

''In his rookie year or the beginning of last year, I probably would have had to take him out,'' Scott said. ''But now he understands what he needs to do and he made the right decisions out there. I've been watching this kid from Day 1, and I'm seen him grow unbelievably. Now he is playing like a superstar. This is the time of the year where you can make a name for yourself, and that's what he is doing.''

Kidd tied the game at 81 with a three-point play, making a 12-footer while acrobatically drawing the bump from Billups. An exchange of baskets and free throws got the score to 86 with 1:07 remaining.

The first half was dominated by poor shooting and good defense. Neither team could keep any momentum, and lead was bigger than five points. The Pistons went nearly six minutes without a field goal before closing the half with a modest 5-0 run to take a 42-39 lead.

The Pistons finally got a sustained run in the third quarter, going on a 14-2 spurt to take a 58-48 lead. Hamilton sliced inside for a layup and hit a 17-footer, and Wallace converted a three-point play after stealing the ball from Martin at the other end. Billups' 3-pointer got the lead to double digits late in the period.

Notes: After going with the braids in Game 1, Wallace sported his trademark Afro on Tuesday. Asked if he'll keep the style for the games in New Jersey, he said: ''I don't know. Boy, you get jokes on the road with the 'fro. They be killing the 'fro. Walk around with signs: 'Haircut, $10' and all that. Sometimes you can't give it to them on the road.'' ... New Jersey forward Aaron Williams, who missed practice Monday to visit his ill grandmother in Illinois, scored five points in 16 minutes. ... New Jersey trailed at the half for the first time in this year's playoffs. They had led 10 times (9-1) and were tied once (0-1) through 11 games. ... The Pistons lost for the first time when leading at the half in the playoffs. They had been 7-0. ... Billups has made 51 straight free throws. ... Prince, a rookie making his first playoff start, scored just six points in 25 minutes.



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