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Streaking Nets Set Pistons Up for Knockout

Kidd leads the way with a career playoff-high 34 points, 12 rebounds and six assists as they move one game from a sweep with a 97-85 victory.

May 23, 2003|From Associated Press

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — After two games cooped up in low-scoring drudgery, the New Jersey Nets felt good about running again.

And run they did. Led by Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin, the Nets turned a 32-4 advantage in fastbreak points into a 97-85 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Thursday to move within one win of a sweep in the Eastern Conference finals.

"We played their game up there. We wanted to play our game at home," said Martin, who scored 19 points. "The games up there were too close, and we wanted to come up here and get a little distance between us and them. We did a great job of that early. We didn't look back from there."

Dominant at both ends, Kidd scored a career playoff-high 34 points, making 11 of 21 shots and 11 of 13 free throws. He also had 12 rebounds, six assists and four steals, and he heard chants of "M-V-P! M-V-P!" as he shot free throws in the fourth quarter.

"It felt good to get out and get some easy baskets," Kidd said. "We got our hands on a lot of balls, and we got a lot of rebounds that led to fastbreaks. Anytime you can do that, the basket gets bigger."

The defending conference champions have won nine straight playoff games and can close out their second straight sweep Saturday night when they host Game 4.

"It's what we talked about all season long -- getting back to the finals, having a chance to win the championship," Coach Byron Scott said.

Richard Hamilton scored 21 points to lead the Pistons, who now must attempt to become the first team in NBA history to come back from 3-0 down to win a series.

Desperate to find a winning formula, Piston Coach Rick Carlisle benched struggling starters Chauncey Billups and Tayshaun Prince for much of the second half, but there was no solution for 18 turnovers, a 50-39 rebounding deficit and a fast Nets' team that seemed to have its hands everywhere.

"I'm not going to take anything from them," forward Clifford Robinson said. "But we haven't played well, and they have."

Only a few pingpong balls kept the night from being a total loss for the Pistons, who won the No. 2 overall pick in the draft lottery held just before tipoff. The pick comes from a 1997 trade with the Memphis Grizzlies, who would have kept the selection had it been No. 1.

The Pistons took an early 13-6 lead, but then Martin -- along with the Nets' fastbreak -- turned the tide quickly with an 11-2 run to take the lead for good.

Detroit made 14 of 17 free throws in the second period, but Kidd blew past Billups and made a layup over Ben Wallace as the half ended to put the Nets ahead, 57-46.

The third quarter was mostly Kidd, who had two steals, two layups and eight points in the first four minutes. Richard Jefferson's breakaway dunk increased the lead to 17, and the Pistons' sagging body language told the rest of the story.

Detroit didn't get closer than 14 points afterward, until Robinson made an anticlimactic three-pointer in the final two minutes.

"We've put ourselves in a great position," Martin said. "We don't want to prolong this thing. We want to take care of it on Saturday."

The Nets' nine-game playoff winning streak is the fourth-longest all-time single season mark, tying them with the 1996 Chicago Bulls and 1982 Lakers. The record is 12 by the Spurs in 1999.

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