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Nets Punch Return Ticket to the Finals

Kidd overcomes injury to right ankle and leads New Jersey to a 102-82 rout of Detroit and sweep of the Eastern Conference finals.

May 25, 2003|From Associated Press

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Before there was a celebration, there was an almighty hush. Jason Kidd lay on the court grabbing his right ankle, a towel stuffed in his mouth to help him fight the pain.

Amazingly, Kidd didn't miss a second. He got up and scored eight points in a 13-1 fourth-quarter run Saturday night that secured the New Jersey Nets' 102-82 victory over the Detroit Pistons and complete a sweep of the Eastern Conference finals.

Kidd finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in the Game 4 victory.

"I'm nervous. Our best player's on the floor," Coach Byron Scott said. "But I also know he's one of our toughest players.

"He's going to be sore for the next three, four days. It's good this series is over."

The Nets, who had five days off between their sweep of Boston and the start of the Detroit series, will have 10 days to prepare for the start of the NBA Finals on June 4.

The Nets made the NBA Finals in a surprising season a year ago but were swept by the Lakers.

"This year, unlike last year, we're not just happy to get there," Scott said. "We feel we can win a championship with what we have right here. That one-hit wonder stuff is gone. We have something special here."

The Nets have won 10 consecutive playoff games, the fourth-longest single-season playoff streak in NBA history.

"We just ran into a Nets team that is like a steamroller right now," Detroit Coach Rick Carlisle said. "Our undoing in this series was letting the first two games get away. We were in a position to win both, and Kenyon Martin and Jason Kidd simply would not let them lose those games."

Martin had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Nets, but it was the Kidd-led fastbreak that again put its stamp on the game. The Nets outscored the Pistons, 19-0, in transition and 94-15 for the series.

"Get back on defense," said Carlisle, asked what advice he would give the Western Conference champion.

Clifford Robinson scored 21 points and Richard Hamilton, Detroit's only reliable scoring threat in the series, had 20.

The score got uncomfortably close for the Nets early in the fourth quarter -- especially when it appeared Kidd might have a serious injury.

The Pistons cut a 15-point third-quarter lead to six on Robinson's three-point basket with 9:29 to play.

Then came the scare: Kidd twisted his right ankle grabbing a rebound off Hamilton's missed jump shot with 6:59 to play. Kidd's right foot landed awkwardly on Ben Wallace's right foot.

"Once I knew I could stand up, I was all right.... I tried to keep my composure," Kidd said.

Scott called a timeout, and asked Kidd if backup Anthony Johnson should enter the game.

"He said, 'No.' I also knew then we'd better win this game -- so we can get some rest," Scott said.

With 5:27 to go, Kidd started a personal 8-1 run by getting free on a screen to hit a 17-foot jumper that made it 90-74. The series was over. He left to a standing ovation and a hug from Martin -- and more chants of "M-V-P!" -- with the score 96-75 with three minutes left.

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