Buck Williams scored 25 points and 20 rebounds, and Micheal Ray Richardson and Otis Birdsong each had 24 points to lead New Jersey (28-29) over host Detroit.
The victory was the Nets' eighth in 11 games. Detroit (32-25) lost its third straight and eighth of its last 10.
After the game, Detroit Coach Chuck Daly closed the locker room to the press for 15 minutes. Daly said he discussed every facet of the Pistons' game with his players during the closed session, but stressed a lack of intensity.
"We were floating around about the sixth team in the league, and now who knows what playoff position we'll get?" he said. "We had too many people standing around and not getting the boards."
The Nets led, 54-52, at halftime. They took an 84-77 lead into the fourth quarter but a 12-4 run by the Pistons in the first four minutes, completed by Tony Campbell's jumper, put them ahead, 89-88. New Jersey regained the lead for good, 97-91, on two free throws by Darryl Dawkins with 5:42 remaining.
Center Bill Laimbeer scored 31 points for Detroit and Isiah Thomas had 19 points and 17 assists.