-- Judging by their locker room after Friday's dramatic 127-120 triple overtime Game 5 win here against the Pistons, the New Jersey Nets made it seem as though they had advanced to a third straight Eastern Conference final.
Coach Lawrence Frank's rhythmic applause resonated through the corridors of the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Richard Jefferson, who led the Nets with 31 points, borrowed a line from former Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich by screaming, "Don't ever underestimate the heart of a champion! We're not giving this up!"
Music blared throughout the locker room and it seemed like Mardi Gras in May for the Nets as they happily dressed for a plane flight home where they'll have a chance to close out the Pistons in Game 6 of the best-of-seven series Sunday night at Continental Airlines Arena.
"It is just one win and they all count as one," Frank said. "But that was a special one."
While still needing one more win against what's certain to be a motivated Pistons team, probability is on New Jersey's side. In NBA playoff history, 115 best-of-seven series have been tied at 2, with the winner of Game 5 going on to win 83 percent of the time (96 times).
As a reward for Friday night's victory, the longest playoff game since Chicago and Phoenix played three overtimes in the 1993 NBA Finals, New Jersey returns to the building where it has won four straight playoff games over Detroit during the last two years, the last two coming in Game 3 and Game 4 blowouts.
The marathon forced ailing Detroit starters Chauncey Billups, who entered Game 5 with back spasms but whose miracle half-court shot at the end of regulation sent the game into overtime, and Rasheed Wallace, who said he was "60 percent" with a strained arch in his foot, into 55 and 48 minutes of action respectively.
"We're down a little bit, but not too much," Wallace said. "You've still got to hold your head up. It's a loss and it's not over. We've got to go up there and we know what we've got to do and they know what we're going to come to do."
New Jersey had an unsung hero emerge in forward Brian Scalabrine, who scored a career playoff-high 17 points in Game 5, including a three-pointer to give New Jersey a four-point lead with under a minute left in the third overtime.
"I think the biggest thing [Friday's win] does is that it helps the bumps and bruises go away," said Nets guard Jason Kidd, who finished with 16 points and eight assists. "In a game like that, you have that sour taste in your mouth from giving it all you had and coming up short."
Predictably, Pistons Coach Larry Brown insists his team has plenty of energy left despite ceding home-court advantage in such excruciating fashion.
"I'm not drained, I'm proud," he said after the game Friday night. "I don't know how many people can see a better game than that. We're going to bounce back from this and learn from this."