Pistons 81, Nets 75

-- Detroit Pistons guard Richard Hamilton used his short-range jumper like a boxer's jab in Sunday night's sixth game of the Eastern Conference semifinals against New Jersey.

Any time the Pistons were able to build a big lead, Hamilton had a hand in it. And any time the Nets got close, Hamilton knocked them off track.

Led by Hamilton's game-high 24 points, the Pistons were able to defeat the Nets, 81-75, in front of 18,968 at Continental Airlines Arena.

Knocked onto the ropes by their triple-overtime loss in Game 5, the Pistons tied the series at 3 with Game 7 in Detroit on Thursday.

"This kid every single day comes to practice and tries to get better and he's not afraid to take the big shot," Detroit Coach Larry Brown said of Hamilton. "I think when they were making the rally, the only guy who was looking to score . . . was him, and it wasn't his fault. I don't think we gave him much help. . . . His improvement has been amazing. Late in the game, he's got the ability to make the big shot, and he's not afraid."

After playing in three overtimes on Friday, each team was bound to go through dry spells brought on by fatigue. For Detroit, that came in the beginning of the game, as New Jersey raced to a 13-2 lead four minutes into the first quarter. The Nets seemed to wilt at the beginning of the second quarter, however, as the Pistons went on a 16-2 run over six minutes, which propelled them to a 50-36 lead at halftime.

The Nets fought back into the game after the half, embarking on a 19-4 run over seven minutes in the third quarter. Hamilton cut the run short with a jump shot, however, and the Pistons went into the final period up, 60-57.

New Jersey guard Richard Jefferson brought the Nets to within two points three times in the final two minutes of the game, but the Nets could never close the gap. Hamilton hit a short jumper from the baseline with 15 seconds to play to give the Pistons a 77-73 lead, and the Nets were forced into desperation mode thereafter.

Jefferson turned the ball over on the Nets' final possession, and Chauncey Billups and Lindsey Hunter combined to make 3 of 4 free throws to give the Pistons their final lead.

"I just wanted to get to a spot," said Hamilton, who said he felt under the weather before the game. "You live for moments like that. You get an opportunity like that, you want to take advantage of it. Regardless of how the outcome is, if you're confident and you want to go in and have fun with it, good things will happen."

New Jersey, which had won its last seven series-clinching games, was led by Jefferson, who had 23 points. Forward Kenyon Martin had 19 points and seven rebounds for the Nets, and Jason Kidd and Kerry Kittles each finished with 11 points.

"You have to give Detroit a great deal of credit after their initial run and their huge second quarter," New Jersey Coach Lawrence Frank said. "I think we defended probably well enough for three quarters, but obviously, down the stretch, we couldn't get the shots we would have liked and you have to give Detroit credit for that."

Detroit forward Rasheed Wallace had 14 points, Billups finished with 11 and Ben Wallace pulled down 20 rebounds for the Pistons. But because of Hamilton, the Pistons will have the chance to clinch the series victory at home on Thursday.

"We're a tough team," Hamilton said. "This is what the playoffs are about -- getting to play a Game 7 on your home court. I think it is a fun opportunity for everybody."

Nets' Kenyon Martin (19 points, seven rebounds), left, finds way -- and shot -- blocked by Pistons' Rasheed Wallace, who scored 14 points.