Pistons 90, Nets 69
The Detroit Pistons, left for dead after a crushing triple-overtime loss in Game 5, completed their series comeback Thursday night in dominating fashion against the New Jersey Nets. Buoyed by 20,000 raucous fans, the Pistons rolled past New Jersey, 90-69, to advance to the Eastern Conference finals, where they will meet the Indiana Pacers.
Chauncey Billups had 22 points and seven assists, Richard Hamilton had 21 points and Ben Wallace added 18.
"I thought New Jersey was going to come out with a lot more energy and play a lot harder," Wallace said. "If you would've told me that we were going blow this team out, coming into a Game 7, I would've told you you're crazy."
The Pistons will face their former coach this time around, with Rick Carlisle patrolling the sideline when Detroit goes to Indianapolis on Saturday night for Game 1.
Detroit fired Carlisle after it was swept by the Nets in last year's conference finals.
"It's amazing that we'll be facing him, isn't it?" Hamilton asked. "The buildup is going to be unbelievable. We know we'll have to be aggressive because we know that coach likes to grind."
This was the second straight year Detroit rallied to win a series after falling in a deep hole. Last season, the Pistons fell behind 3-1 in a first-round series with Orlando before coming back.
"This team just plays with so much heart and desire," Billups said. "We just keep plugging away all the time. I'm just proud of our guys more than anything."
The Pistons relied on the hot shooting of Hamilton (14 first-half points) and the inside presence of Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace (eight points apiece in the first two quarters) Thursday to lead by 13 points in the first half and take a 43-31 halftime lead.
Thing fell completely apart for the Nets in the third quarter, when they went nearly the first seven minutes without a field goal and trailed 57-33.
By the end of the third quarter, the Nets found themselves down 73-50 with a 34.7 shooting percentage and more turnovers (12) than assists (10).
Jason Kidd epitomized his team's struggles. The Nets' floor leader was held scoreless, missing all eight of his shot attempts. He also had two turnovers.
The Nets were led by Kerry Kittles with 18 points. Richard Jefferson and Kenyon Martin added 17 apiece.
The Nets went on a 9-0 run early in the fourth quarter to cut the margin to 73-58, but the Pistons answered with an 8-0 run to put the game out of reach.
"We just couldn't hit our shots and it was just one of those nights where whenever we had a run, they would answer it," Nets Coach Lawrence Frank said.
Things were going so well for Detroit that defensive stalwart Ben Wallace began hitting mid-range jump shots and finished 8 of 10 from the field.
"I knew Ben was going to go 8 for 10 and make all his jumpers," Pistons Coach Larry Brown quipped.
The Nets vanquished the Pistons last season, a fact that Brown wanted his team to remember both before and after this win.
"I have a lot of respect for that team we beat and Lawrence and what they're about," he said. "They broke our hearts last year and have kind of dominated the East. I want us to enjoy this one."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.