EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., May 16 (Ticker) -- A steady diet of Richard Hamilton and defense kept alive the Detroit Pistons' season.

Hamilton scored 24 points as the Pistons forced a decisive seventh game in their Eastern Conference semifinal series with an 81-75 victory over the New Jersey Nets.

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Richard Hamilton led Detroit with 24 points in Game 6.
Jesse D. Garrabrant
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Detroit halted a three-game skid and bounced back from Friday's triple-overtime home loss. The third-seeded Pistons host Game Seven on Thursday.

"Someone said, 'You guys are loose,'" Hamilton said. "We've been loose all year. No reason not to be loose now."

With Hamilton providing the scoring, the long arms of Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace and Mehmet Okur helped stifle the second-seeded Nets inside. Detroit forced New Jersey to shoot just under 40 percent (27-of-68) and blocked nine shots.

"It was never about losing our confidence," Ben Wallace said. "It was you guys (in the media) that wrote about that. It was a matter of getting it done."

"We went with a big lineup," Detroit coach Larry Brown added. "Memo (Okur), Ben, Rasheed together really did a good job."

New Jersey whittled its deficit to 72-70 on two free throws by Richard Jefferson with 5 1/2 minutes left. The Nets had three straight possessions to tie or take the lead, but Jason Kidd was forced into a turnover, they committed a 24-second violation and Kenyon Martin had a jumper blocked by Rasheed Wallace.

"It was 72-70 with (three) chances and we couldn't get it done," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said.

Detroit's only baskets down the stretch were Rasheed Wallace's jumper with 61 seconds to go and Hamilton's dramatic shot over Kidd 46 seconds later. Both hoops opened four-points leads and kept New Jersey at bay.

"The last shot, I just wanted to take my time to get to a spot," Hamilton said. "I thought I got fouled. Any other time in the game, they call a foul. I just tried to concentrate and make the shot."

Ben Wallace led a relentless assault on the glass for Detroit with 20 rebounds. The Pistons were outrebounded in each of the previous four games, but held a whopping 46-31 edge in this one.

New Jersey opened the game with a 13-2 run, mirroring starts in Games Three and Four. But Hamilton scored 10 points in the first quarter to keep Detroit afloat.

"The big thing is we started out with a bang, but we knew we weren't going to knock them out with the first punch," Kidd said. "They just kept plugging away and then they made a run."

The Pistons turned in a dominant second quarter, making 11-of-17 shots and outscoring the Nets, 27-11, to build a 50-36 halftime cushion.

Okur, Mike James and Lindsey Hunter combined for 18 points and gave the tired Pistons relief with productive minutes. Okur, relegated to eight minutes in Friday's loss, was particularly effective as part of the big lineup.

"Our bench has been big for us all season," Ben Wallace said. "We relaxed. When our bench contributed the way they did, good things are bound to happen."

Jefferson scored 23 points to lead New Jersey, which had won its previous nine home playoff games against Eastern Conference foes.