Nets Stop Pistons With Eighth Straight Win
New Jersey 79, Detroit 74
AUBURN HILLS, Mich., March 26 (Ticker) -- Chauncey Billups missed the shots he needed to make and made the shot he needed to miss.
Billups missed a pair of potential go-ahead 3-pointers in the final 70 seconds as the Detroit Pistons had their 16-game home winning streak snapped with a 79-74 loss to the surging New Jersey Nets.
"It was a really good, total team effort," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "It's another win on the road against a high-level, quality opponent. Now, we have to come back (Monday) against another high-level, quality opponent (Phoenix). Our guys did a great job of putting themselves in a position to win."
The Nets never trailed in the fourth quarter but did not make a basket after Carter's three-point play opened a 74-65 lead with 4:28 remaining.
Billups, who missed his first six shots, responded with a drive and a 3-pointer before a driving layup by Richard Hamilton cut the deficit to 74-72 with 2:04 to play.
One of the NBA's best clutch shooters, Billups fired an airball 3-pointer with 1:08 remaining. The teams traded empty possessions before Billups missed another shot from behind the arc that was rebounded by Carter, who was fouled with 3.9 seconds to go.
"It's like that sometimes," Billups said. "I had good looks - a few of us did - and we just didn't knock them down."
Carter split two free throws, giving the Pistons a chance to tie. After its final timeout, Detroit inbounded into the left corner to Billups, who was smartly fouled by Jason Kidd before he could get up a shot.
With 3.2 seconds remaining, Billups made both free throws instead of intentionally missing the second to give his teammates a chance at a tip-in or a rebound.
"I tried to miss that free throw," he said. "We didn't have any timeouts and I knew we were going to have to go (the) full court. I just ended up making it; it's crazy."
"He was trying to miss it, trying to go off the back of the (rim)," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said.
Kidd made two free throws and Carter deflected an inbounds pass, leading to Clifford Robinson's clinching foul shots.
"It definitely was a big win, because they're contesting for the best record in the league," Robinson said. "For us to come in there and knock them off on their home floor, it's a big win."
Richard Jefferson scored 14 points and Kidd pulled down 14 rebounds for the Nets, who limited the Pistons to 10 points in the first quarter but surrendered the lead in the third period.
"We've had success up here before with previous teams and we've had success against them earlier in the season," Jefferson said. "They're a talented team, one of the best in the NBA."
Hamilton scored 19 points and Antonio McDyess added 11 and a season-high 18 rebounds for the Pistons, who totaled a season low in scoring for the second straight game.
"We, for the second game in a row, didn't come out sharp and tried to play our way into the game," Saunders said. "When you fall behind like we did, it's like you're running uphill the rest of the way."
Coming off Friday's 75-72 win at Indiana, Detroit had a four-game winning streak snapped. The Pistons kept a 1 1/2-game lead over San Antonio for the NBA's best record.
"I know our passion's still there," Billups said. "We're winding down, almost in the single-digits (in) games and we're looking forward to the playoffs. We're not worried about it right now. We're trying to get wins."
The Pistons didn't appear to be trying in the first quarter, when they made 5-of-24 shots and fell behind, 23-10. Saunders laid some of the blame with Billups
"The aggressiveness he plays down the stretch, that's the aggressiveness he needs to play with (early)," the coach said. "Because what that does, that opens things up for everybody else."
Detroit closed to 38-35 at halftime and took a 43-42 lead with 8:18 remaining in the third quarter on a dunk by Tayshaun Prince, who scored 12 points.
Carter sank a 3-pointer and found Krstic for a hoop to open the final period and give the Nets a 61-56 lead. The Pistons were chasing the rest of the way.