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New Jersey 97, Detroit 85
Streaking Nets One Win From Finals

K-Mart scored 19 for the Nets in Game 3.
Noren Trotman
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., May 22 (Ticker) -- Jason Kidd found his shooting stroke, while the Detroit Pistons still looked lost.

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Kidd scored a playoff career-high 34 points as the New Jersey Nets moved within one win of returning to the NBA Finals with a 97-85 victory over the punchless Pistons.

With their ninth straight postseason win -- matching the fourth-longest streak in NBA history -- the second-seeded Nets opened a commanding 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals. They can complete their second straight sweep with a win at home Saturday.

Kidd had the game-winning shot in the series opener but made just 14-of-40 shots in the two games in Detroit. With the Nets back on their home floor for the first time in more than two weeks, Kidd found things to his liking.

The All-Star point guard made 11-of-21 shots and piloted a fast-break offense that scored 32 points in transition, demoralizing Detroit. He added 12 rebounds and six assists in a superb all-around game.

"It felt good to come out and get some easy baskets," Kidd said. "Our running game up in Detroit, we probably did it for two quarters. Tonight we tried to do it for 48 minutes. We got our hands on a lot of balls and we got a lot of rebounds that led to fast breaks and easy baskets."

"I just saw a guy that wanted to win the game," Nets coach Byron Scott said. "He was able to get to the basket pretty easy. He did a great job of attacking."

The fourth-quarter problems experienced by the top-seeded Pistons in the first two games resurfaced much earlier in Game 3. They were outscored and outplayed in each of the first three periods, rendering the final 12 minutes meaningless.

"Let's force our will on them," Scott said of being back at home. "Let our presence be felt on the offensive end. Let's get up and down the floor and let's do it for 48 minutes. If they can stop it, so be it. If they can't, we're going to get some easy buckets."

Richard Hamilton scored 21 points for Detroit, which shot less than 40 percent (29-of-73), committed 18 turnovers and was beaten on the boards, 50-39. It is danger of being swept out of the playoffs for the ninth time in franchise history.

"I feel right now that the most important thing is to match New Jersey's energy," Pistons coach Rick Carlisle said. "We need everybody playing at a high level and we need a lot of guys to contribute points and rebounds."

Before Kidd got going, the Nets rode a quick start by Kenyon Martin, who scored 14 of his 19 points in the first quarter. Martin picked up right where he left off in Game 2, when he scored 16 of his 25 points in the final period.

"I just wanted to come out and let the guys know that there is no time to relax," Martin said. "I wanted to come out and set the tone early. I set the tone in the first and Jason set the tone in the third. That's what the leaders of this team are supposed to do."

The Pistons jumped to an early 13-6 lead before Martin began overpowering them inside. His two free throws gave the Nets the lead for good at 19-17 with 2:13 left. Kidd followed with a driving layup and closed the quarter with a three-pointer for a 28-23 advantage.

When Kidd sat down, reserve Anthony Johnson had a pair of three-pointers that helped build the bulge to 43-31 midway through the second period.

Less than a minute later, Martin hammered home an alley-oop dunk. He slapped the backboard, tugged on his uniform to show his heart and was hit with a technical foul.

"We're playing at home and we want to play our game at home," Martin said. "We played their game up there, so we want to play our game here. We did a great job of that."

Kidd took over the offense from there, scoring 10 points in the final five minutes. His driving layup gave New Jersey a 57-46 halftime lead.

"Our energy hopefully is always high," Kidd said. "I have some guys on this team like K-Mart, who you can feed off of. If you're down, all you have to do is look at (No.) 6 and he plays with a lot of emotion. Sometimes you can feed off him."

The Pistons got within 57-50 early in the third quarter. But Kidd had a driving layup and two free throws, and the Nets led by double digits thereafter.

Kidd scored 11 points in the third quarter, which ended with New Jersey holding an 80-65 lead. Detroit got no closer than the final margin.

Johnson and Lucious Harris scored 10 points each and Richard Jefferson grabbed nine rebounds for the Nets, who shot 41.5 percent (34-of-82).

Corliss Williamson and Cliff Robinson scored 15 points apiece and Ben Wallace added 13, 15 rebounds and five blocks for the Pistons. Guard Chauncey Billups, again favoring his sprained ankle, was limited to 18 minutes and seven points.

"We've got to play as a team," Wallace said. "We've gone through struggles as a team and right now, we're not playing team basketball. We're not playing the type of basketball that got us here."