AUBURN HILLS, Mich., May 7 (Ticker) --
Although it took a while
for the Detroit Pistons to get going, they had no trouble
stopping the New Jersey Nets again.
With a superb second half fueled by Chauncey Billups
and Richard Hamilton
, the Pistons roared to a 95-80 victory over the Nets
and a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"We might have just played our best half of basketball," Pistons
coach Larry Brown
said. "I don't think we can play any better
The Pistons used their trademark defense in the third quarter
and uncharacteristically sharp offense in the fourth quarter to
put away the two-time defending conference champion Nets, who
have looked very little like themselves in the first two games.
Billups and Hamilton scored 28 points each, with Billups adding
a playoff career-high 13 assists as he outplayed Nets All-Star
point guard Jason Kidd
. The duo combined for 34
points in the second half, when Detroit exploded for 61 points.
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Chauncey Billups lit up the Nets for 28 points and 13 assists.
"Chauncey just had an unbelievable game against a great player,"
Brown said. "And I think you can say the same thing about Rip
(Hamilton) against Kerry (Nets guard Kerry Kittles
After a lethargic first half that put them in a 46-34 hole, the
Pistons unleashed their defense, forcing the Nets to miss 10
straight shots and commit seven turnovers during a stretch of
nearly 10 minutes in the third quarter.
"They definitely won the first half, and we were not playing the
way I know we can play," Billups said. "The third quarter was
the large turning point. We had a huge run that pulled us out
of the hole."
That helped Detroit open a 61-57 lead entering the final period,
when the offense took over. The Pistons made eight of their
first nine shots, with Hamilton draining three jumpers to push
the lead to 81-66 with 5:57 to play.
After an excellent first half, the Nets made 11-of-32 shots and
committed 15 turnovers in the second half.
"I don't think we were great in the first half -- it was just a
good, solid half of basketball," said Nets forward Richard Jefferson
, who scored 19 points. "We know we are capable of
playing like that. In the second half, we just stopped doing
scored 15 points for the Pistons, who are
halfway toward turning the tables on the Nets and avenging last
year's sweep in the conference finals. Game 3 is Sunday at
New Jersey, where the Nets have not played since April 20.
"We've come a long way in three years, and now there is a bump
in the road," said Kidd, who scored just eight points on 3-of-13
shooting. "Let's see how we handle it. We have to push
forward, keep pushing the envelope and keep playing hard."
The Nets pushed forward in the second quarter, getting their
running game in gear and frustrating the Pistons. Consecutive
technical fouls against Wallace and Brown followed by Kidd's
jumper gave New Jersey a 44-32 lead with 1:16 to go.
Detroit's comeback was led by defensive-minded Ben Wallace, who
scored all eight of his points in the third quarter, including
three mid-range jumpers. New Jersey coach Lawrence Frank
technical foul to try and stall the surge to no avail.
Rasheed Wallace had two 3-pointers and Billups another in
Detroit's decisive 17-4 run. New Jersey closed to 82-75 with
2:37 left before Billups had a tip-in and another 3-pointer.