A "Big Ben" gong sound echoed throughout the arena as the
frustrated New Jersey Nets called timeout, their two-year reign as
the best team in the Eastern Conference about to come to an end.
Wallace's jumper was just one of many things for the Pistons
that worked to perfection in a Game 7 rout. Chauncey Billups scored
22 points, Richard Hamilton had 21 and the defensive-minded Wallace
added 18 to lead Detroit past the Nets 90-69 Thursday night in
their Eastern Conference semifinal.
"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."
What if someone had told him Jason Kidd would be held scoreless?
Well, that improbability happened, too, as part of Detroit's
dominance of the deciding game.
Detroit took the lead for good in the middle of the first
quarter and turned it into a blowout early in the third by holding
the Nets to just two points in the first six-plus minutes to go
ahead by 24.
Wallace's jumper moments later gave Detroit its largest lead of
The Pistons advanced to the conference finals for the second
straight year by knocking off the team that swept them last season.
The victory sets up an intriguing matchup with the Pacers, who
are coached by Rick Carlisle -- fired by the Pistons last summer
after winning 100 regular season games, two division titles and
three playoff series in two seasons.
"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."
Game 1 is Saturday night at Indianapolis.
Larry Brown was hired to replace Carlisle, and the Hall of Fame
coach improved to 5-3 in Game 7s -- including an 4-0 mark in such
games at home.
He missed all eight of his shots, and had seven assists and five
rebounds. His previous low in the playoffs in his three seasons
with the Nets was a five-point performance in Game 3 against
"All the shots looked good, felt good, they just didn't go
in," Kidd said. "It's just part of the game.
"There's no excuses. Detroit was the better team."
The star point guard has struggled with a knee injury, and there
has been speculation that his back hurts, too. But Kidd refused to
talk about his injuries during the series -- or after.
Since Kidd was traded to New Jersey three years ago, the Nets
advanced to the NBA finals twice -- without experiencing a Game 7.
In fact, New Jersey played in its first Game 7 as an NBA franchise
on Thursday night.
The Nets had to know they were in trouble when Ben Wallace, who
usually just rebounds and defends, was taking and making shots from
the perimeter. He missed just two of 10 attempts.
"That's not the best I've felt -- ever -- but my shot was feeling
good," said Wallace, who was just two points short of his career
With their raucous crowd on its feet for much of the game, the
Pistons became the 73rd team out of 88 to win a Game 7 at home.
"We're back to where we were last year. We need to take it one
step further," Ben Wallace said.
Rasheed Wallace, who made Detroit a championship contender when
he was acquired in February, had 12 points and seven rebounds.
The Pistons had 10 such players, including four who were not a
part of Detroit's win in Game 7 of the first round against Orlando
With the series victory, Detroit became just the 20th of 116
teams to advance after falling behind 3-2.
The Pistons routed New Jersey in Games 1-2, then the Nets won
big at home in the next two games. The Nets won Game 5 -- a
four-hour, three-overtime thriller -- then with a chance to close
out the series at home, they lost Game 6.
The Nets built an early six-point lead before Billups' 3-pointer
put the Pistons ahead for good with 6:24 left in the first quarter.
The game turned into a rout when the Pistons opened the second
half with a 14-2 run -- capped by Ben Wallace's thunderous follow
jam -- to go up 57-33.
The Nets went more than eight minutes without a basket over the
second and third quarters.
Detroit led by as many as 25 in the third quarter, and took a
73-50 lead into the fourth.
Just when the Nets looked like they might make it interesting by
scoring the first eight points of the final quarter to pull within
15, Billups and Hamilton made consecutive 3-pointers and a steal
led to Mehmet Okur's alley-oop dunk.
"Our guys gave it everything they had, but Detroit was just the
better team," said Nets interim coach Lawrence Frank, who replaced
Byron Scott in midseason.
Kidd's previous season-low was four points. ... Kidd was
shooting 31.3 percent in the series before Thursday. ... Faces in
the crowd included rap mogul Jay-Z, rock legend Bob Seger, Lions
coach Steve Mariucci, Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman and coach
Dave Lewis and Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo ... Brown
is 77-76 in the playoffs, one victory shy of Jerry Sloan for sixth
place on the career coaching victories list.