Friday , Apr , 30 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

NBA Playoff Preview – New Jersey vs. Detroit

***** NBA Playoff Preview – New Jersey vs. Detroit *****
From The Sports Network

By Warren Blatt, NBA Editor

NEW JERSEY NETS: 2nd Seed, East (47-35)

DETROIT PISTONS: 3rd Seed, East (54-28)

(Sports Network) – The New Jersey Nets and Detroit Pistons meet for the second
straight year in the postseason.

In the 2003 Eastern Conference finals, the Nets, who have represented the East
in the NBA Finals the past two seasons, swept the Pistons out of the
postseason in four straight games. New Jersey would lose in six games to the
San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals.

The teams also met in the first round of the 1985 playoffs. That series had a
different result than last season, as the Pistons swept New Jersey, 3-0.

Even though the Nets, who won the Atlantic Division, are a higher seed than
the Pistons, the home-court advantage in this best-of-seven series belongs to
Detroit because it had a better record during the regular season.

The second-seeded Nets dismissed the No. 7 New York Knicks in four straight
games in their first-round matchup. All-Star forward Kenyon Martin was
dominant against the Knicks, as he averaged 23.3 points and 14 rebounds in the
four games.

Martin’s fellow All-Star Jason Kidd and forward Richard Jefferson also played
very well against New York. Kidd averaged 17 points, six rebounds and nine
assists, while Jefferson contributed 17.8 points, five boards and 4.8 helpers.

After beating the Knicks by 24 points in Game 1 and 18 in Game 2, New Jersey
won two close contests in Games 3 and 4 at Madison Square Garden. The Nets won
Game 3 by a score of 81-78 and held on to end New York’s season 100-94 in Game

The third-seeded Pistons sent No. 6 Milwaukee packing in five games in the
first round. Detroit was able fight off a bit of a scare, as the Bucks won
Game 2 at The Palace to even the series at 1-1 heading back to the Bradley

Detroit rebounded in Game 3, as it defeated Milwaukee 95-85 and took Game 4 in
commanding fashion, 109-92. In the fifth game, Tayshaun Prince scored 16 of
his 24 points in the second half, as the Pistons advanced to the second round
of the playoffs for the third straight season with a 91-77 victory over the
Bucks at The Palace.

Prince added nine rebounds and eight assists in game 5 against the Bucks to go
along with his playoff career-high point total.

The Pistons’ backcourt of Richard Hamilton and Chauncey Billups led Detroit in
scoring against Milwaukee. Hamilton averaged a team-high 20.2 points, while
Billups checked in at 18.2 per game.

Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace were also strong against Milwaukee for
Detroit. Rasheed Wallace averaged 14.4 points and 10.8 rebounds, while Ben
Wallace was dominant defensively and finished the five-game set averaging 11
points, 13.2 boards and 2.4 blocks.

During the regular season, the teams split four games. Both squads picked up a
win at home and a victory on the road.

FRONTCOURT: The Nets hope that Martin and Jefferson can carry over their
excellent play from the opening round. Both players played tough defense,
and were dominant on the offensive end of the court against New York. They
were able to get out on the break with Kidd and rack up some easy points for
New Jersey.

Center Jason Collins stands between Jefferson and Martin. The seven-foot
Collins did his job against the Knicks, as he averaged 4.8 points and 2.5
rebounds. Collins is a big body who takes up space.

Jefferson and Martin are going to have to keep their games at a high level if
they hope to compete with the physical Pistons, who will come at them with the
Wallaces and Prince.

Ben Wallace, who was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team, makes
Detroit’s opponents think twice about going into the lane. He is not a force
on the offensive end of the court, but he dominates defensively and forces
teams to adjust their offensive game plans around his presence in the middle.
Ben Wallace knows his role and he does it very well.

Rasheed Wallace and Prince are the offensive portion of Detroit’s frontcourt.
Both players are able to knock down jumpers from the outside and can take it
to the hole strong.

Prince, who showed that he was going to be a productive NBA player in last
season’s postseason, is not flashy like Jefferson but he is solid
fundamentally and knows how to play on both ends of the court.

Detroit is too strong in the middle for New Jersey. The frontcourt matchup in
this series should be very physical and it could get personal at times with
Martin and the Wallaces.


BACKCOURT: Kidd and Kerry Kittles versus Hamilton and Billups is an intriguing
matchup. The All-Star Kidd needs to be at the top of his game as the Pistons
duo can play with any backcourt in the NBA.

Kittles had a decent series against New York, as he averaged 14.3 points and
5.3 rebounds. The Villanova product can light it up on the outside and can
also get out on the break with Kidd and the rest of the high-flying Nets.

Hamilton and Billups are solid. Both play good defense and can score from
anywhere on the court. If Billups gets hot, he can knock down threes very
quickly, as he made 38.8 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc during
the regular season.

The Detroit backcourt is not made up of big names, but it has two players that
fit perfectly into its scheme.

The difference here is Kidd, who is capable of taking over a game and
determining the outcome single-handidly.


BENCH: Reserve forwards Rodney Rogers and Aaron Williams should play a big
role for the Nets in what should be a very physical series. With Martin and
Jefferson going at it with the Wallaces, the fouls could add up quickly and
Rogers and Williams would have to step in and play key minutes.

Rogers could also see some time up front with Martin and Jefferson if the Nets
decide to go small in the frontcourt. Rogers, who can also drain threes, could
be the X-factor for the Nets.

Lucious Harris is the Nets best reserve in the backcourt. He spells Kidd and
Kittles and will be relied on heavily to play tough defense and score some
needed points.

When the Wallaces head to the bench, Mehmet Okur and Corliss Williamson, who
has been bothered by sore knees, give the Pistons more size and defensive
toughness off the bench. The 7-foot Okur can also knock down the jumper.
Veteran forward/center Elden Campbell, who adds more depth in the frontcourt
for Detroit, can also play important minutes.

Lindsay Hunter and Mike James are the backups for Hamilton and Billups, while
Darvin Ham could see some minutes in a pinch if Williamson is not having a
good game off the bench. Hunter and James can both hit the long-range jumper
and understand what Detroit basketball is all about.


COACH: Detroit head coach Larry Brown is one of the best coaches in the
history of the NBA, while Lawrence Frank is just starting his coaching career.
Brown has also been in this position countless times and coaching in the
postseason to him has almost become a spring ritual.

Frank has been exceptional since taking the reins from Byron Scott in late
January. However, Brown, who guided the Philadelphia 76ers to the NBA Finals
in 2001, simply has more experience in this type of series.


PREDICTION: The Pistons are too deep for the Nets. This series will be won
down low. Martin and Kidd will do their best to keep New Jersey alive, but it
won’t be enough.