Saturday , May , 15 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Nets survive in three overtimes

Auburn Hills, MI (Sports Network) – Richard Jefferson scored 31 points and
grabbed 11 rebounds to lead New Jersey over Detroit, 127-120, in three
overtimes at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference
semifinal set.

Kenyon Martin added 22 points and nine boards before fouling out late in the
fourth quarter for the Nets, who have won three straight games to take a 3-2
lead in the best-of-seven series. New Jersey is now just one win away from its
first playoff series victory in which it has rallied from a 2-0 deficit.

“Both teams played hard, and unfortunately someone had to lose that wonderful
game,” said Net guard Jason Kidd.

Chauncey Billups sent the game into overtime on a shot at the fourth-quarter
buzzer from just inside half court for the Pistons, who on the other hand are
in danger of losing their first ever playoff series after taking the first two
games.

Billups finished with 31 points as Detroit lost for just the fourth time in
its last 14 home playoff games.

Game 6 is scheduled for Sunday at the Meadowlands.

It was only the third time in NBA playoff history that a game went to three
overtimes. The last time was on June 13, 1993 when the Suns and Bulls played
15 extra minutes in the NBA Finals.

“I’m not drained – I’m proud,” said Detroit coach Larry Brown. “I don’t know
how people can see a better game than this one. Now we just have to win a game
on the road. It’s been done before.”

The Pistons never led in the third overtime as Lucious Harris broke open the
scoring on a three-pointer with 3:28 left in the frame to give New Jersey a
114-111 advantage.

Billups trimmed the deficit to 114-113 for the Pistons with a bucket, but the
Nets pushed their edge to six at 119-113 when Jefferson completed a quick 5-0
burst on two free throws with 1:56 remaining.

With 1:06 to play, Corliss Williamson scored in the paint to get the Pistons
to one at 119-118, but that was as close as they would get.

Billups did have a chance to tie the game on a three-pointer with his team
behind 123-120, but it bounced out with 10.2 seconds left.

It was the heroics of Billups at the end of the regulation that sent the game
to extra frames.

New Jersey missed three of four shots from the foul line in the final 12
seconds of the fourth quarter to set up the prayer by Billups, who also had a
potential game-tying layup swatted away by Jefferson with three seconds
remaining.

“Wasn’t that a thiller? Regardless of how the series turns out,
that was a great game to be a part of,” said New Jersey’s Kerry Kittles. But
now we have to go home and take care of business.”

In the first overtime, Jersey led by as many as four on two different
occasions, but Billups drained a pair from the stripe to give Brown’s squad
a 99-98 edge with 54.7 seconds left.

Jefferson had a chance to put the Nets ahead, but he only made 1-of-2 shots
from the charity stripe to knot the game at 99-99 with 33.9 seconds on the
clock.

Each team struggled from the field in the beginning of the second overtime,
but Brian Scalabrine drilled a three-pointer for the first points of the frame
to give the Nets a 102-99 edge.

New Jersey pushed its edge to as many as five in the stanza at 108-103, but
the Pistons responded with an 8-2 spurt to take a one-point lead. Billups
capped off the run on two free throws that put Detroit ahead, 111-110, with
1:10 remaining.

But with 29.4 seconds left, Jefferson only hit one of two foul shots to knot
the game at 111-111 for the final point of the second overtime session.

Jefferson posted 18 of his 31 points in the overtimes.

The Nets held the Pistons to 38 percent shooting from the field, but won
despite turning the ball over 28 times.

Scalabrine contributed 17 points, the most ever in his scoring column in any
NBA game.

The game started out tight until the Nets posted 13 unanswered points toward
the end of the first quarter. Kittles capped off the first run of the
game on two free throws with less than three minutes left in the frame to put
the Nets ahead, 25-13.

Detroit scored the final six points of the quarter to trim the deficit to
25-19. The Pistons allowed the Nets to shoot 56 percent from the floor in the
opening 12 minutes.

The Nets opened up the second quarter by scoring five straight point to build
their advantage to 30-19.

However, the Pistons responded with a 25-13 run to take a one-point edge at
the half. Tayshaun Prince, who scored all of his 13 first-half points in the
second quarter, completed the burst on a pair of free throws in the final
minute and the Pistons took a 44-43 lead into the intermission.

In the third, the Nets led the majority of the time, but no team led by more
than four in the frame. Billups tallied the final seven Detroit points, but
his team still trailed 63-62 after 36 minutes.

Kidd played in a career-high 57 minutes for the Nets, sitting out just
six minutes the entire game. The all-star point guard finished with 16 points
and eight assists.

“It’s tough to lose a game like that – a game that long with that many
lead changes and that kind of emotion,” Billups said. “We’ve been down before,
and we just have to go out there Sunday and try to win and get back here.”

DET NJ