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Published: Saturday, 5/8/2004

Pistons pour it on Billups, Hamilton: 28 each

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Critics of an NBA playoff schedule designed to be more viewer-friendly for TV audiences believe spreading the games out over longer periods of time has hampered the traditional flow and rhythm of the postseason.

NBA commissioner David Stern even acknowledged last night during halftime of the Eastern Conference semifinal matchup between Detroit and New Jersey that adjustments are in order for next year s playoffs.

Nonetheless, the Pistons didn t seem bothered by the four-day layoff between Game 1 and Game 2 as they came through with a 95-80 victory over the Nets before a sellout crowd at The Palace to take a 2-0 series lead.

It wouldn t be far off to say the Pistons, in particular the starting back court of Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton, seemed to thrive off a few extra days of rest between games. Billups and Hamilton each poured in a game-high 28 points while outscoring the Nets starting backcourt of Jason Kidd and Kerry Kittles 56-14.

“We had it going tonight,” said Billups, also speaking on behalf of Hamilton. “Some nights we can get it going. When we can get it going like that we re going to be tough to beat.”

Rasheed Wallace scored 10 of his 15 points after halftime when Detroit outscored New Jersey 61-34 to overcome a 12-point deficit (46-34). The Pistons outscored the Nets 27-11 during the third quarter, including a 19-6 run to open the half as they took the lead for good. Hamilton made 1 of 2 foul shots to give Detroit a 53-52 lead with 3:43 left in the quarter. They closed out the quarter with a 61-57 edge.

Detroit coach Larry Brown applauded the team s second-half effort that put them in the driver s seat for the remainder of the series.

“We made shots. We didn t give them second shots [after halftime],” Brown said. “I don t know if we can play any better than that.”

Ben Wallace, who scored all eight of his points in the second half, sparked the third-quarter run by knocking down three straight jump shots. While his assertiveness on offense may have surprised the Nets, it injected life into the Pistons attack.

“His baskets were huge because we were struggling to score,” Brown said. “But all year he s gotten a little better and a little better.”

Kidd, who finished with eight points (3 of 11) and 11 assists, acknowledges the Nets weren t able to sustain the momentum in the second half. They committed 15 of their 20 turnovers after halftime.

“We had control of the game sometimes you don t want halftime to come,” Kidd said. “In the second half we played as good as the guy at halftime sang.”

Former American Idol contestant William Jung, who is known for his less-than-melodious musical talent, sang during halftime.

Kenyon Martin and Richard Jefferson paced New Jersey with 19 points apiece. However, Martin was limited to only seven points in the second half.

New Jersey s first-year coach Lawrence Frank credits the Pistons for dictating the action in the final 24 minutes of play.

“We could never respond to their third quarter run,” he said. “Obviously in the second half they were forcing 15 turnovers and contesting shots.”

Game 3 will take place tomorrow in New Jersey.

Contact Donald Emmons at: demmons@theblade.com or 419-724-6302.



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