NEW JERSEY 102, DETROIT 82 --------------------------
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- Jason Kidd and the New Jersey Nets ran right past the Detroit Pistons and back into the NBA Finals.
Kidd collected 26 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists as the Nets completed a sweep of the Eastern Conference finals with a 102-82 victory over the sputtering Pistons.
The Nets won their 10th straight playoff game - the fourth-longest streak in NBA history - as they completed their second straight series sweep. They will have 10 days off until visiting San Antonio or Dallas on June 4.
"If we keep playing the way we have, we have a great chance of winning the championship this year and that is what it is all about," said Nets coach Byron Scott, whose club was swept by the Los Angeles Lakers last year. "Unlike last year, we're not just happy to get there. We feel we can win a championship with what we have right here."
"We're not just going to the NBA Finals this year; we're going to win it," Nets forward Kenyon Martin said. "Jason and I are on the same page and that's what we need. We went to the Finals and got swept. That's not going to happen again."
After winning a pair of squeakers in Detroit, the Nets returned home and twice ran the Pistons off the court at Continental Airlines Arena. They had 51 fast-break points to four for the Pistons, who came in sporting the NBA's top defense.
"We just ran into a Nets team that is like a steamroller right now," Pistons coach Rick Carlisle said.
Leading the charge was Kidd, who never seems to stop running. In the last two games, the All-Star point guard had 60 points, 24 rebounds and 13 assists.
Not even an ankle injury could slow down Kidd. With just under seven minutes to go, he rose for a rebound and twisted his right ankle as he landed on the right foot of Pistons center Ben Wallace. Grabbing his foot while on the floor, he brought a collective gasp from the sellout crowd.
But Kidd got up on his own, never left the game and scored the last eight Nets points in a 13-1 spurt that sealed it at 96-75 with 3:10 to go. He departed seconds later to a standing ovation.
"I was relaxed because I didn't realize anybody was behind me," Kidd said. "I twisted my ankle when I came down, and anytime you twist an ankle, it's a bit of a shock. I tried to keep my composure and take a deep breath. Right now, I need some time to regroup and get healthy."
"I was a little scared when he went down. He was in a little bit of pain, but he toughed it out," Martin said. "If he would have went down, there's no telling what would have happened. It was a great feeling to see him get up. He came back and hit some big shots for us."
Martin and Richard Jefferson scored 14 points each for the second-seeded Nets, who shot 53 percent (42-of-79) from the field, held a 51-27 advantage on the boards and 19-0 in fast-break points as they became the only team in the series to score in triple digits.
Cliff Robinson scored 21 points and Richard Hamilton added 20 for the top-seeded Pistons, who have lost 16 of their last 18 playoff road games.
They had reached the conference finals for the first time since 1991, when they were swept by Chicago. This marked the ninth time Detroit has been swept out of the playoffs.
"It's tough to lose," Carlisle said. "But from our standpoint, much is learned. We got some young guys who got some great experience, players who truly played inspired basketball through the course of the last month."
Just as the games in Detroit were carbon copies of slow-down style, the two in New Jersey both were breakneck basketball. The Nets again grabbed the lead for good in the first quarter and maintained it before pulling away.
"They remind me of the Lakers when they were winning championships with Magic (Johnson)," Pistons guard Chucky Atkins said. "Unless you shut them down in the paint, you have no chance."
Reserve Aaron Williams scored six points in a 9-0 spurt that gave New Jersey a 28-17 lead late in the first quarter.
Detroit closed to 28-23 after one period, and consecutive 3-pointers by rookie Mehmet Okur and Atkins cut it to 38-36 with 5:01 left in the second quarter.
But the Pistons went nearly five minutes without a basket. Kidd made a pair of jumpers to cap a 10-3 surge that rebuilt the lead to 48-41 late in the first half.
Martin had a jump shot and fast-break dunk to bookend an 8-2 spurt that gave the Nets a 62-47 lead with 6:50 to go in the third quarter.
"What happened here was what happened in the Orlando series - a lot of standing around trying to make plays on the strong side of the court," Atkins said.
A 3-pointer by Robinson pulled the Pistons within 77-71 with 9 1/2 minutes to play, but baskets by Martin and Kidd made it 83-72, and Detroit got no closer than nine thereafter.
"We just kept them at bay anytime we had a 10-point lead," Kidd said.
Jason Collins and Rodney Rogers scored 10 points each and Martin swept 10 boards for the Nets. Ben Wallace had 10 points and 13 rebounds for the Pistons, who shot under 38 percent (28-of-74).