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PISTONS 78, NETS 56

Piston defense ties Nets in knots

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- The Detroit Pistons shut down New Jersey so thoroughly that the Nets nearly broke the record for fewest points in a playoff game.

Dominating with the same smothering defense that set records this season, the Pistons got 15 points from Tayshaun Prince and defeated the Nets, 78-56, last night in a game that featured the lowest-scoring first half in NBA playoff history.

The loss snapped New Jersey's string of 14 consecutive postseason victories against Eastern Conference teams since last April. The Nets have until Game 2 Friday night to figure a way to solve a defense that held them to 25 first-half points.

"We wanted to come out and make a statement," Detroit's Richard Hamilton said.

And that statement was this: Go ahead and try to score.

Only reserve Tamar Slay's jumper with 42 seconds left allowed the Nets to avoid tying the lowest playoff total in league history -- 54 points by Utah against Chicago during the 1998 NBA Finals.

New Jersey shot just 27.1 percent, its worst shooting game in team playoff history, and tied the postseason record for fewest field goals -- 19 -- in what was easily its worst offensive performance of the season.

"It was almost like we thought we were playing a different game -- where the lowest score wins," Jason Kidd said.

Looking at it another way, the Nets lost by 22 points despite holding the Pistons to no more than 21 points in any quarter.

Detroit and New Jersey combined for a record-low 62 points as the Pistons held a 37-25 halftime lead. The old record of 63 points was reached three times, most recently in Game 3 of the NBA Finals last June when San Antonio led the Nets, 33-30, at halftime.

Detroit's Ben Wallace had 13 points and 11 rebounds and Hamilton added 15 points.

Kenyon Martin scored just 11 for the Nets, Richard Jefferson had 8 -- on 1-of-12 shooting -- and Kidd added 9 points and 6 assists.

Detroit took the lead for good on Prince's jumper with one minute left in the first quarter, making the score 16-14 and starting a 9-0 run.

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