Originally created 05/05/04

Pistons 'D' too much for many, including Nets



AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Chauncey Billups crouched, spread his arms and pressed up against Jason Kidd.

The Detroit Pistons guard didn't have to worry about Kidd's ability to get to the basket because he figured if Ben Wallace didn't block or alter his shot, Rasheed Wallace would.

"That's our defense in a nutshell," Billups said. "We don't just have one Wallace, we've got two. What we've done defensively this year, I don't think will be something I'll truly appreciate until I'm done playing."

Detroit held New Jersey to the second-lowest point total in NBA playoff history Monday night in a 78-56 victory in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

During the regular season, the Pistons allowed 84.3 points per game, the third-lowest scoring average since the league began using a shot clock during the 1954-55 season. They set league records by holding 11 opponents - including five straight - under 70 points, and 36 in a row to less than 100.

While it's easy to explain what the Pistons do on defense - pressure the ball on the perimeter, daring players to drive - it's tough for teams to do anything about it.

Just ask the Nets.

"They are a very good defensive team because when you beat one big guy, there is another one waiting for you," said Kidd, who was 4-of-13 for nine points and had six assists. "They remind me of San Antonio with David Robinson and Tim Duncan."

Kidd is not the first to make that comparison.

When Milwaukee played the Pistons in the first round, and were eliminated 4-1, Bucks coach Terry Porter marveled at how the trading-deadline acquisition of Rasheed Wallace made Detroit's defense go from good to great.

"It's no different than when San Antonio had David (Robinson) and Tim (Duncan), or Houston had Hakeem (Olajuwon) and Ralph (Sampson)," Porter said. "If you have two lines of defense back there, it can cover up a lot of your perimeter mistakes.

"When I played for San Antonio, I said, 'You want to go by me? Go ahead, I've got two 7-footers right behind me, go into the woods with the tall trees.' Obviously, that adds another dimension."

When New Jersey played the Spurs - with Duncan and Robinson - in Game 3 of the NBA Finals last year, they tied an NBA record by scoring 63 points by halftime. Detroit and the Nets broke that mark with just 62 points as the Pistons held a 37-25 lead Monday night.

The Nets, who scored 39 through three quarters, needed reserve Tamar Slay's jumper with 42 seconds left to avoid tying the lowest playoff total in league history - 54 by Utah against Chicago during the 1998 NBA Finals.

"We have to get better and it starts with me," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said.

Detroit's victory snapped New Jersey's streak of 14 consecutive postseason victories against Eastern Conference teams since last April. Included was a sweep of the Pistons in the conference finals last season.

New Jersey shot a franchise-playoff low 27.1 percent, and tied the postseason record for fewest field goals with 19.

Kenyon Martin scored just 11 points - less than half his previous playoff average - and Richard Jefferson had eight points after missing 11 of 12 shots for the Nets.

"We had good looks, we just didn't knock them down," Jefferson said.

A lot of teams have struggled to shoot against the Pistons, especially since Feb. 19, when they added Rasheed Wallace in a three-team trade to play alongside Ben Wallace, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year.

"Everybody knows how good Ben is, but I don't think anybody has ever given Rasheed any credit," Pistons coach Larry Brown said.