Jason Kidd’s 20-foot fadeaway took a lap around the rim before falling in. It was the biggest game-winner of his career, capping a day when nearly everything else was way off the mark.
Kidd’s floater over 7-footer Mehmet Okur somehow found the net with 1.4 seconds left Sunday to give the New Jersey Nets a 76-74 victory over the Detroit Pistons in Game 1 of the NBA Eastern Conference finals.
“Coach called my name and my number, and my teammates believed in me,” Kidd said. “I told them I was riding their shoulders because I couldn’t throw it in the ocean. You want the ball in your hand in crunch time. The opportunity presented itself.
“And I finally made one.”
Kidd seemed an unlikely candidate to sink a game-winner on a day when he missed 13 of 19 shots. Forced down the right wing by Chauncey Billups, Kidd didn’t have a good look at the basket and never saw the ball go in.
“He has hit a lot of big shots, but that’s the biggest shot for us,” Coach Byron Scott said. “It gives us home-court advantage. As we always said, we want the first game.”
Kenyon Martin had 16 points, nine rebounds, four steals and three blocked shots for the Nets and helped hold rookie Tayshaun Prince to 0-for-six shooting in the fourth quarter. Kidd finished with 15 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and three steals in a game of ugly offense or tough defense, depending on the point of view.
The Pistons nearly won despite making only two field goals, both by Richard Hamilton, in the fourth quarter. The Nets were horrible in the third quarter, making only four field goals.
Okur actually had two chances to tie it in the final 1.4 seconds. He missed when he tried to tip in a lobbed inbounds pass from Prince. He got the rebound but couldn’t convert the follow.
Hamilton had 24 points to lead Detroit, which plays host to Game 2 on Tuesday.
The Pistons were on the verge of setting standards for fourth-quarter futility, scoring only two points in the first eight minutes. That allowed the Nets to turn an eight-point deficit into a 72-65 lead with four minutes left.
But New Jersey suddenly went cold, with Kidd missing open shots and rushed ones.
Billups, fouled as he drove to the basket, made two free throws to complete a 7-0 run and tie the score at 74 with 22 seconds left.
Then Kidd made the game-winner.
“We’ve been down before, and we’ve bounced back,” said Piston Coach Rick Carlisle, whose team recovered from a 3-1 deficit to beat Orlando in the first round. “We’ll have to do it again.”
Ben Wallace had 22 rebounds, including a team playoff-record 13 in the fourth quarter, for the Pistons.