AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - 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 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 was hard-pressed to remember his last game-winner - certainly not this season, he said - and he seemed the unlikely candidate to finally sink one on a day in which 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 blocks for the Nets and helped hold rookie Tayshaun Prince to 0-for-6 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.
"People just look at our offense, man," Martin said. "We didn't get this far by just trying to outscore people. We're a decent defensive team."
The Pistons led the NBA in scoring defense this season, allowing an average of 87.7 points. But the Nets were second, giving up just 90.1 per game.
The Pistons nearly won despite making just two field goals, both by Richard Hamilton, in the fourth quarter. The Nets were horrible in the third quarter, making just four field goals, including three by Martin.
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 hosts Game 2 on Tuesday. The loss was an especially tough blow because the Pistons, for the most part, achieved their goal of slowing the up-tempo Nets to a half-court game.
"In the fourth quarter, 11 points is not going to get it done," Prince said. "We did a great job in third quarter as far as getting back in the game. We just didn't have the same energy in the fourth."
"We've been down before, and we've bounced back," said Pistons 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."