AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Detroit and New Jersey are out of
secrets, and soon one team will be out of time to make a
A year after both reached the Eastern Conference final -- where
the Nets swept the Pistons -- one will fall short of that after
Thursday night's Game 7 at The Palace.
"Everybody knows what's at stake," Detroit's Ben Wallace said
Wednesday. "It's not going to come down to Xs and Os. It's going
to come down to who wants it more."
Richard Jefferson bristled at the notion that the Nets might be
headed in the wrong direction if they lose.
"You don't build three years of success, put up three division
championships, two Eastern Conference championships and say one
Game 7 is going to determine it," he said. "I'm 23. Kenyon is
what? 25? We have a young group of guys.
"It's not the last running of the Bulls. It's not like
(Michael) Jordan is 34 and Phil (Jackson) is ready to retire. This
is a completely different group."
But the loser will have to answer questions a lot earlier than
it wanted to.
Will the Nets bring back coach Lawrence Frank, the little known
assistant who was promoted in midseason after Byron Scott was
fired? What about restricted free agent Kenyon Martin?
Was firing Rick Carlisle after last season, and hiring Larry
Brown the way to go for the Pistons? Will they re-sign free agent
"When this season started, you figured you had to beat New
Jersey," Brown said. "It doesn't matter if you beat them in the
first round, or the third round or second round, you had to beat
Richard Hamilton is glad the Pistons had a better regular-season
record than New Jersey because they get to host Game 7, and home
teams have won more than 80 percent of such games in NBA history.
"It's going to be crazy. I can't wait," Hamilton said. "You
get the jitters just thinking about it."
Since Jason Kidd was traded to New Jersey three years ago, the
Nets have advanced to the NBA finals twice -- without experiencing a
Two years ago when the first round lasted five games, they did
needed a Game 5 to put away Indiana in two overtimes.
"They haven't played a Game 7, but a closeout Game 6 is the
same thing, and they've had a lot of those," Brown said. "They've
won a lot of big games."
Brown is 4-3 in Game 7s with four teams in his 32 years of
coaching, and the 33-year-old Frank will coach in his first
"This is a great opportunity," Brown said. "This is the only
chance you get to move on. If we can play good, it's down to the
Kidd said the key to a Game 7 is to have each player focus on
"Don't try to do R.J.'s job. Don't go out there and try to do
K-Mart's job," Kidd said, referring to Jefferson and Martin.
"Just do your job and everyone else will follow."
Rodney Rogers is the only active Nets player who has played in a
Game 7. The Pistons have 10 such players, including four who were
not a part of Detroit's win in Game 7 of the first round against
Orlando last year.
When the Pistons eliminated Orlando, they became the seventh
team to rally from an 0-2 deficit to win a best-of-seven series.
They hope New Jersey doesn't become the ninth team to do it. The
Nets trailed 0-2 before winning three straight against Detroit.
If Detroit wins the series, it would also join a small group.
Just 19 of the 115 teams -- 17 percent -- that fell behind 2-3 in
Game 5 have advanced.
"It consumes everything in your life, so luckily I have kids to
take my mind off of it," Detroit's Chauncey Billups said. "Most
people would feel a lot of pressure about a Game 7, but I never
feel pressure. This is a lot of fun.
"Any time you can get to a Game 7, it's definitely a privileged
situation to be in. We're not going to run anything that surprises
them, and they're not going to run anything that surprises us. It's
about pride and will."