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NETS ARE RUNNING AWAY WITH EASTERN FINALS

For a change, Jason Kidd didn't wait until the final seconds to make a play to win the game. Instead, he made a whole bunch of them all evening long.

Leading a fast break that had been stifled for two games on the road, Kidd had a career playoff-high 34 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and four steals as the New Jersey Nets beat Detroit, 97-85, Thursday night to take a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

Kidd made 11 of 21 shots and 11 of 13 free throws and heard chants of "M-V-P! M-V-P!" as he stood at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter. He was just 14 for 40 from the field in Games One and Two, when he had to make plays in the final two seconds -- a 20-foot fadeaway and a defensive stop -- in a pair of two-point victories.

"I had the same shots in Game One and Game Two, and unfortunately I was building the house," Kidd said. "I couldn't throw it in the ocean. A couple of balls finally went through the hoop instead of hitting the iron."

More important, the Nets finally ran with abandon after two games of low-scoring drudgery. Kidd and Kenyon Martin, who added 19 points, spurred a 32-4 advantage in fast-break points.

"Let's force our will on them," said coach Byron Scott, repeating his pregame message to his players. "Let's not get into a walk-it-up-and-down-the-floor type of game. Let's not get in the 80s. Let our presence be felt on the offensive end. If they can stop it, so be it. If not, we're going to get some easy buckets."

The Nets needed fourth-quarter rallies to win the first two games, with the scores in the 70s and 80s. The defending conference champions have won nine straight playoff games and can close out their second straight sweep Saturday when they host Game Four.

"It's what we talked about all season long -- getting back to the finals, having a chance to win the championship," Scott said. "We thought about this in October, when training camp started. We haven't got there yet, but we're one game away."

Richard Hamilton scored 21 points -- but only six in the second half -- to lead the Pistons, who now must attempt to become the first team in NBA history to come back from 3-0 down to win a series.

"We didn't come out tonight and compete at all," forward Corliss Williamson said.

Martin scored 14 points in the first quarter, when New Jersey took the lead for good. Kidd scored 15 of New Jersey's 19 points and had two steals during a 9 1/2 -minute stretch starting late in the second quarter.

Desperate to find a winning formula, Detroit coach Rick Carlisle benched struggling starters Chauncey Billups and Tayshaun Prince for much of the second half, but there was no solution for 18 turnovers, a 50-39 rebounding deficit and a fast Nets team that seemed to have its hands everywhere.

"I can't say enough about how they are playing," Carlisle said. "They are quick to every loose ball. Their energy is great."

Only a few pingpong balls kept the night from being a total loss for the Pistons, who won the No. 2 overall pick in the draft lottery held just before tipoff. The pick comes from a 1997 trade with Memphis, which would have kept the selection had it been No. 1.

Spurs-Mavs officially focused

DALLAS -- There were no referees around, an off day in the Western Conference finals. Accordingly, nobody got too upset.

A day after the technical foul-fest known as Game Two, the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs insisted they are not going to let the officiating get to them in Game Three at 9:30 tonight (TNT).

"It's stupid to even worry about referees. They have a tough job to do. Let them do it," Dallas guard Steve Nash said. "No matter what's happening, whether you're not getting a fair shake on a given night, there's nothing you can do about it. It's not deliberate.

"Even if it is deliberate, what are you going to do about it?"

In a series tied at one game apiece, the officiating has been the hot topic -- and the debate has had a personal twist. The person people were wondering about after Game Two was referee Joey Crawford.

The notoriously quick-tempered Crawford called four technical fouls in the first quarter of San Antonio's 119-106 victory, ejecting coach Don Nelson with two quick technicals during a timeout.

"I thought Joey was playing for a championship last night," Dallas guard Nick Van Exel said Thursday. "It's over with. Let's stop talking about it so you don't get me fined."

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