Sun, May 16, 2004 - Page 24 News List

Reserve saves Nets in triple overtime

NBA PLAYOFFS New Jersey needed everything they could get from Brian Scalabrine after Kenyon Martin, Jason Collins and Rodney Rogers fouled out of the game


Latrell Sprewell, left, of the Timberwolves, drives to the basket against the Kings during the Western Conference semifinals at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Friday. The Timberwolves won to take a 3-2 game lead in the best-of-seven series.


After coming off the bench to which he is usually nailed and scoring a career-high 17 points, Brian Scalabrine said he thought he had just played six overtimes.

"I don't think I've ever been involved in anything this big, on this stage, in my life," said Scalabrine, a third-year pro out of Southern Cal who averaged 3.5 points a game during the regular season. "Maybe this will propel my career into something special."

Whatever else happens in Scalabrine's career, he certainly enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame here Friday night. What he accomplished during the Nets' triple-overtime 127-120 victory over the Detroit Pistons was not lost on Nets Coach Lawrence Frank.

He waited outside the visitors' locker room until Scalabrine walked off the court to give him a hug and a high-five.

Entering the game, Scalabrine had scarcely been heard from in these playoffs. Over the first four games of the series, he had scored a grand total of 6 points. He had played a total of just 35 minutes over the Nets' first eight games of the playoffs -- and he did not even play in two games. In his entire career, Scalabrine had scored 19 points in the playoffs.

Before Friday night, Scalabrine's career playoff high had been 7 points, which he scored in the first game of the Nets' first series against the Knicks.

But the Nets, who had three big men foul out -- Kenyon Martin, Jason Collins and Rodney Rogers -- needed Scalabrine, and he delivered in a big way.

In 23 minutes, Scalabrine made six of seven shots, including all four 3-point attempts. The biggest 3-pointer came from the left corner with 41.5 seconds remaining in the third overtime. It gave the Nets a 122-118 lead.

But Scalabrine, who also nailed a foul shot with 27.1 seconds remaining to give the Nets a 123-118 lead, said his biggest contribution was something that could not be found in the box score.

"You guys can talk about all the shots I made, but I truly believe the biggest play I made today was saving that ball from going out of bounds," Scalabrine said.

Scalabrine was referring to the rebound of a missed 3-point attempt by Richard Jefferson late in the second overtime with the Nets trailing, 111-110. The rebound caromed out toward the left corner. Scalabrine leapt out of bounds to save the ball, reaching around Tayshaun Prince enough to bat the ball back in play to Jefferson.

Jefferson was fouled by Rasheed Wallace with 29 seconds to play. Jefferson made 1 of 2 free throws, sending the game into the third overtime.

"But I wouldn't even be sitting here if Chauncey didn't make that shot," Scalabrine said after the game.

Scalabrine was referring to the 43-foot prayer that Chauncey Billups banked in from one step inside the halfcourt line at the buzzer in regulation, which tied the score at 88-88 and sent the game into overtime.

Billups' shot also set the stage for Scalabrine's unlikely heroics.

"Veal was unbelievable," said Lucious Harris, using Scalabrine's nickname. "The guy came in and really played his heart out."

Harris did not do so bad himself, contributing 12 points off the bench, including 5 at the start of the third overtime. "That's our job, to come off the bench and get a spark going," he said.

Nobody did that better than Scalabrine, even though the Pistons were trying to exploit his defense during the overtimes.

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