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Harris, Nets spoil Pistons debut for Iverson

Nov 8, 2008 - 4:26 AM EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- Devin Harris and the New Jersey Nets upstaged Allen Iverson's Detroit debut.

Harris scored a career-high 38 points and hit clutch shots down the stretch as the Nets dealt the Pistons their first loss of the season, 103-96, on Friday night.

All the pregame fanfare surrounded the arrival of Iverson, whom the Pistons acquired in Monday's blockbuster trade that sent Chauncey Billups to the Denver Nuggets. While the four-time scoring champ collected 24 points and six assists, he and his new squad caught Harris on the wrong night.

"I was just worried about the win. Points really didn't matter," Harris said. "It will probably be someone else tomorrow night. But we desperately needed the win."

New Jersey's point guard took the load himself after the Nets fell behind in the first half, forcing the usually reliable Pistons' defense on its heels with constant drives to the basket despite nursing a sprained ankle. Harris scored 19 of the team's 33 third-quarter points, including 12 foul shots.

"It was just about playing hard," Harris said. "We didn't get off to the best start. But we came out with more aggressiveness in the third quarter. I'm happy about that."

With just under a minute left on the clock, he drained a runner in the lane to make it a 98-91 game. But Richard Hamilton answered for the Pistons, burying a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to four. But neither he - nor Iverson and fellow point guard Rodney Stuckey, for that matter - could stop Harris.

The fourth-year guard answered the call as he did all night, driving to the paint and finishing strong with a layup, drawing a foul in the process. Even the ensuing missed free throw was no obstacle - he grabbed the offensive rebound himself, drew contact again and knocked down two more foul shots to put the game on ice and snap the Nets' two-game losing streak.

"It's been a long time since we beat Detroit," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "It's just one game, but it's good to get rid of that losing taste. You see how hard we have to play in order to win, and that has to be a staple."

Harris was 20-of-24 at the free-throw line on the night and connected on 9-of-15 from the floor. He scored the Nets' final seven points. Of course, he was essentially forced to do so, as Vince Carter and Yi Jianlian - who combined for 36 points and 31 field-goal attempts - both fouled out in the fourth quarter.

And he did all of it on a sore ankle.

"Devin was off the charts, doing all that on a bad ankle," Frank said. "I thought he showed unbelievable grit. He was tremendous."

Harris' career performance overshadowed Iverson, who nonetheless had a solid debut with the Pistons. He made sure to established himself early. Forty seconds into the game, he dished to Hamilton for an open jumper, then got on the board himself on the next possession with a layup.

"I don't want to see him. He's an assassin," Frank said. "This is his first game with them. Once he gets a few under belt and gets some practice time, I think Michael Curry said it best, he's a first-round Hall of Famer. He changed the game. I don't think any coach looks forward to seeing Allen."

The former MVP and four-time scoring champion played his customary style, attacking the paint and opening things up outside. As usual, that gave him plenty of opportunities at the free-throw line, where he was 11-of-13 on the night. But he spent much of the night trying to familiarize himself with his new teammates and facilitate things for Detroit's shooters.

"It was a good feeling for me. I haven't played in a while," Iverson said. "It was good to get some of the rust off and I felt good about our efforts overall. Even though we let it go a little bit, in the second half it was a good experience for me."

He finished with five assists, but his two primary targets - Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince - struggled from the field, combining to hit just 12-of-35 attempts.

Nets center Josh Boone had an active night, collecting 18 points and 14 boards.

Hamilton recorded 22 points and Prince added 19 and 11 rebounds for the Pistons.

"I thought (Iverson) did what we wanted. He got us into the bonus, so we won the battle at the free-throw line," Curry said. "I thought our guys were aggressive early and played fast. I tried to get them to slow down and make sure we got up the court more defensively. I thought we should have used more of our aggressiveness for defense."

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