EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)—Richard Jefferson stood at the foul line late in the third quarter of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals and talked some trash with Tayshaun Prince of the Detroit Pistons.
Prince had been called for a foul after appearing to cleanly block a fast break layup attempt by the talkative Jefferson.
It might have been the only thing that went right for the New Jersey Nets forward on a night he was 1-for-12 from the field in a 78-56 loss.
“I was just kind of laughing,” Jefferson said. “He thought he got the block, and I told him he was lucky I didn’t see him coming. He started laughing because he knew that was the case. But he got me a little bit. It wasn’t anything.”
But Prince having had that good game against Jefferson might turn out to be everything in this series.
During a four-game split in the regular season, Jefferson owned Prince. He averaged 21.5 points, seven rebounds and three assists and shot 43 percent from the field.
Prince was limited to averages of 5.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and two assists and shot 25 percent.
The matchup gave the two-time defending Eastern Conference champion Nets a big position edge in this series. It was an advantage New Jersey needed to maintain against Detroit, a team that has improved dramatically with the late-season acquisition of power forward Rasheed Wallace.
“People say he dominated me in the regular season, but if you look at my stats, I wasn’t shooting the ball,” Prince said Wednesday, noting that guards Richard Hamilton and Chauncey Billups were shooting more.
That wasn’t the case in Game 1. Prince had 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field and grabbed 10 rebounds. Jefferson finished with eight points and three rebounds.
Jefferson was incredulous when asked if Prince got the best of him in the opener of the best-of-seven series.
“There is nothing to talk about,” Jefferson said Wednesday. “He had 15 points. I had the worst shooting performance that I had in about 40 games. What is there really to talk about?”
Prince expects to see a more aggressive Jefferson in Game 2 on Friday night in Auburn Hills, Mich.
“When you struggle like he did in Game 1, you want to come back right away and make up for it,” Prince said. “He’s had the extra time to think about it, so he’s really going to be ready by Friday.”
Jefferson, who hit his first shot in Game 1, was aggressive on Monday. He also was well guarded.
Early in the game, Jefferson tried a back-down move on Prince, but was forced to pass the ball when the Pistons forward was right in his face as he went up for a turnaround jumper.
On two early drives to the basket, Jefferson got a step on Prince only to find Detroit center Ben Wallace waiting. It forced him to alter both shots. A third drive to the basket ended in an offensive foul.
“I took good shots,” Jefferson insisted after the Nets worked out in New Jersey on Wednesday. “They just didn’t go in. I had about four or five wide open 16-footers that I normally make two of three or three of four, and they didn’t go.”
No one expects a repeat performance from Jefferson, who shot nearly 50 percent from the field in the regular season.
“I’m not worried about R.J.,” Nets point guard Jason Kidd said. “He just had a bad night. The thing about R.J., he is a confident player. He works extremely hard at this game and I know he is going to bounce back.”
That puts the pressure on Prince again.
“Game 1 was definitely a statement by Tay,” Hamilton said. “Now he has to come out and be just as aggressive and tough again.”