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KIDD KEEPS NETS CHARGING; LAKERS BOW BEFORE PHIL

Jason Kidd kept the New Jersey Nets' playoff hopes alive with his 66th career triple-double and fourth-quarter shove that pretty much put the New York Knicks in their place.

Kidd had 28 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds and he hit two game-clinching shots after being called for a technical foul for angrily shoving Jerome Williams in a 110-98 win on Thursday night that sent New York to its season-high eighth straight loss.

The win was the eighth in 11 games for the Nets (37-39), and it moved them within a game of idle Philadelphia (37-37) in the race for the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.

New Jersey, which also got 32 points from Vince Carter, has six games remaining, two less than the 76ers.

The Kidd play that everyone will remember came with 5:27 to go and the Nets clinging to a 99-91 lead. They had led by 27 points in the third quarter.

With Stephon Marbury dribbling the ball near midcourt and Kidd guarding him, Williams came out 30 feet from the basket and set a late screen. Kidd ran into it and shoved Williams to the court, drawing a technical foul.

Jamal Crawford made the free throw to cut the lead to seven, but Kidd responded by hitting a 17-foot jumper and a three-pointer to put the game out of reach.

Kidd downplayed the incident.

"I don't get excited about playing them any more," Kidd said of the Knicks. "They're just another bad team. I don't get excited playing bad teams."

Williams felt he did nothing wrong.

"I guess he doesn't like being picked," he said.

Jackson makes LA appearance

LOS ANGELES -- Phil Jackson was there Thursday, literally looking over the Lakers' shoulders from his perch in owner Jerry Buss' suite behind the bench in Staples Center.

Whatever one strong performance would have done for them in Jackson's eyes as he mulls a return to coaching, who knows. Jackson already has seen many Lakers games recently on TV. And the Lakers didn't deliver a strong performance, losing to the Houston Rockets, 114-100 -- the Lakers' 13th loss in 14 outings.

Jackson and Buss didn't appear to have much to say to each other during the game, but they talked much more before the game. The realism of Buss rehiring Jackson as Lakers coach for next season remains unknown.

"In his mind, he's mulling decisions on what to do, seeing what intrigues him," said Lakers coach Frank Hamblen, Jackson's longtime assistant and friend.

Hamblen said he hoped to put on a nice show for Jackson but came away frustrated again by his players' lack of defense, which outweighed Kobe Bryant playing on a bruised right leg and posting a triple-double (19 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists).

But Bryant said the Lakers losing in front of Jackson wasn't surprising given who these Lakers are: "I don't think it was anything out of the ordinary. We're a young team, struggling, playing inconsistent basketball."

Regarding the possibility that Jackson, 59, might come back as coach, Bryant said he remained focused on closing this season in respectable fashion.

"I don't want to get caught up in speculation," he said.

Mavericks pound Spurs

DALLAS -- Keith Van Horn scored 10 of his 17 points during the game-breaking third quarter and the Mavericks avoided a season sweep by beating the Tim Duncan-less Spurs, 104-68, San Antonio's most lopsided loss since falling to Seattle by 38 in the 2001 finale.

It also was the Mavs' biggest victory margin over the Spurs, topping a 32-point win in January 1989.

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