New Jersey? What exit?

The Nets aren't ready to take the off ramp out of the NBA playoffs just yet.

Jason Kidd scored 20 points and the Nets somehow delayed an early-summer vacation with an ugly, 83-72 victory over the host Cleveland Cavaliers last night to pull within 3-2 in their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Doomed by an inability to execute down the stretch in this series, the Nets built a 22-point lead in the third quarter and then hung on to force Game 6 tomorrow night in East Rutherford, N.J.

"I wanted to let the guys know this series isn't over and we had to come out and put ourselves in a position to win," Kidd said. "We came out and had a great start."

Even with that good start, however, the Nets found themselves fighting at the finish.

New Jersey made one field goal and scored just six points in the fourth quarter on 1-for-15 shooting from the field. The Nets were also only 4-for-10 from the free- throw line in the final 12 minutes. Kidd missed five foul shots in the final minute when the Nets were trying to put it away.

Cleveland, which blew a chance to close out the series on its home floor, wasn't much better, shooting just 3-for-17 in the fourth. The Cavaliers played the last 56 seconds without LeBron James, who injured himself tumbling over Cleveland's bench while scrambling for a loose ball with Kidd.

Richard Jefferson added 15 points, Mikki Moore 14 and Vince Carter 12 for the Nets.

James led the Cavaliers with 20 points and Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 16, but Larry Hughes gave Cleveland next to nothing, going 3-for-17 from the floor en route to seven points.


* Coach Don Nelson isn't sure he will return to guide the Golden State Warriors through the next stage of their resurgence. Nelson said he plans to decide by July 1 whether he'll be back for another season with the Warriors, whose surprising playoff run ended Tuesday night with a second-round loss to the Utah Jazz. Although Nelson signed a 3-year contract to replace Mike Montgomery last August, he wants time to talk over his future with his wife, Joy, before committing to another year.

* The Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings are both interested in Chuck Person to fill their head coaching jobs. The Pacers assistant interviewed for his team's job last week, and the Kings have asked for permission to talk with him about their vacancy. The Kings job would reunite him with former Pacer Ron Artest. Indiana also interviewed assistant Johnny Davis on Tuesday. The Indianapolis Star reported that the team also has talked to former Miami Heat coach Stan Van Gundy and Los Angeles Lakers assistant Brian Shaw about the job. Also, Reggie Theus, who recently signed a new contract at New Mexico State, told he will interview tomorrow with the Kings.

* Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy will serve as a guest analyst for playoff games for ABC and ESPN, amid reports that team owner Les Alexander has talked to Rick Adelman about replacing Van Gundy. In one report, Houston's KRIV-TV, citing anonymous league sources, said Adelman flew to Southampton, N.Y., for a meeting at Alexander's home. Van Gundy has 1 year left on his contract, but it's not guaranteed. Adelman has coached Portland, Golden State and Sacramento. He was out of coaching this year after being fired by the Kings following last season. Van Gundy's first game will be Game 6 of the Phoenix-San Antonio series in San Antonio tomorrow on ABC.

* North Carolina forward Brandan Wright signed with an agent and will remain in the NBA draft. The 7-4 Wright is projected as a top-five pick.

* The NBA plans to open an office in London this summer in an effort to expand its fan base in Europe. Officials will work with the British Olympic Association and focus on basketball development leading up to the 2012 Olympics, NBA commissioner David Stern announced. London will host a preseason exhibition game between the Boston Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves on Oct. 10. *