Rapid Reaction: Knicks 131, Raptors 118

Recap | Box score | Photos

WHAT IT MEANS: With their 131-118 win over the Raptors, the Knicks have won four straight for the first time since mid-December and continue to build momentum toward the postseason. They also moved to within a half-game of sixth-place Philadelphia, which lost to Boston on Tuesday. The Knicks face the Sixers on Wednesday in Philadelphia.

On Tuesday, the Knicks played loose and carefree in their first game since clinching a playoff berth two nights earlier. New York took advantage of a short-handed Toronto team playing out the string; the Knicks built a 20-point lead midway through the second quarter on the strength of 66 percent shooting. Carmelo Anthony hit 5-of-6 from beyond the arc in the first half as the Knicks took a 24-point lead into the locker room and never looked back.

The last time they won four straight was Dec. 5-12, the tail end of an eight-game win streak that helped put them back into playoff contention after a 3-8 start.

DIFFERENCE MAKERS: Anthony finished with 23 points, as did Amare Stoudemire. Toney Douglas had 28 off the bench. Landry Fields broke out of a recent slump with 10.

Anthony sat out the entire fourth quarter. He appeared to hurt his knee earlier in the game. More on this later.

TURNING POINT: The Knicks jumped out to a 13-0 lead thanks to two 3s from Anthony. His fifth 3-pointer of the half -- from the top of the key at the 1:19 mark of the second quarter -- put the Knicks up 27. Toronto cut the lead to ten in the fourth but never truly threatened.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Knicks will face the 76ers in Philly on Wednesday with the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference hanging in the balance. Philadelphia leads the season series 2-1. And for what it’s worth, the Knicks have a tougher schedule to close out the season.