Knicks rolling, rolling across the river

NEWARK, N.J. -- For fourth-quarter excitement, there was a fan brawl in the corner of the upper deck that was so sustained and so punch-filled, Carmelo Anthony could have seen it from the New York Knicks' bench if he had a pair of binoculars.

Actually, he might have seen it anyway because the arena lighting operator shone a spotlight on the brawl for a few brief moments.

Hey, anything to make a New Jersey Nets game more entertaining, right?

The entertainment on this night was mostly produced by Anthony, who scored 23 of his 25 points in the first half and made up for the absence of Amare Stoudemire (ankle) with 14 rebounds -- his most as a Knick -- in a 116-93 rout of the New Jersey Nets on Friday night.

New York's winning streak now sits at six, the collective confidence level is up around a 9, and the panic meter back across the Hudson River has been shut down. With three games left until the playoffs, the Knicks are rolling.

"Just winning the way we won tonight, the margin of victory, the amount of points we had, how we did it, defensively we were scrambling -- there were multiple efforts out there," Anthony said. "When we play like that and win like that, it gives us more confidence as the days go on."

With the 76ers defeating the Toronto Raptors, the Knicks maintained their half-game lead over Philadelphia for sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

The Celtics and Heat also won, leaving Boston and Miami tied for second place in the East with a key head-to-head meeting between those teams coming up Sunday. If the Knicks finish sixth, they will oppose the No. 3 seed. And if Boston defeats Miami on Sunday to sweep the season series, that opponent could very well be the Heat.

"It's not a preference for me. It really doesn't matter. But at the same time, six is always better than seven," Anthony said. "Everybody wants to see [Knicks-Heat], but we don't control that. It don't matter to me. Honestly, it really don't."

A few other items of note from the blowout:

Chauncey Billups showed no ill effects from the bruised thigh he sustained two nights earlier in Philadelphia. He scored 22 points and was able to sit with Anthony on the bench for the final quarter to watch Ben Uzoh block three of the Knicks' shots.

• There were solid contributions from every Knicks bench player except Roger Mason (1-for-5), with Derrick Brown contributing his first 3-pointer as a Knick, a shot from the corner prior to the midpoint of the second quarter that put New York ahead by 10 and allowed them to flip it onto cruise control.

Toney Douglas (3-for-10) and Bill Walker (2-for-8) led the reserves with 10 points apiece.

Jared Jeffries shot 1.000 on layups (2-for-2) and dunks (1-for-1). He was 0-for-2 on short corner jump shots, but he scored off Anthony's first assist with 2:03 left in the third quarter after Shelden Williams fumbled a lead pass from Anthony that would have gotten that goose egg out of the assist column for Melo a couple minutes earlier. (Williams still managed to score on the play after retrieving the ball, converting a post-up over Travis Outlaw.)

• Stoudemire sounded unlikely to play Sunday at Indiana, but coach Mike D'Antoni said he expected him to play at last one of the final two regular-season games, Tuesday against Chicago and/or Wednesday at Boston.

The thing that was probably the most striking about this game was the distance from which Anthony was shooting his 3-point shots -- several steps behind the arc, just as he has been doing in several recent games.

Anthony pumped his fist as he nailed his final warmup shot from well behind the arc at the conclusion of intermission, but two of his four misses from 3-point range rimmed in and out, and his 3-point percentage as a Knick dropped from 44 percent to 43.4 percent.

"It's confidence, that's all it is. Nothing major. It's going in right now, and let's hope I can keep that up," said Anthony, who said his shooting range with a regular jump-shot motion probably extends out to 35 feet. "But I won't never give Mike D'Antoni a headache by shooting out from the hash mark. It's cool right now."

Cooler than it was 10 days ago, that's for certain.

With the playoffs approaching, the Knicks are peaking.

And they didn't even need Stoudemire to show how much they were continuing to peak Friday night in completing their first 4-0 season sweep of the Nets since 1990-91.