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The New York Knicks have won five in a row to move into the No. 6 position in the Eastern Conference, but they'll have to try to extend their streak with Amare Stoudemire watching in street clothes.

They've already won once in New Jersey without him.

That came two months ago in their only game without Stoudemire, and the Knicks again will be missing their All-Star big man when they look to complete a season sweep of the also-short-handed Nets on Friday night.

It was getting awfully tough to take New York (40-38) seriously as a postseason contender after six straight defeats from March 18-26, but the team has responded with five consecutive wins.

The first four came at Madison Square Garden before Wednesday night's trip to Philadelphia, where the winner would have the inside track for the East's sixth seed. The Knicks blew a 19-point lead in the second half after Chauncey Billups left in the third quarter with a bruised right thigh, and Stoudemire exited in the fourth with an ankle injury, but they emerged with a 97-92 victory.

Toney Douglas scored seven points in the final 1:47, and Carmelo Anthony hit a late 3-pointer to finish with 31 points.

"We're keeping the momentum going, we're keeping the streak going," said Anthony, who also had 11 rebounds. "We wanted to win. I don't really care about (the) six or seven (seed)."

To further extend their longest streak since winning a season-high eight in a row from Nov. 28-Dec. 12, the Knicks must win without Stoudemire. Coach Mike D'Antoni said the team will be cautious after Stoudemire's sprained left ankle swelled up since Wednesday's game.

Billups is expected to start Friday despite his injury.

He and Stoudemire aren't the only two big names banged up heading into this game. Nets star point guard Deron Williams is out for the season following Friday's wrist surgery.

New Jersey starters Anthony Morrow (knee) and Kris Humphries (foot) also missed Wednesday's 116-109 loss at Detroit.

The only previous game Stoudemire has missed in a New York uniform came because of a toe injury Feb. 12 in New Jersey, 10 days before Billups and Anthony arrived. The Knicks made just 21 of 52 (40.4 percent) shots from inside the arc but hit 16 of 34 (47.1 percent) from 3-point range in a 105-95 win.

"They lived and died with it," Nets coach Avery Johnson said after the loss. "And they lived."

Douglas had 19 points off the bench in that game.

Stoudemire scored 35 in a 111-100 win over New Jersey (24-54) at MSG on Nov. 30, while Anthony had 39 and Billups 33 in a 120-116 victory there March 30.

One thing the Knicks haven't done against the Nets is find a way to stop Brook Lopez. The third-year center has averaged 27.0 points in the series, though he's managed to grab only 18 total rebounds in the three games.

Lopez had a career-high 39 points Wednesday at Detroit, but he didn't have much help with Mario West and Dan Gadzuric starting in the frontcourt. Still, Jordan Farmar, who had 18 points and 11 assists, was pleased with his team's effort.

"Guys played hard tonight," Farmar said. "We don't have a lot of games left and playoffs are out of the question, but guys are still coming out here and competing and playing down to the wire."

Of the Nets' injured starters, Morrow is believed to have the best chance to play Friday.

Tagged: Nets, Knicks, Chauncey Billups, Carmelo Anthony, Anthony Morrow

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