Carmelo Anthony had 25 points and 14 rebounds, and the New York Knicks ended a franchise-worst streak of nine straight losing seasons by beating the New Jersey Nets 116-93 on Friday night for their sixth consecutive victory.
Chauncey Billups added 22 points for the Knicks, who played without Amare Stoudemire but didn't need him against a Nets team with far bigger injury problems. New York remained in sixth place in the Eastern Conference and completed its first season sweep of its cross-river rival since winning all three meetings in the shortened 1999 season.
Brook Lopez scored 27 points for the Nets, who were without All-Star guard Deron Williams along with most of their starting lineup and lost for the eighth time in nine games.
Anthony wasn't sure what type of reception he would get in his first game in New Jersey since Denver traded him to New York. The Nets tried all season to make a deal for the All-Star forward, but Anthony never said if he would have agreed to a contract extension that the Nets insisted on as a condition of the deal, with the Knicks believed to be his preference all along.
But with Knicks fans dominating the crowd, he didn't have to worry about any boos. Anthony grinned widely at the roars that followed one of his early 3-pointers, and there were even a few "Melo! Melo!" chants.
It was an easy night despite the absence of Stoudemire, who sprained his left ankle in a victory at Philadelphia on Wednesday. He watched the second half Friday from the bench, wearing a walking boot, and with the Knicks leading by 24 after three quarters. The only interest in the final period was when a brawl erupted in the upper level of the Prudential Center.
New York clinched at least a .500 finish and needs one victory in its final three games to secure a winning record for the first time since going 48-34 in 2000-01.
Returning to the playoffs next week for the first time since 2004, the Knicks insist they don't care whether they face Boston or Miami. They don't think those teams care, either, but Anthony did allow that the Knicks' late-season surge could make their potential opponents take notice.
"Right now I think everybody's seeing how well we're starting to play, how we're starting to jell together, how we're starting to do things right, how we're starting to figure things out going into the playoffs," Anthony said after the morning shootaround. "So that can linger in a lot of people's heads."
Williams, headed for season-ending wrist surgery, leading rebounder Kris Humphries (sprained right ankle and bruised heel), and starting guard Anthony Morrow (left knee tendinitis) were out for New Jersey.
That left the Nets with a starting lineup that included Mario West, Dan Gadzuric, Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic surrounding Lopez. They may never have started a worse unit even last season while winning an NBA-worst 12 games.
New Jersey was within five early in the second quarter, but a 12-1 run later in the period extended New York's lead to 59-40. Anthony made a 3-pointer with 35 seconds left in the half and the Knicks led 68-51 at the break, matching the most points the Nets had allowed in a first half this season.
Notes: Williams will have bone fragments and scar tissue removed from his right wrist in an operation on Monday, general manager Billy King said before the game. The surgery was originally to take place on Friday but Williams was sent home because of a scheduling conflict, King said. ... Stoudemire also missed the Knicks' first trip to New Jersey, sitting out with a sprained right big toe. ... The Nets were fined $50,000 by the NBA on Friday because hip-hop mogul and part-owner Jay-Z went into the Kentucky locker room after the Wildcats clinched a berth in the Final Four. Team personnel are not allowed to have contact with college players who aren't yet draft eligible. Jay-Z was seated courtside next to the Nets' bench Friday.