Knicks vie to extend win streak vs. Cavs

( - If only the New York Knicks played this well earlier in the season.

The surging Knicks look to make it nine straight wins and stay alive in the playoff chase Sunday versus the Cleveland Cavaliers at Madison Square Garden.

New York sits three games off the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference and owes it all to its current eight-game win streak, which remained intact with Friday's close 93-92 win over Philadelphia. The Knicks almost blew a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter, but managed to fend off the pesky Sixers.

Knicks head coach rested his top players and it nearly cost the team.

"I've got to be careful the next time coming down the homestretch," said Woodson, whose job status in the future is uncertain.

Amare Stoudemire scored 22 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, and Carmelo Anthony tallied 21 points for the Knicks. Anthony is averaging 27.8 points during the winning streak.

New York is 16-20 at home and unbeaten in the last four games at Madison Square Garden. After hosting the Cavaliers, the Knicks will start an important five-game trip out west against the Lakers, Kings, Suns, Warriors and Jazz.

Cleveland has lost four in a row and eight of its last 10 games, and went winless on a recent three-game homestand, which concluded with Saturday's 118-111 loss to the Houston Rockets.

Dion Waiters scored 26 points and handed out eight assists, Tyler Zeller finished with 23 points and Anderson Varejao turned in 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who were coming off close losses to Miami and Oklahoma City.

"That's two nights in a row that we've come out and our first group has just been flat. They've been flat defensively, flat offensively. From the beginning, we're fighting from a hole," said Cavs coach Mike Brown.

Brown is without All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving because of a biceps injury and his team has an 11-24 road record this season. Cavs forward Luol Deng is still bothered by an ankle injury and is questionable Sunday.

Meanwhile, Waiters has scored 56 points in the last two games and has stepped up in Irving's absence.

Cleveland has lost two of three meetings with New York this season and is winless in its last five trips to MSG.