Carmelo Anthony scores 36 as Knicks beat Thunder for 12th straight win and 50th of season

Raymond Felton, Carmelo Anthony and Jason Kidd celebrate Raymond Felton, Carmelo Anthony and Jason Kidd celebrate as they walk off the court during a timeout in the fourth quarter of a game against the Oklahoma Thunder in Oklahoma City. (April 7, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Carmelo Anthony's streak of scoring at least 40 points was snapped at three games Sunday, but the Knicks extended their winning streak to 12 and legitimized their place as a championship contender.

In perhaps their most impressive win of the season and surely of this streak, the Knicks beat the defending Western Conference champion Thunder, 125-120, in the loudest arena in the NBA.

If the Knicks, who reached 50 wins for the first time since the 1999-2000 season, didn't already have everyone's attention, this win had to make the rest of the NBA take notice.

"We was always convinced that we was a good team in this NBA, we was one of the top teams that's out there," said Anthony, who had 36 points and 12 rebounds. "Our confidence would always have us believing that we're one of the better teams in the NBA."

In a six-day stretch, the Knicks (50-26) beat the defending champion Heat on their home court and the Finals runner-up on theirs. Miami was without LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but the way Anthony and the Knicks are rolling, it might not have mattered if they had played.

The Knicks probably wish the playoffs started today. "[We're] just a great team getting it all together at the right time," said J.R. Smith, who scored 22 points.

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The Knicks lead the Nets by six games with six to play and have a magic number of one to clinch the Atlantic Division title. They can capture their first division title since 1993-94 as soon as Tuesday night. They're 2 1/2 games ahead of Indiana and have a magic number of four to lock up the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.

"I'm looking at the big picture," Mike Woodson said. "This is all great. We can accomplish winning our division, securing that second spot. The next step is trying to win a title. I'm in it for that and that only."

Smith, who got pulled early in the game for missing a defensive assignment, hit back-to-back huge baskets to secure the win.

He drained a step-back jumper to put the Knicks up 117-113 with 1:30 to play. On the next trip, Raymond Felton got in the lane, slipped and batted the ball out to Smith. He nailed a 28-foot three-pointer as the shot clock was about to expire to make it 120-113 with 56.8 seconds to go.

"It was kind of crazy because I thought Ray was going to get the layup, so I started going backward toward half-court to try to get back on defense," Smith said.

"It was a nail in the coffin," Anthony said.

Felton had 16 points and eight assists. Tyson Chandler scored 15, Jason Kidd 14 and Chris Copeland 13, all in the first half.

Russell Westbrook had 37 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists to lead the Thunder (56-21). Kevin Durant had 27 points and now trails Anthony (28.44) by nine-100ths of a point in the scoring race.

The Knicks led by 12 early in the third quarter, but Westbrook's fast-break layup gave the Thunder a 111-110 lead with four minutes left.

Chandler scored inside to give the Knicks the lead for good and blocked a shot by Westbrook before Anthony tipped in his own miss for a 114-111 Knicks lead. Westbrook's pull-up jumper made it 115-113, but Smith hit his two big baskets and the Knicks put the Thunder away.

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"A lot of people was counting us out, a lot of people was saying that we was going to lose this game," Felton said. "It's a good win in that sense, to close and shut a lot of mouths up."

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