OKLAHOMA CITY -- Rick Carlisle sounded like a man who'd just lost his best friend.
For a faint moment Thursday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Carlisle's Dallas Mavericks appeared as though they were on the verge of winning their first game of the season. But Kevin Durant had other ideas.
Durant, the NBA's reigning two-time defending scoring champ, buried a 3-point basket as time expired, giving the Oklahoma City Thunder a 104-102 victory over the Mavericks, in electrifying fashion.
The Mavericks are 0-3 with a home game at 7:30 tonight against the Toronto Raptors. The Mavs also probably lost some sleep Thursday night after re-playing the way they lost this game.
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"When you're going through a tough stretch, those types of shots go in against you, and right now that's our reality," Carlisle said. "So we're going to keep working, we're going to be positive where it's deemed appropriate, and we're going to be truthful when it comes to things we need to work on.
"Right now the basketball gods aren't on our side, and we've got to get them on our side. We're making strides, but we're not there yet."
Vince Carter gave the Mavs a 102-101 lead when he nailed a 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds remaining. The Mavericks were fired up after Carter's basket, believing this would be the night they would win a game for the first time since capturing Game 6 of last season's NBA Finals.
But Durant broke free and hit his game-winner that sent the defending world champs falling back on their collective heels.
"We had the game won and Durant throws in a helluva shot," said Mavericks center Brendan Haywood, who had eight points and five rebounds. "It's just disappointing because we fought very, very hard and it looked like we had the game.
"We made a lot of plays to stay in the game, but it just wasn't enough tonight, so it's very disappointing."
It was the first time these clubs have met in the regular season since the Mavericks eliminated the Thunder in five games in last season's Western Conference Finals.
And this one also took on a playoff-type atmosphere with the Thunder's Serge Ibaka and Carter drawing double-technicals after Mavs guard Delonte West and Oklahoma City guard Eric Maynor got tangled on the floor in the fourth period.
But this was a night when the Mavs finally showed some moxie after opening the season with blowout losses to Miami (105-94) and Denver (115-93).
The Mavs forced the Thunder into 26 turnovers, fought them to a standstill on the boards (38-all), and even led by as many as 12 points.
With Dirk Nowitzki scoring 29 points, Jason Terry collecting 16 points and nine assists, and West pitching in 15, the Mavs looked as though they were finally playing together as a team.
A 13-3 run by the Mavs -- they trailed 78-76 after three periods -- netted Dallas a 91-89 lead with 4:45 left. It was nip-and-tuck from there, with Durant having the last say for the 4-0 Thunder.
Asked if he'd rather lose like this or get blown out, Haywood said: "I'd rather lose by 50 or get my butt kicked by 30 any night. I don't want to lose anyway, but at the end of the day, the first two games were just inexcusable."
Carlisle didn't make any excuses after his team played their best game of the season, albeit was in a losing cause.
"We're making progress, for sure," he said. "But we've got a ways to go.
"Right now the breaks are going against us. We've got to personalize this and we've got to break through, and it's work."
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760