OKLAHOMA CITY — The Dallas Mavericks were hoping to bring in the new year with a bang. But the Oklahoma City Thunder had other ideas.

Chris Paul scored nine of his 17 points in the last two minutes and the Thunder ended the game on a 14-2 run en route to defeating the Mavs, 106-101, on Tuesday night before a sellout crowd of 18,203 at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The loss dropped the Mavs to 1-2 on this three-game road trip and 21-12 overall.

Playing without Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr.,  the Mavs led 99-92 after Luka Doncic drilled a 3-pointer with 2:57 remaining in the game and looked like they had this game in their grasp. But Paul took over from there and guided the Thunder to the win with his aggressive play and critical shot-making down the stretch.

Paul buried a pair of free throws, drained a 3-pointer, then nailed a floater and a 17-footer to put the Thunder ahead, 102-101, with 41.3 seconds left.

“This has been his pattern,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “At the end of games he becomes the focal point. He did it against Toronto (on Sunday) and he did it tonight.

“He’s a great player — he made a bunch of shots. We didn’t defend him well enough, and we had chances at the other end.”

Luka Doncic had the ball poked away from him by Danilo Gallinari with 24.1 seconds left, thwarting one key chance the Mavs had at regaining the lead. Then, Dennis Schroder connected on a pair of free throws to give OKC a 104-101 lead with 19.9 seconds to go.

The Mavs had two excellent looks with an opportunity to tie it. But, Maxi Kleber (14 points, 14 rebounds) misfired on a 3-point attempt and Doncic also clanked a triple after Seth Curry grabbed an offensive rebound.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (19 points, 10 rebounds) closed out the scoring by making two charity tosses with 2.9 seconds left.

The Mavs played without Porzingis and Hardaway Jr., who are their second- and third-leading scorers, respectively. Porzingis was a late scratch due to soreness in his right knee, while Hardaway is listed as day-to-day after straining his left hamstring in Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Carlisle wasn’t about to use their absence as the reason the Mavs lost a game they led by 12 points at  the end of the first quarter.

“We’ve got a deep roster and we’re very capable of having guys step up and step forward,” Carlisle said. “We’re not going to be an excuse team –we’re just not going to go there. We just got to execute a little bit better at both ends.

“It’s a one possession game up to the very last part of the game. One more make and one more miss one way or the other and the thing is different, but that’s the NBA now. It’s a very thin margin for errors and you’ve got to be really good at both ends.”

Doncic finished the game with 35 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. The second-year point guard tossed in 17 points in the first quarter — the Mavs led 32-20 when the quarter ended — and had 23 by halftime, when the Mavs had a 51-50 lead.

Obviously, the Mavs could have used either Porzingis or Hardaway to take some of the pressure off Doncic. But those options weren’t available. Porzingis said it was about five minutes before the game during warm-ups that he knew he wasn’t going to be able to play.

“I just kept warming up and my right knee just didn’t feel right,” Porzingis said. “I told the medical staff and they thought it was safer for me to sit out this one.

“There was pain in certain areas, and I just didn’t feel right. I explained how it felt and everything, I kept trying to warm up and it was just not right, so that was that.”

Porzingis said his knee got over-extended during Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers, but he didn’t start feeling discomfort until Monday. He had treatment on the knee on Monday and said he thought he would be able to play against the Thunder, but obviously that wasn’t the case.

“It sucks because it’s a game that we had to win and I wanted to be out there with the guys to help the team,” said Porzingis, who doesn’t know if he’ll play in Thursday’s home game against Brooklyn. “But sometimes these things happen, and it’s more important for me to be healthy in the long term.”

Doncic, who was just 12-of-29 form the field and 3-of-16 from 3-point range, acknowledged that the Mavs are deep enough to win games when a few of their starters can’t answer the bell.

“We have a great team,” Doncic said. “We hung in there until the last minute.”

The Mavs shot just 35.3 percent from the field, 29.4 percent from 3-point land and were outrebounded, 56-49.

“It’s a tough loss, a tough game, physical,” Carlisle said. “A lot of guys dinged up. We just got to do better. We weren’t consistent enough really in all areas. Rebounding was a problem, their penetration was a problem throughout the game, and we just got to do better with those two areas in particular.”

Twitter: @DwainPrice



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