PORTLAND — The shot wasn’t impossible, just improbable: a fadeaway 3-pointer from the left corner with two defenders in his face.

Leemire Goldwire knew it was going in.

Goldwire’s 3-pointer with half a second left gave the Sioux Falls Skyforce a 99-98 victory over the Maine Red Claws Sunday night at the Portland Expo.

In winning their ninth consecutive game, the Skyforce (24-15) moved past the Red Claws (23-15) into second place in the NBA Development League’s East Conference. Sioux Falls overcame an 18-point third-quarter deficit, scoring 33 points in the final quarter, 13 by Goldwire, who hit four 3-pointers. His last was the biggest.

Trailing 98-96 after Morris Almond hit 1 of 2 foul shots for the Red Claws with 2.5 seconds left, the Skyforce called a timeout and set up an inbounds play in the forecourt. Chris McCray, looking frantically for Goldwire, finally found him in the left corner.

Goldwire caught the ball, then turned to his left, faded back and shot in one motion. Nothing but net.

“When I caught it, I knew it was going in,” said Goldwire, who finished with 16 points. “My teammates said there was someone in my face, but I didn’t see anybody but the rim.”

Actually, there were two players in his face: 6-foot-1 guard Russell Robinson and 6-11 center Paul Davis, but it didn’t matter.

“A fadeaway 3-pointer with a 7-footer in his face,” said Red Claws Coach Austin Ainge. “Heck of a shot.”

Almond’s 3-point attempt from 27 feet straight on caught the front rim as the final horn sounded.

To a man, the Red Claws didn’t look at this game, one of the best seen at the Expo this season, as being lost on that last shot. They look at many lost opportunities earlier. They look at the 14 turnovers in the first half. They look at 17 missed foul shots. They look at the 15 offensive rebounds by the Skyforce, eight by Alexander Johnson, who was nearly unstoppable inside. He finished with 32 points and 19 rebounds.

“We went through some lulls; part of that was some new guys,” said Ainge, referring to Kurt Looby (acquired Friday from Albuquerque for Trey Gilder) and Marcus Landry (assigned by the Celtics on Saturday).

“Some of it was Goldwire’s pressure. He took us out of a lot of stuff. That’s something we’ve got to get better at.”

Looking at the stat sheet, Ainge noted that Goldwire was credited with two steals.

“He had at least five,” Ainge said.

Maine led by four at halftime, then went on an 18-4 run to start the third quarter, with Maurice Ager getting nine of his 23 points, to take a 66-48 lead. Then the Skyforce stiffened their defense.

They tied the game at 86 on a three-point play by Johnson with 3:20 left, then took a 94-93 lead with 28.9 seconds left on a jumper by Johnson. Darnell Lazare responded with a jumper from the left elbow to regain the lead for the Red Claws.

After a Sioux Falls turnover, Ager hit two foul shots. David Bailey came back with two foul shots for Sioux Falls with 3.4 seconds left, before Almond hit 1 of 2 for the 98-96 lead.

“It’s a team I think we’re better than,” said Robinson. “We had every opportunity today to show that and we didn’t.”

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

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