PORTLAND – Josh Selby almost shot the Maine Red Claws back from the brink.
But a 17-point deficit to start the fourth quarter was too much despite Selby’s 23 points in the period as the Rio Grande Valley Vipers won the first D-League playoff game in Maine, 120-118.
Selby’s final points came on a 3-pointer with .9 seconds left after hitting a 3-pointer with 16.3 seconds remaining. In between, Vipers guard Andrew Goudelock hit four free throws to keep the game a two-possession margin. Selby also made three three-point plays earlier in the half.
“The lane was open and my shots were falling,” Selby said. “It ain’t never fun when you lose. I don’t care if I get 60. Never fun when you lose because I’m a winner.”
Selby’s offense corresponded to an increased defensive intensity as the Red Claws rallied from a 94-77 deficit after three quarters.
In that span the Claws went with a small lineup, harassed the ball, and Chris Wright shut down the Vipers’ inside threat of 7-footer Chris Daniels, who scored 28 points but none in the fourth quarter.
Goudelock and Glen Rice Jr. each had 27 for the Vipers.
Selby finished with 28 points. Jermaine Taylor had 29, including a dunk that cut it to 109-105 with 2:31 left, got the 2,348 fans in full throat and signaled the game would go to the wire.
Four free throws from Rice and a huge 3-pointer by Goudelock slowed the comeback, and Rio Grande Valley held a 116-107 lead with 53 seconds left. Curtis Jerrells drained a 3 and Maine forced a stop and was out on a fast-break opportunity when referee Dedric Taylor blew a whistle, thinking a Red Claw had called a timeout.
Selby ended up hitting the first of his two late 3-pointers but precious time was lost.
“It took away a fast-break opportunity from us but that’s just the breaks of the game. Sometimes people can make mistakes and in that case it was a misunderstanding, a miscommunication. We had no intention of calling a timeout,” Claws Coach Mike Taylor said.
The series resumes Saturday in Hidalgo, Texas. If needed, Game 3 is Monday in Texas.
“We’ve just got to play the way we did in that comeback,” Jermaine Taylor said.
What the Claws need to avoid are slow starts to each half.
In the first quarter it was all about defense. The Vipers played it and the Red Claws’ effort amounted to little more than waving at Goudelock, Rice and Daniels as they drove to the basket.
Rio Grande set the tempo with a 31-19 first quarter, making 67 percent of its shots and holding the Claws to 33 percent. Maine responded a bit in the second and trailed 59-50 at the half.
But the third quarter was a repeat of the first with a little more ill will. Rio Grande Valley made 4 of 8 3-pointers in the quarter and three technicals were called: a double technical on Wright and Rice, and another on Selby.
Rio Grande led 79-69 at the time, then went on a 12-2 run to stretch the lead to 91-71.
“In the third quarter we lost our emotional discipline a little bit,” Mike Taylor said. “But when it came down to it, to be down that much and fight back and be in it at the end showed great heart, great character.”
NOTES: Rio Grande Valley forward Royce White, assigned to the Vipers by the Houston Rockets, who made him the 16th selection in the 2012 draft, didn’t make the trip. White is known to have a fear of flying. … For most of the game Claws center Fab Melo struggled to contain Daniels, a 29-year-old coming from the Chinese league, where he averaged 28.6 points and 11.3 rebounds playing with Tracy McGrady. But Melo (11 points, 10 rebounds) did block a Daniels dunk attempt early in the fourth quarter.
Steve Craig can be contacted at 791-6413 or at: