CANTON, Ohio — On an afternoon when he scored 20 points, Chris Babb nearly led the Maine Red Claws to an NBA D-League victory in the final 10 seconds Tuesday afternoon.
Babb stole an inbounds pass with 1.4 seconds left to set up Maine’s last shot in an attempt to force overtime, but his 3-point attempt bounced off the back of the rim and away. Two Canton free throws later left the Red Claws with a 99-94 loss at Canton Memorial Civic Center.
The Red Claws (9-13) had battled back from an eight-point deficit late in the game.
Babb, a rookie forward from Iowa State, and Chris Wright, a forward from Dayton, each scored 20 points for Maine.
“When you’re on the road against a good team and you’ve got a chance, you have to be happy with your effort because of that,” said Red Claws Coach Mike Taylor, whose team plays at Iowa on Thursday.
Shane Edwards, a 6-foot-7 forward from Arkansas-Little Rock, destroyed the Red Claws, scoring 28 points and grabbing seven rebounds.
Kevin Jones added 12 points for the Charge.
But Babb was setting himself up as the star from beginning to end.
He hit five of his first six 3-point shots. His game-high seven assists tied a career high. His 20 points fell just one short of his career high.
And with 10 seconds left, when all the Charge had to was get the ball inbounds to preserve a three-point win, Babb jumped up and stole the inbounds pass by Canton’s Jorge Gutierrez.
“I was surprised he (Gutierrez) threw it,” Babb said. “I was pretty much standing there the whole time. We got what we wanted. We got the steal.”
“He made so many big plays today,” Taylor said of Babb. “He’s just such a smart player. He really knows how to play.”
The Red Claws crawled back into the game after trailing by eight points with just 3:40 left. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Abdul Gaddy (12 points, 4 assists) and Wright began Maine’s comeback.
The Claws enjoyed an eight-point lead by connecting on five 3-pointers in the first quarter and made more than 65 percent of their shots in the first half.
Red Claws center Ty Walker had three of his game-high five blocked shots in the first half.
It was an early-game stretch that the Red Claws have shown before.
“When we come out in the first half, and I’ve seen it and I’m sure everybody’s seen it, we dominate the first half,” said rookie forward Zeke Marshall, who had many former Akron University teammates in the crowd.
“Yeah, that’s the way it goes,” Babb said. “When we get the ball and get out in transition, we get good shots. We shoot well when we play like that.”
But the Red Claws could not carry that through the entire game, largely because of their 21 turnovers and also Cantonâ€˜s success down low. The Chargers scored 56 points in the paint and outrebounded Maine, 47-35.