They started slowly and made plenty of mistakes, but the Maine Red Claws also showed a flair for the dramatic in their NBA D-League home opener Friday night.

They overcame a seven-point deficit in the final four minutes, took the lead for good with 25 seconds left and beat the Canton Charge 94-90 before an appreciative crowd of 2,405 at the Portland Expo.

Jermaine Taylor hit a tying 3-pointer with a minute left and Christian Watford drained a 26-footer from the left wing to make it 91-90. Both treys came off assists from point guard Tim Frazier, who had a hand in all but one basket of a 13-2 run to close out the contest.

“We never gave up,” said Frazier, who led the Claws (3-0) with 18 points and eight assists. “We stayed together. Coach drew up some great plays. Guys made big shots and we were able to come back.”

Canton (1-2) had taken its largest lead of the game at 88-81 with four minutes left but managed only two more points the rest of the way, on a 20-foot jumper by Justin Johnson with 38 seconds left to go ahead 90-88.

Frazier, who had been attacking the basket with success, drove to the middle and kicked the ball out to Watford for the go-ahead basket, the 12th 3-pointer in 29 attempts for the Red Claws.

“It’s early in the season, and I’m sure he’s going to miss a lot of 3s over the course of the season,” Red Claws Coach Scott Morrison said of Watford. “But three games in, he’s hit a big 3 every game. He’s got confidence in himself. We’ve got confidence in him. If he’s got an open look we want him firing it up.”

Alex Kirk, on assignment from the Cleveland Cavaliers, led Canton with 22 points, but the biggest thorn in Maine’s side was guard Chris Crawford, who reached the 20-point mark by the third quarter. Trailing by one, the Charge tried to set up a final shot to win the game, but Crawford lost the handle while being defended by 6-foot-9 Omari Johnson.

“I don’t care who you are, it’s tough to hit a shot over a guy like that,” Morrison said. “As long as you stay between the ball and the basket, be in the guy’s face without fouling him, it’s a tough shot.”

Frazier added three of four free throws in the final second as Canton was forced to foul.

The end of the game delighted the home crowd and overshadowed earlier hiccups that included nine turnovers by Frazier and difficulty containing Canton’s bruising frontcourt of Kirk and Michael Dunigan. Taylor missed his first three shots from long range but found nothing but net when Frazier zipped the ball to him with a minute left and the Claws trailing 88-85.

“I couldn’t make anything, but when it counted I’m glad it went in,” said Taylor, who finished with 12 points in his first action on the Expo floor since tearing up his knee a year ago in the second game of the season.

“The fans were great. Great atmosphere. Gave us a lot of energy.”

The game featured 23 lead changes, and the first three quarters each ended with a single point separating the teams.

The biggest star of the first half was the smallest player on the court. Five-foot-nine-inch Andre Stringer came off the Red Claws bench and provided an immediate spark, including forcing a jump ball against Canton’s 6-foot-10 Dunigan.

More importantly, Stringer attempted four 3-point field goals and drained them all. His 12 points led the Claws in the first half and helped send them into intermission with a 43-42 lead after Chris Babb hit a 3-pointer with two seconds left.

“A lot of people, when they first see me, they say he shouldn’t be out there with all those tall guys,” Stringer said. “Me hitting shots and getting deflections, those kind of plays excite the crowd.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

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