SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The Maine Red Claws had two milestones within reach Wednesday night: an NBA Development League playoff berth and the single-season record for wins by an expansion tea

They’re still waiting to reach both.

The Sioux Falls Skyforce, who entered the game tied with Maine in the league standings, used a 56 percent shooting effort to hold off the Red Claws, 111-108.

The Skyforce were in control most of the way, but every time they appeared poised to pull away, the Red Claws (27-19) pulled them back.

After Alexander Johnson missed a pair of free throws for Sioux Falls with 1:11 to go, Maine came down with a chance to take the lead, trailing 105-104. But Russell Robinson missed a quick 3-point attempt and Joe Krabbenhoft hit one of two free throws at the other end to push the Skyforce lead to two.

The Red Claws again failed to answer as Morris Almond missed a turnaround jumper in the lane, and Leemire Goldwire nailed a jumper for Sioux Falls with 32.1 seconds left to put away the Red Claws.

Both coaches pinpointed defense in the clutch as the difference in the game. Sioux Falls (28-18) played it, Maine did not.

“They made a couple more stops than we did,” said Maine Coach Austin Ainge, whose team gave up 40 points in the first quarter but only 44 in the entire second half. “Our defense got a little better as the game went on, but down the stretch, every time we really needed a big stop, we couldn’t get it.”

Almond had 30 points for the Red Claws, hitting 11 of 17 from the floor and 8 of 11 from the free-throw line. Robinson added 20 points, and Maurice Ager scored 14 with seven rebounds and seven assists.

“We tried to get them back in the game,” said Skyforce Coach Tony Fritz, whose team clinched a playoff berth. “But our defense down the stretch was pretty good.

“It was a good game. Both teams really buckled down after the first quarter.”

Johnson scored 27 to lead Sioux Falls, which outrebounded the Red Claws, 38-34. David Bailey added 16 points and 10 assists.

The Claws have four more games to clinch a playoff berth, a fairly safe bet as their magic number was two entering the game. But Ainge would prefer his road-weary team get that out of the way sooner rather than later.

“We’re worried about (clinching), absolutely,” said Ainge, whose team visits Reno Friday and Saturday before returning home to close out the regular season. “We’ve got to find a way to win some here.”


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