They saved the best for last.

Then again, don’t they always?

The Maine Red Claws closed out their regular-season home schedule in spectacular fashion Sunday afternoon, scoring five points in the final seven seconds to take their only lead of the game in a 108-107 NBA D-League basketball victory over the Grand Rapids Drive.

Two days after they clinched a division title and top seed in the Eastern Conference, the Claws treated a crowd of 2,800 at the Portland Expo to an improbable comeback that wasn’t complete until officials reviewed – and overturned – an apparent buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Kevin Murphy of Grand Rapids with Maine’s James Young guarding him closely.

That made Omari Johnson’s 15-foot jumper with 2.1 seconds remaining – after the Red Claws stole the inbounds pass – the winner.

“We’ve come back when down a lot of times this season and I feel like it’s helped build our character,” Johnson said. “So at the end of the game, I’m not really worried if we can pull it out or not. I’m just wondering how we’re going to do it.”


This one came about in unusual fashion on a day when Coach Scott Morrison intended to rest his regulars, give his bench plenty of playing time and take a gander at Maine’s newest addition, 7-foot-2, 330-pound James Tyler, who has yet to practice with the team and knew none of its plays.

Not surprisingly, the Claws appeared ragged for much of the first half, falling behind 7-0 and by as many as 17 points in the second quarter. It was 59-48 at halftime and 83-74 after three quarters – and even that close by virtue of a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Andre Stringer that withstood video review.

“At the end of the day, I have confidence that all 10 guys can get the job done if they execute and play solid,” Morrison said. “At times today, everyone took a little break from that, and that’s the reason we were in the position we were, especially with defensive rebounding and transition defense.”

The Claws managed to whittle the margin to one (91-90) early in the fourth with a 7-0 run sparked by Romero Osby and Chris Babb, each of whom finished with 15 points, as did Johnson and point guard Tim Frazier. Young led Maine scorers with 20 to go along with seven assists and five rebounds.

Grand Rapids, which needed a victory to keep alive its playoff hopes, responded with a run of its own before Young followed a corner jumper with a pair of free throws to tie the score at 103 with 1:25 left.

Once again, Grand Rapids pulled ahead as Maine turned the ball over on a shot-clock violation and Young missed an open 3-point attempt with 16 seconds left, giving the Drive possession and a 107-103 lead.


Tight defense on the inbounds pass led to an offensive foul on Murphy and gave Maine the ball. Morrison sketched out a play for Babb, but Calliste wound up with the ball on the right wing and hit a 3-pointer to cut the margin to one (107-106) with 6.6 seconds left.

“That was a designed play but I messed it up,” Calliste said. “I was supposed to set a screen for (Babb) coming up but it didn’t happen that way, so I just got to the open spot and knocked it down.”

“I let him slide since he hit the big shot,” said Morrison. “At the end of the day, we had shooters out there and it was Tim’s job to find one.”

Following a timeout, Grand Rapids inbounded the ball under its own basket and, when Diante Garrett saw no open teammates, he attempted to bounce a pass off Frazier’s back and retrieve it himself. Instead, the ball got loose and Young tipped it to Frazier, who quickly found Johnson near the free-throw line.

“The job of a point guard is to see everybody and get the best shot,” said Frazier, who had 14 assists and eight rebounds. “I was able to find Omari and he knocked down the shot.”

Johnson’s bucket sent the crowd into a frenzy and gave Maine its first lead of the game. Still, Murphy nearly spoiled the feel-good finale with his contested 27-footer.

“I thought it was good, but we just watched it in our locker room and it was still in my hand on my follow-through,” Murphy said later. “It was a close call.”

The Claws wrap up their regular season with games in Ohio (Canton), Texas and Iowa before opening the playoffs on the road. At the Expo, they are 19-5 and carry a nine-game winning streak into the postseason.

“I guess we kind of finished it like we’ve been playing all season,” Morrison said. “Not always the best at the start but we fought back and never gave up.”

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