At the time, it didn’t seem significant. Jay Harris spun away from a defender and launched a buzzer-beat from half court that banked in to end the third quarter.

Instead of leading by nine, the Maine Red Claws led by six over a Raptors 905 franchise still searching for its first victory.

“Those are plays that make you feel like you have a chance,” said Red Claws forward Coty Clarke. “Hitting that shot kind of gave them momentum.”

Instead of folding, the Raptors rallied to overcome an eight-point deficit in the final three minutes to stun the Red Claws 96-87 in an NBA D-League game Sunday afternoon at the Portland Expo.

A crowd of 1,987 saw the Claws stretch their lead to 11 points early in the fourth quarter and go ahead 87-79 on a driving lay-up by Levi Randolph with 3:12 remaining only to go scoreless the rest of the way.

“They were tougher than us,” said Clarke, who came off the bench to score 21 points and grab 10 rebounds for the Claws (3-2). “We had them right where we wanted them, but they didn’t break. Give credit to those guys, but we just didn’t hold up on our end.”

The Raptors climbed back into contention with help from the long-range shooting of Scott Suggs, who scored 13 of his team-high 19 points in the fourth quarter including a twisting fastbreak layup with 44 seconds left to give the Raptors an 88-87 lead.

On Maine’s next possession, a blocking foul on Ashton Smith was overturned following a replay review after a challenge by Raptors Coach Jesse Mermuys. Red Claws point guard Davion Berry instead was called for a charge. The Raptors took over, Suggs drew a foul with a good up-fake, and drained both free throws to make it 90-87 with 33 seconds left.

“Obviously it was a key play in the game, but if it was the right call, that’s what it should have been called,” Red Claws Coach Scott Morrison said. “What’s frustrating to me is that (the league) changed the rule that you can’t challenge a call in the first three quarters, because I would have challenged five or six. … I’m sure there might have been some gray area on one of them, but we weren’t allowed to challenge. It’s a frustrating rule change to me, but it was a good challenge by them.”

Celtics rookie Jordan Mickey lead Maine with 25 points and 13 rebounds. The Red Claws missed their first eight shots from the floor and fell behind by eight before Mickey threw down the first of three dunks. He also sparked a 12-0 run that closed the half and put the Red Claws ahead 47-38 at intermission.

“It’s tough when you’ve got three guys hanging off you to score every time,” Morrison said. “I thought he played pretty well. I thought we could have gotten him the ball a little more. But credit to them, they really clogged the paint up in the second half and made it tough for him, and we didn’t knock down open shots to stretch the defense.”

Mickey was the only Celtic on assignment to the Red Claws, who also had James Young and Terry Rozier for Friday night’s 112-93 victory over the Raptors in the second of three straight games between the two teams.

The Raptors were also down to one NBA assignee, 6-foot-9 Bruno Caboclo of Brazil, because 7-footer Lucas Noguiera had been recalled Saturday by parent Toronto and was in uniform Sunday in Los Angeles against the Clippers.

Berry finished with 14 points and Malcolm Miller 10 for the Red Claws, who got a big spark off the bench in the second quarter from guard Coron Williams, who had seen only one minute of action in Maine’s first four games. On Sunday he hit his first shot, a 3-pointer, and dished out six assists in a little over 13 minutes.

“He had a great stretch in the first half,” Morrison said. “Like everybody else, I thought he made some mistakes in the second half, but overall I think he played well.”

After the way this one ended, it was difficult for the Red Claws to find silver linings.

“To be honest, I thought the whole second half they played harder than we did,” Morrison said. “We closed out soft. We defended soft. And we made some poor decisions down the stretch, everyone including me.”

The Red Claws hit the road later this week with games Friday and Saturday night in Sioux Falls. They return to the Expo Dec. 5-6 with a back-to-back set against Erie.

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH

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