Even without their celebrity center, the Maine Red Claws seemed to have this one in hand.

Instead, a fourth-quarter meltdown fueled by five turnovers saw a double-digit lead evaporate as the Lakeland Magic pulled away with a 106-103 G League basketball victory before a sellout crowd of 2,417 Thursday night at the Portland Expo.

The Claws (27-11) were without 7-foot-5 center Tacko Fall, who warmed up before the game but decided he wasn’t yet ready to play after having an ingrown toenail removed Wednesday. He watched from the bench in sweat pants and a hooded sweatshirt.

“Tacko is a big asset to our team,” said Red Claws guard Bryce Brown, who led the team with 27 points. “A rim protector, easy lobs over the top. We definitely missed that.”

Lakeland finished the game on a 23-9 run for the win.

With the Claws trailing by six, Brown hit a 3-pointer with 50 seconds after a hustling defensive play that thwarted a Lakeland fast break. A good defensive stop gave Maine one more chance to tie, but Brown’s 3-point attempt while being closely guarded by Vic Law caught iron and sealed only the second loss in seven games for the Claws.


“I didn’t even get a chance to land,” Brown said of his desperation shot. “If that was a regular part of the game, before a last-second shot, I think they would have called a foul. But because it was last second, they wanted to … let the game be decided on a miss, or a make.”

Law, who played last winter for Northwestern University, led Lakeland (21-17) with 32 points and 10 rebounds. Veteran point guard Josh Magette added 26 points and 11 assists.

In Fall’s absence, Maine backup center John Bohannon had 14 points, eight rebounds and  three blocks in 29 minutes. The Magic held a 42-26 scoring edge on points in the paint.

The score was close throughout the first half, tied after one quarter and 55-54 at the half in favor of Maine. The Claws took a seven-point lead into the fourth and stretched their advantage to 94-83 on a jumper by Jaysean Paige, but the Magic responded with a 20-4 run in crunch time.

“I felt like the whole game we were kind of running in quicksand,” Red Claws Coach Darren Erman said. “I mean, it might have showed up in the fourth, but I felt like that in the first three quarters. We just didn’t have any pop.”

Claws point guard Tremont Waters, the other Celtics’ two-way player along with Fall, had an unusually rough night aside from hitting four 3-pointers and scoring 14 points. He set a franchise record with 11 turnovers, including one on an inbounds pass after a dunk from the man he was guarding, Orlando NBA assignee Melvin Frazier Jr., and another late in the fourth on a flat perimeter pass intercepted by B.J. Johnson for an uncontested dunk to give Lakeland a 103-98 lead.


“We were talking about it every timeout: This is how they’re defending us, this is what we want to do,” Erman said. “And we just didn’t execute it. That’s on us as coaches, we need to do a better job, to make sure they understand how to execute the game plan.”

Sheldon Jeter was the only other Red Claw to reach double digits in scoring. He finished with 16 points and hit 4 of 8 from deep.

NOTES: The Claws continue their four-game homestand Saturday night against the Erie Bayhawks. Fall said he should be healthy enough to play.

Trey Davis, who wore a surgical mask over his face during warm-ups because of a recent illness, played only seven minutes in the first half and did not return.

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