PORTLAND, ME – APRIL 10: Jalen Jones #12 of the Maine Red Claws finishes a fast break with a dunk over Tyler Hansbrough #21 of the Ft. Wayne Mad Ants on Monday, April 10, 2017 at the Portland Expo in Portland, Maine. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Rich Obrey/NBAE via Getty Images)
PORTLAND — Mickey and The Dancing Bear were the main feature Monday night at the Portland Expo.
The show was put on by the Maine Red Claws, who dished and dunked for the fans in a 111-110 loss to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants in game two of the teams’ first round NBA Development League playoff game.
What didn’t show was offensive focus and defensive intensity by the Red Claws in the fourth quarter. The Mad Ants rallied back from an 11-point deficit to start the final period to steal a win on the road and force a deciding game three on Wednesday.
The Red Claws missed out on yet another chance to pick up their first home playoff win in franchise history, as well as a first playoff series win.
Trey McKinney-Jones, who scored just two points in the first half, connected on four straight foul shots for the final points of the game. Both fouls were called on Mickey, who fouled out with 18.4 seconds left.
Abdel Nader and Demetrius Jackson both had chances at contested game-winning shots near the rim, but both attempts bounced out of the cylinder.
“It wasn’t what I drew up, but at the end of the day, in that situation you got to attack the rim, or attack the paint in some way,” Red Claws coach Scott Morrison said. “I thought Abdel’s might drop. Credit to our guys for getting the ball back and getting another chance. It wasn’t our best look, and it probably would have been nice to have Jordan in the game to tip that last one if he hadn’t have fouled out.”
Mickey, a 2015 second-round draft pick of the Boston Celtics, scored the Red Claws’ first eight points in what started as a back-and-forth opening quarter.
That is, until Guerschon Yabusele, a 2016 Celtics first-round pick who has earned the nickname “The Dancing Bear,” made his Expo debut midway through the period and made his mark immediately. The 6-foot-8, 265-pound forward from France scored five straight points to stake the Red Claws to a 19-17 lead, pulled down two offensive rebounds on the same possession that led to a Coron Williams 3-pointer, then hit a corner 3 of his own to stretch the advantage to 28-21.
“I thought he made an impact,” Morrison said. “I think he can do a little bit better. There’s no reason to set the ceiling low; the ceiling’s the roof. He got off to a hot start.”
The Mad Ants cut the deficit to 28-24 after one period.
Mickey kept up his scoring pace in the second, leading Maine with 10 points in the period, including a pair of dunks and a rare 3.
Jalen Jones added seven points in the second, consisting of two thunderous dunks in transition and an old-fashioned three-point play.
Yabusele had just one basket in the period, but his layup midway through stopped a 4-0 Fort Wayne run that had sliced the Maine lead to 42-37.
The Red Claws tried to slam their way to a bigger lead, but Tyler Hansbrough kept the Mad Ants within five on a spinning layup. The former University of North Carolina star with the nickname “Psycho-T” scored 12 points in the second, and made all eight of his first-half foul shots.
Yet the Maine lead was 59-51 at the half, thanks in part to Mickey’s trey with 2:20 left. Demetrius Jackson, a 2016 Celtics second-round pick, added six points in the quarter.
A fourth Celtics draft pick, 2016 second-round pick Abdel Nader, made his mark early in the third quarter, with a long 3 over a defender on the Red Claws’ first possession, then an And-1 three minutes in for a 67-58 lead.
Jones hit a triple on the next Maine possession to make it 70-58.
The lead largely remained in double digits for the remainder of the period. Trey McKinney-Jones (10 points) and Stephan Hicks (seven) picked up the scoring load for Hansbrough, who made only one field goal and scored just three points in the third — including finally missing a free throw. The divisive former college star also received a large jeer from the Expo crowd after getting whistled for an offensive foul.
Nader and Yabusele each poured in eight points in the quarter for the Red Claws, who led 88-77 heading into the fourth.
The final period started off well for Maine, with Mickey connecting on a turnaround hook shot to start the quarter. But the Red Claws trailed the Mad Ants in defensive intensity and allowed Fort Wayne to mount a comeback.
“You got to give them credit. They really played tougher than us down the stretch, probably the midway point of the third quarter,” Morrison said. “Played us physical, ran the floor real well, attacked the basket real well and we didn’t have an answer for it.”
Hansbrough had a steal and transition layup three minutes in to cut the deficit to seven, Georges Niang easily cut through the lane for a layup to slice the lead to six, then Travis Leslie followed with a steal and slam out of a Maine timeout to make it 96-92 with 7:30 left.
“I felt like the way we were going, chipping away, chipping away, was really good,” Hansbrough said. “I think, especially in the playoffs, you’re never really out of the game.”
Leslie drained a 3 with just over six minutes left to cut the Red Claws’ lead to just one.
The Fort Wayne guard scored 11 of his 18 points in the fourth and kept the game just a possession away on multiple occasions.
“I think Travis came in, played great, gave us a big lift,” Hansbrough said.
Hansbrough scored a team-high 27 points for Fort Wayne, including 11 of 12 free throws, and pulled down 15 rebounds (nine offensive).
Mickey equaled the 27 points before fouling out, and collected 13 rebounds of his own, with 10 coming on the defensive end.
Yabusele finished with 18 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
“He was a big boy. He can play,” Hansbrough said. “He does a lot of different things. He’s tough. He’s a good player.”