Much like your Boston Celtics, the Maine Red Claws faced a top-notch team yesterday after recently some of their best players. The two NBAers assigned to the team from Boston, Bill Walker and Lester Hudson, were brought back due to injuries in the parent club. After losing to lowly Bakersfield on Sunday night, there was every reason to have concern about the big game against Iowa Thursday afternoon. Would the Claws come out and disappoint another sellout crowd in the Portland Expo?
As it turned out, we need not worry.
The Red Claws seemingly corrected all the problems that plagued the team on Sunday, especially the slow start and listless defense. This was, no doubt, the result of hard work throughout the week. As a result, by the end of the first quarter the Claws had built a ten-point lead. Iowa tried to come back in the second, but never really got going. The Claws defense kept them on their toes, never resting and never letting the Energy establish any kind of offensive dominance. Maine led at the end of every quarter and finished with an impressive seven-point victory over the best team in the D-League.
The Maine offense returned to form with a truly balanced attack. Five players scored double digits, and the longest anyone played was 36 minutes. Trey Gilder had another good night – with 15 points and 10 rebounds he had his second double-double as a Red Claw. Alexis Ajinca – Maine’s only remaining NBA assignee – had a very good game as well, recovering from his recent less-than-stellar weekend. Ajinca almost gave the Claws another double-double, with 16 points and 9 rebounds. This was his second-best performance of the season.
As a whole the team’s rebounds – and the entire defense – were a vast improvement over Sunday night’s flop. They led Iowa in that category (though not by a huge margin), just as Bakersfield out-rebounded them Sunday night. Even without their Celtics, the Claws outplayed the best team in the D-League on both sides of the court on their way to a 95-88 victory.
This was a huge win for the Red Claws, readily bouncing back from a humiliating home loss against a much worse team. They showed their resilience as a team; now they just have to return to their previous form rather than regressing. In the D-League – just as in the NBA – good teams will occasionally lose to bad teams. The question is how you react to it. A team can either let that be the start of a tailspin or use it as motivation to return to their winning ways.
This afternoon, the Red Claws proved that they were a contender with their impressive victory.
NOTES: This was the Red Claws’ fifth straight sellout…Maine plays the 4-9 Erie BayHawks tomorrow in Portland.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Trey Gilder with his double-double; Honorable Mention to Darnell Lazare (17 points).