In the first half of the Maine-Erie matchup last night, it looked like the Red Claws were rolling to another big win. This wasn’t exactly surprising – Maine has defeated Erie three times this season, and that trend continued as they won 94-86. Maine came out of the gate with a lot of energy, rolling to a 17-point lead at halftime. Was another blowout in the offing? All they had to do was keep their energy at similar levels in the second half and they’d be fine. They were headed to another win, to be sure.
How they got there wasn’t that simple, however.
Erie played a strong third quarter, whittling Maine’s 17-point lead down to seven by the beginning of the fourth. The third was Erie’s best quarter by far as they outscored Maine 33-26; they didn’t score more than twenty points or outscore Maine in any other quarter. If the BayHawks had played like that in just one more quarter, they may well have won this game, but they couldn’t maintain their momentum.
The Red Claws recovered admirably in the fourth and returned to the level of play we saw for most of the game. Although Maine’s lead got down to single digits, the Red Claws led the whole game. It was much closer than it should have been, to be sure; Erie made it a one-possession game in the fourth quarter. Maine, though, never lost their poise or their lead, and stayed in charge the whole night.
As in other successful Maine Red Claws games, the offense was balanced, with every player scoring points. Anthony Terrell saw significantly increased playing time tonight (24:19), and he acquitted himself well,, earning 15 points on the evening. Mario West, only recently returned from an injury, played well too, with 16 points. It was Bobcat assignee Alexis Ajinca who really stepped it up, however, with a 19-point 14-rebound double-double.
This was, on the whole, a great game for the Maine Red Claws. They let their lead dwindle, but recovered, thanks to a balanced offensive performance and their usual excellent defense. There are things to be learned from this game – especially from the third quarter, where they were outplayed – but it was nevertheless impressive, and after all, a win is a win. Ajinca especially did well, and he seems to be continually improving over the course of the season.
NOTES: Maine had their sixth straight sellout…Lester Hudson has a one-year contract with the Celtics, which may in part explain his brief D-League stints…J.R. Giddens is the only eligible Celtic who’s yet to see time in Maine.