Last night was Elvis Night at the Portland Expo. Yesterday would have been Elvis’s 75th birthday, and he was scheduled to perform in Maine a few days after his death. So, the Red Claws last night hosted Elvis (or at least, an impersonator) at the halftime of their 95-91 victory over Springfield.
The Red Claws eked out a win despite not playing their best basketball. After all, in previous matchups they had defeated the Springfield Armor by large double-digit margins. Even though Springfield made some changes, they haven’t improved, so this should have been a big win for Maine. Instead they almost lost to the second-worst team in the D-League.
At first it looked like the Red Claws might pull away. With 4:40 left in the first, a pair of Alexis Ajinca free throws made it 16-10. Everything seemed to be clicking for the Red Claws, and if they’d created a run right there they might have won this game by their usual large margin. However, that run didn’t materialize early, and it remained a close game throughout.
Part of the problem for Maine was its usual balanced offense wasn’t quite there. Trey Gilder had just 6 points, while Tony Bobbitt had only 8. Gilder has been a team leader this season, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get a 10-day contract in the coming days – assuming he doesn’t have too many more performances like this, of course. Friday, though, wasn’t a good night for Gilder or Tony Bobbitt, who in the first half got into a heated argument with Austin Ainge and was sent to the locker room, though he did return.
Ajinca, though, had a great performance – with 24 points and 9 rebounds, he had another near double-double. It was his leadership, along with Mario West (19 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists), that saved the game last night for Maine. That’s been one of the strengths of this team: even when other players have bad nights, somebody steps it up. The Red Claws certainly weren’t playing their best basketball Friday night, playing down to a team they should have rolled over. Still, it was a good win – the best teams find a way even when they’re not playing their best. The Red Claws did that very well last night, although one hopes with four of the next five games against the Armor, they’ve had their fill of flirting with disaster.
NOTES: The Maine Red Claws acquired Terrel Harris of Oklahoma State and released Dula Jalloh…they still have a free roster spot…the Portland Expo saw its eighth straight sellout.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Alexis Ajinca; Honorable Mention to Mario West.