Last night the Maine Red Claws, who have been struggling lately (especially against the Springfield Armor) dropped a hard-fought contest to the Austin Toros, losing 126-114 in overtime.
The Red Claws started the game strong, playing good defense and having a large lead at several times. By the end of the first quarter, the Claws were ahead 26-17, and it seemed as though they would have no trouble dispatching the Toros. Unfortunately, things would turn around as the Claws were unable to keep up that pace throughout the game.
The first quarter Maine continued to play well, but Austin stepped it up and played more evenly in the second quarter. Maine held on to their lead, and ended the half up 51-41. Indeed, Maine led almost throughout the entire first half. Maine’s defense was very effective. While three Claws reached double digits, not a single Toros did in the entire first half.
They started strong in the third quarter, as well. With 5:00 left in the third, Maine still had a ten point lead. As it turned out, that would not be enough – the Toros started clicking, and went on a 10-0 run. This was the turning point in the game, as just when it looked like Maine might begin to put it out of reach it instead became an even game. The rest of the third quarter didn’t go any better. Spurs assignee Malik Hairston, who only had 7 points the first half, led the way, with Curtis Jerrells right behind him. Hairston would finish the night with a whopping 43 points, while Jerrells added another 30. If the Red Claws had contained either of them more effectively in the third, they’d have won this game.
The Red Claws recovered in the fourth, keeping it a close game. Alexis Ajinca and J.R. Giddens led the way for the team in the fourth quarter, but by overtime both were near foul trouble, as were a number of Claws starters. Overtime would prove difficult for Maine, as it closely resembled the disastrous third quarter: they were outscored 18-6 as the Toros handed the Red Claws their third straight loss, dropping them to 13-9.
Ajinca and Giddens performed well. Ajinca had a triple-double with 26 points, 10 blocked shots, and 13 rebounds, while Giddens put up 23 points. Ajinca had not been playing as well since his injury last week, but apparently he’s now fully recovered. Darnell Lazare also did well, with 18 points. The Claws have had some trouble recently. Their string of losses has put them closer to third place in the Eastern Conference than first. Hopefully for the Red Claws this is merely a difficult stretch, and not a sign of things to come.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Alexis Ajinca, with Honorable Mention to J.R. Giddens
NEXT THREE: Sunday, January 23, @ Bakersfield Jam 7:00PM; Monday, January 25, @ Utah Flash 9:00PM; Wednesday, January 27, @ Idaho Stampede 9:00PM.