The Maine Red Claws, on a night where they wore the uniforms of their NBA affiliate, the Charlotte Bobcats, lost again to the Austin Toros 98-86 in front of yet another sold-out crowd.
Defense wasn’t the problem so much, as the Red Claws held Malik Hairston to 29 points, and nobody else on the Toros scored more than 20. Now, 29 points might still seem like a lot, until you remember that in that overtime loss he had 43 points. In that sense, Hairston is the D-League version of Kobe or LeBron, where other teams are glad when he “only” scores 20-30 points instead of 30-40. This isn’t to say that Hairston will necessarily be the same quality player at the NBA level, but for right now he’s dominating.
Overall the Red Claws defense performed relatively well last night. Apart from containing Hairston, they shut down Curtis Jerrells, who had 30 points last time; he had just ten last night. Unfortunately, Lewis Clinch stepped it up, keeping the Toros right in the game throughout the first half. He was the key to keeping the Toros in the game early on: he was one of two Austin players with double-digit points in the first half, and together he and Hairston accounted for more than half the Toros’ 50 points.
For the Claws, it was new player Mo Auger leading the way with 22 points – along with Noel Felix, who had a 14-point 11-rebound double-double. As usual Maine spread the ball around, with six players scoring in the double digits and no one reaching 40 minutes. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to keep up with the Toros – Auger was the only Claw to reach 20 points. Again Maine wasn’t helped by taking, but not making, a lot of outside shots; they were 5/18 from downtown. The Toros didn’t make many more, but they took a lot fewer, so they were 43% instead of the Claws’ paltry 28%.
Many of those poorly chosen shots came in the fourth quarter, when the Toros really stepped it up and began to take a serious lead. Every time the Claws began to establish an offensive rhythm Austin would be able to disrupt it; Maine was never able to go on any serious run. It didn’t help that the Claws began to get tired – or at least look tired – and let the Toros take seemingly any shot they pleased. This kind of performance, whether in the third quarter (Celtics) or in the fourth, must be exceedingly frustrating to coaches. After all, 36 minutes of good basketball just doesn’t cut it, whether it’s the D-League or the NBA.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Mo Auger
NOTES: Newly acquired C Paul Davis was inactive due to a serious concussion; it is hoped that he will recover soon…injured Billy Thomas was activated for this game, but did not play…Trey Gilder was honored by the team for his All-Star selection.
NEXT THREE: Thursday, February 18, @ Tulsa 66ers, 12PM…Saturday, February 20, @ Rio Grande Valley Vipers, 9PM…Sunday, February 21, @ Rio Grandew Valley Vipers, 6PM