Maine Red Claws (23-14) vs. Sioux Falls SkyForce (23-15)
5:00PM, Portland Expo, Portland, Maine
The Maine Red Claws face a series of tough home games, beginning with the team that is just one game behind them in the standings: The Sioux Falls SkyForce (Heat, T-Wolves).
Yes, you read that right: If the Red Claws lose to the SkyForce tomorrow they will slip into third for the first time this season. Maine has been firmly entrenched in second in the East for most of the year, though they did briefly possess first place in the East. Sort of like the Celtics, come to think of it.
The Claws have struggled against the SkyForce this season, going 1-2 against Sioux Falls and averaging 94 points a game. Still, the Claws have a few advantages in this game. The recent schedule favors Maine, as while the SkyForce played Wednesday and Thursday in Springfield (winning both games), the Claws have been off since Tuesday, giving them a nice four days of rest. While the SkyForce destroyed the Armor 128-97 Wednesday, Thursday was a close 115-109 game.
Moreover, the SkyForce are dealing with losing their star, as Reggie Williams was just called up by the Golden State Warriors. They may have sorely felt his absence on Thursday during that close game. The Red Claws, however, just executed a trade, sending Trey Gilder to Albuquerque for center Kurt Looby, in a bid to improve their defense, which was certainly sorely needed. This might also be prescient, as Gilder has been deserving of an NBA call-up all season. The Red Claws also received another – and quite possibly their final this season – NBA assignee, as Marcus Landry arrived from Boston (he should be available for the game). Hopefully Looby will be helpful in containing Alex Johnson, who’s been averaging almost 23 points per game.
This is a must-win game for the Red Claws; a loss and drop in the standings would be terrible the week before the East-leading Iowa Energy arrive in town for two games. The Red Claws have to show they can effectively compete against other likely playoff teams, and continue their recent momentum. As always, you can watch the game from home for free on the D-League website.