Before the game, the Red Claws added Brock Gillespie, waiving Terrel Harris. A college teammate of Morris Almond‘s while at Rice University, he had been playing in Lebanon and Europe, but joined the Claws and filled their need for a backup point guard. While he only played sixteen minutes last night and didn’t score, he managed five assists and looked like a good addition. Hopefully he will be helpful to the second unit heading towards the playoffs.
Despite the final score, this was a hard-fought game for much of the first half. After coming out flat early on Wednesday, Albuquerque was clearly motivated, keeping the game close early on. They were narrowly ahead with three minutes left in the first when Maine manufactured a beautiful 11-0 run to end the first with a ten-point lead. Although Albuquerque would make it close again several times in the second quarter, they never regained the lead, and Maine finished the first half up 67-62.
Albuqeurque never looked as good the rest of the game as they did in the first. Every time they came remotely close, Maine would start trading baskets or manufacture another run. With 5:33 left in the third, the T-Birds got within six, then Looby and Almond led a 22-7 run to finish the third. The T-Birds would never approach single digits again, despite excellent efforts from Keith McLeod (34 points, 5 boards, 3 assists) and good contributions from Chad Toppert and Trey Gilder. They couldn’t overcome Morris Almond’s excellent 26-point performance, however, or the double-digit points knocked in by every Red Claw starter.
Celtics fans will be pleased to know that Marcus Landry continued to improve, adding 14 points and 7 rebounds off the bench in 26 minutes. He seems to have settled in here now, and not only played well, but was an enthusiastic teammate. Indeed, the Claws bench played a major role in last night’s win, adding 45 points collectively, and Gillespie being the only Red Claw without any points. Although the bench let the T-Birds get close several times, it never got out of hand. The second unit seems to be working together better of late, which will be key in the home stretch.
Maine made some good strides against Albuquerque, but the T-Birds are a team they should have dominated. The real test will be next week: they are just 6-8 against their next three opponents, two of whom are fellow contenders. Next week will be a good indication of their chances in the playoffs.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Morris Almond
NEXT THREE: Sunday, March 21, 1:00PM, vs. Springfield Armor….Monday, March 22, 8:00PM @ Dakota Wizards….Wednesday, March 24, @ Sioux Falls SkyForce.