The Maine Red Claws fell to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants 105-92 while in their Celtics uniforms, but are still chasing that elusive final playoff spot.
The Maine Red Claws played a disappointing game in the Expo last night, again struggling against the mediocre Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Maine finished the year 2-5 against the Mad Ants, who have nearly the opposite record as the Red Claws. Struggling against mediocre teams has been a problem for Maine all season (remember Springfield), as has an inability to step it up during big games. Friday night was no exception.
The Claws weren’t helped by T.J. Cummings and Paul Davis both being in street clothes. Since coming to Maine, Cummings and Davis have become key parts of the team. Without them, they were overly-dependent on Russell Robinson, Mo Ager, and Morris Almond, all of whom played more than forty minutes last night – a rarity for the Red Claws. They acquitted themselves well, especially Robinson, who finished the night with 27 points and carried the team on his back in the first half, when he was the only Red Claw in double digits.
They could not overcome the outstanding efforts of Oliver Lafayette, who again did well against Red Claws, with a 32-point double-double. Most of his points came in the second half, when the home team looked tired. This led to some especially sloppy defense, when at times it looked like the Mad Ants were running the floor at will. Four Mad Ants reached double digits, and the others were all in the neighborhood. Although absences clearly hurt the Red Claws, Maine’s earlier struggles against Fort Wayne suggest this would have been a struggle regardless.
There were certainly moments of brilliance from the home team last night. Some inspired play kept the Red Claws in the running all night, but whenever things got close, the Mad Ants would go on another run and build up the lead again. Frustration at the inconsistent play was felt throughout the building; hopefully they will use it as a motivator in their match-up against Erie tonight – another mediocre team, but one they’ve fared better against this season. We’ll see if they can continue that success. Hopefully on Fan Appreciation Night they give the fans something to appreciate.
Maine is still in the playoff hunt despite the loss, although now it has definitely come down to the actions of others. Even with a loss tonight, Maine could still make the playoffs, but they’d need Reno to lose their last two games. With a win tonight, Maine needs a loss from either Reno or Utah. If Maine does become the first expansion team since 2006 to make the D-League playoffs, it will be very interesting to see if they can manage to step it up and make a run.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Russell Robinson
NOTES: Danny Ainge was in the building yesterday…Tommy Heinsohn is attending the game tonight…the Red Claws are the first team in D-League history to sell out every home game.