Red Claws Get Jammed

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Maine crowd no doubt expected another blowout victory for the home team, a repeat of Saturday's blowout.

Instead the Maine Red Claws fell 115-98 to the 2-11 Bakersfield Jam Sunday evening, giving the visitors their second win of the season. The loss dropped the Claws to 8-3 and put them two games behind the league-leading 10-1 Iowa Energy, whom they face Thursday. Bakersfield stepped it up and played well, clearly eager for a win. The Claws were fizzling on both ends of the court, with the defense falling flat and the offense searching desperately for a rhythm.

Celtics fans will be heartened to know that Lester Hudson’s performance was one of the highlights of the evening. In just 24 minutes he had 21 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists. A day after playing decently despite being a little under the weather, Alexis Ajinca had a disappointing game with just 6 points and 4 rebounds in 20 minutes. For Bakersfield, 6'1" G Jeremy Wise led the team with 24 points.

Maine's usually-balanced offense was apathetic. Four players had double digits, but two of those were closer to ten than twenty, and two starters – Will Blalock and Darnell Lazare – had just two points. Trey Gilder, meanwhile, had a great night with 28 points and 7 rebounds. If another player had played at the same level as Gilder and Hudson, this game might have been a contest.

The Claws have started out slowly in other games and finished with wins, so their lackadaisical first quarter was hardly a reason to hit the panic button. Indeed, Bakersfield was ahead for more than half the first quarter on Saturday as well. That day, though, it was a two-point lead; Sunday it was five. While Maine was behind 13-10 on Saturday with 4:30 left in the first quarter, they finished the quarter up 27-18 and never looked back. On both days the first quarter set the tone for the rest of the game.

Sunday night, because the team was never clicking on either end, the Claws weren't able to establish any runs. This would have been fine if they’d started strong, but trading baskets doesn't work when you’re behind. Every time the Claws looked like they might get close, knocking the Jam lead down to single digits, Bakersfield answered. One of the top defenses in the D-League looked like it was playing under the Maine State Pier rather than in the Portland Expo.

This is just the sort of disappointing performance that can inspire serious re-evaluation, so it’s no wonder that the Portland Press Herald quotes Head Coach Austin Ainge as mentioning changes. The process began Monday as the Red Claws waived F Mike Williams, who's seen little playing time. Whether it will continue with signing a new player remains to be seen.

NOTES: Austin Ainge earned his first Technical Foul of the season arguing with referee Steve Anderson...Maine had their fifth straight sellout, with 3,045 in attendance...the next game is 1PM Thursday against the Iowa Energy at home.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Trey Gilder; Honorable Mention to Lester Hudson.


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