SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Like most of his teammates, Paul Harris was still thinking about the game that got away Friday night and fired off a late-night text to Coach Austin Ainge.
“I promised Coach I would be more aggressive,” Harris said. “I told him I won’t settle for too many (jump shots) and I’m going to attack the basket and try to get fouled.”
Harris made good Saturday, scoring 10 of his 22 points in the first quarter to spark the Maine Red Claws to a 114-98 victory against the Springfield Armor.
“When Paul’s aggressive and attacks the basket, it really helps us,” Ainge said.
DeShawn Sims led the Red Claws with 24 points and 15 rebounds.
“He’s a monster and they had a hard time guarding him,” Ainge said.
Maine (2-2) had five players in double figures.
“The whole team did a lot better,” said Tiny Gallon, who had 17 points and eight rebounds. “We came out and attacked. We took great shots, we played hard, rebounded better and came out with the win.”
The Red Claws set the tempo by using the fast break to vault to a 24-14 first-quarter lead. There was no dwelling over Friday night’s loss.
“That’s how our team chemistry is: We lose a game like that and we’re just going to come out and play harder the next game,” said Gallon, who was double-teamed and found ways to get the ball to teammates. “We always play hard in practice and do the same thing in games.”
Sims (Michigan) and Harris (Syracuse) come from big-time college programs and certainly made their presence felt.
“We were just focused today,” said Harris, who had three steals and was 4 of 4 from the foul line. “In my opinion, and this is not to disrespect the Armor, who played great Friday and hard today, but I just think we are a better team. I told the guys we all needed to play hard and finish them off.”
Gallon’s thundering dunk with two minutes remaining gave Maine a 110-94 edge, and there were no late breakdowns this time.
On Friday, Springfield scored the last 11 points and won when Scottie Reynolds hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with two-tenths of a second remaining. That was the only time that Springfield (2-2) led.
Like the previous game, the Red Claws came out strong and built a big lead. Every time the Armor tried to go on a run, the Red Claws clamped down defensively.
Kenny Hayes added 18 points, Chamberlain Oguchi 13 and Jamar Smith 12 as the Red Claws passed 100 points for the first time this season.
“Kenny did a great job coming off the bench, pushing the ball and playing well,” Ainge said.
The Red Claws rebounded well and stopped Springfield’s inside game. They led by as many as 20 points and scored 58 points in the paint.
THE RED CLAWS replaced center Magnum Rolle, who is out indefinitely with a knee injury, with 7-foot center Jordan Eglseder, a rookie from Northern Iowa. Eglseder was waived last week by Rio Grande.