PORTLAND – Part of the Maine Red Claws game plan took hold.
The Red Claws contained Erie power forward Ivan Johnson, the second-leading scorer in the NBA Development League.
And Maine guard Avery Bradley displayed some of the reasons why the Boston Celtics drafted him in the first round of the 2010 draft.
But the same bugaboo came back to bite the Red Claws: defense. Maine succumbed to the Erie BayHawks 113-109 Friday night before a sold-out crowd at the Portland Expo.
Bradley scored 24 points, 21 of them in the second half, to lead the Red Claws.
Johnson, who scored 46 points the last time Erie was here on Jan. 14, was held to 12 on Friday, 8.2 below his average.
But Erie guards Blake Ahearn (29 points) and Tasmin Mitchell (25) found open shots and drained them.
“We tried to limit (Johnson’s) touches and not allow him to be comfortable,” said Red Claws forward DeShawn Sims, one of those responsible for guarding Johnson.
“We did it for the most part. But we let the other guys beat us.”
The Red Claws were swarming on defense at the start, taking a 28-19 lead.
“We played good defense in the first quarter,” Red Claws coach Austin Ainge said, “and then we softened throughout the rest of the game, and Blake Ahearn tore us apart.”
Ahearn hit 5 of 11 3-pointers, including the go-ahead basket for a 109-106 lead with 48 seconds to go.
Jamar Smith, who hit three 3-pointers, was given the task of trying to tie the game. He faked twice to elude defenders but missed. Erie rebounded and sank free throws to finish the game.
Bradley, a 6-foot-2 guard out of the University of Texas, joined the Red Claws on Jan. 14. He had been averaging 13.8 points a game, but broke out in the second half Friday, draining jumpers and driving to the basket.
“I just had to pick my spots,” Bradley said. “At the beginning, I had to make sure everyone got involved in the game.
“At a certain point in the game I just got opportunities where I could score and I capitalized on them.”
Bradley recorded eight assists (second to Smith’s nine), but also had nine turnovers.
“A lot of those weren’t his fault,” Ainge said. “A lot of those were the receiver not coming to the ball.
“Avery played very well. He was aggressive. He was attacking. You could see his athleticism.”
The Red Claws flowed on offense at times. Center Tiny Gallon (22 points) and Sims (16) hit jumpers, while Bradley and Smith (19 points) directed the attack.
But Erie countered, and then some.
“We shot 55 percent. That’s great,” Smith said. “But on the defensive end, we didn’t get any stops, and that’s what it came down to.”
Maine plays at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Expo against Tulsa.
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: