PORTLAND – The first- place Iowa Energy swaggered into the Portland Expo on Friday night and handed the Maine Red Claws a 99-90 loss.
The Energy scored 36 points by forcing 27 turnovers, squelching Maine’s offense enough to maintain nearly a 10-point lead for much of the game.
The loss dropped Maine to 14-25, and followed a 104-103 loss to Iowa at home on Thursday night in the final four seconds.
“It’s stressful and frustrating,” said guard Jamar Smith. “You look on paper and I feel like we should win. But this happens a lot, we let it slip away at the end.”
The Energy, with the best record in the D-League at 31-10, got double-digit points from six players and beat Maine on the boards, 47-39.
But it was the turnovers that made the difference.
Down the stretch, Iowa led by as many as 20 points. The game got heated at times, Maine’s frustration showing.
“It was difficult,” said Maine guard Mario West, who scored 23 points “We have to play a full game and continue to stay together as a family.”
Maine closed within eight in the third quarter, but the offense never was quite itself.
“Their pressure defense was the story of the game,” said Maine Coach Austin Ainge. “We didn’t handle it well. We tried to make adjustments to deal with their pressure but we couldn’t run our offense because of it. And their offense was scoring.”
Maine fell behind by 10 in the first quarter before using a 10-2 run to close the quarter down by two, 23-21.
The Energy pulled ahead by as many as 13 points in the second quarter and led 53-44 at the half.
In the third quarter, Maine got as close as two points again before trailing 81-71 heading into the fourth.
Curtis Stinson dished off six assists by night’s end and is three shy of tying the league career record of 1,558.
Stinson also scored 15 points, and former Vermont star Marqus Blakely had 20.
Maine has lost four straight at home.
The team’s body language — shoulders slumped, slow steps — told the emotion.
“Our guys are frustrated,” said Ainge. “We left a lot of emotion and heart on the court Thursday. At least they kept fighting (Friday) night. That’s all I can ask for.”
NOTES: Maine acquired guard Craig Winder from the defending champion Rio Grande Valley Vipers as part of a three-team deal. He’s expected to join the team for Sunday’s 1 p.m. game against Springfield.
Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:[email protected]