PORTLAND – The Texas Legends knew exactly how to beat the Maine Red Claws on Sunday.
With Maine big man Craig Brackins on the bench because of foul trouble, the Legends pounded the ball into the paint to spark a 19-7 run. Then they held on as the Red Claws’ comeback fell short in a 114-107 loss at the Portland Expo.
“It was them turning up the heat on us,” Maine Coach Dave Leitao said of the third-quarter run.
“Every time I looked up the ball was in the paint. What we talked about was on some nights, when we’re not having the best game, you’ve gotta be aggressive and take it into the paint. It opens up options for you.”
Texas (14-18) was able to ride out its lead despite the return of Brackins and a late rally by the Red Claws.
Maine (12-19) trailed by 11 with less than four minutes left and was still down six when point guard Kenny Hayes dropped a pass to Brackins, who was trailing Hayes down the court. Brackins sank a 3-pointer — he was 4 for 6 from behind the arc — to cut Texas’ lead to 110-107 with 28.2 seconds remaining.
Needing a stop, the Red Claws played for a turnover on the other end, but Hayes was called for a foul. The ensuing foul shots from Drew Neitzel gave Texas a 112-107 cushion and essentially ended Maine’s comeback bid.
Hayes needed some encouragement from a teammate after committing the foul.
“I looked at the clock and that was just an error on me,” Hayes said. “I just have to move on from it and try to be a leader.”
Hayes had 17 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds to boost the offense. Morris Almond led the Red Claws in scoring with 26 points.
Former Boston College center Sean Williams had 27 points and seven blocked shots for the Legends.
It was Brackins who provided the most important sparks for the Red Claws. With a 76ers logo on the back of his jersey, indicating he’s playing with the Red Claws on assignment from the NBA team, the mohawked 6-foot-10 post player had inside and outside impact in his first game in Portland.
Brackins scored 11 points in the first three minutes of the game as his teammates struggled to heat up. But he picked up his third foul with 4:58 remaining in the second quarter, then got his fourth early in the third and had to go to the bench again.
When he came back on the floor in the fourth quarter, he had a measurable impact. He banged down low to hit a short basket, had an emphatic dunk and made a pair of free throws before his late 3-pointer. Not bad for a guy who’s still learning the offense in his third game with the team.
“When we get into situations, I just try to adapt because I don’t know all of the plays yet,” he said. “I just try to adapt on the fly.”
Brackens finished with 20 points.