SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — With nothing to play for than pride, the Maine Red Claws could have simply gone through the motions Tuesday night.

Instead, Maine remained close until the third quarter before the Springfield Armor solidified their status as a contender with a 100-91 victory before 1,597 at the MassMutual Center.

The Red Claws (18-29) overcame a sluggish start to make a game of it. But Springfield used an 11-3 run to start the third quarter and pull away.

“This had the potential to be a grind- it-out game but we just weren’t consistent,” Red Claws Coach Dave Leitao said. “In competition, if you are not giving your all every possession, you shouldn’t be out there.”

This time the Armor (25-19) didn’t let Kenny Hayes beat them. Hayes scored 52 points the last time the teams met, a 118-113 Maine win on March 4.

Hayes finished with 26 points. Morris Almond scored a game-high 33 points for the Red Claws, who have three games remaining.

The Red Claws, who were eliminated from playoff contention with Saturday’s 116-77 loss to the Austin Toros, desperately tried to play the role of spoiler, but suffered their fourth loss in five games.

Springfield, which had a 50-32 rebounding edge, was able to use its size as an advantage, which caused mismatches the Red Claws had trouble handling.

Defensive breakdowns and turnovers enabled the Armor to pull away each time the Red Claws closed the gap, and they never got closer than 78-70 in the fourth quarter.

Foul shooting helped Maine hang around. The Red Claws, who made their first 26 foul shots, were 30 of 32 from the line.

“You’ve got to take the opportunities that are presented to you and that’s something we haven’t done over the long haul,” Leitao said. “It’s been a long week and a half.”

The Red Claws, who seized the momentum at the end of the first quarter, grabbed their first lead at 36-34 on a basket by Cedric Bozeman (13 points). But Dennis Horner (29 points, 14 rebounds) drained a 3 to make it 37-36 with just under four minutes left in the half.

A Hayes jumper in the waning seconds of the half enabled the Red Claws to lead 45-44 at the break.

“We were finally able to make some defensive stops to help us get the lead, but we just couldn’t sustain it,” Leitao said.

The way the game started, it looked like the Red Claws were in for another one-sided loss. Maine lost three of its previous four games, all by 25 or more points.

Springfield, which is 6-3 against Maine this season, started strong and vaulted to an a big early lead.

But the Red Claw kept chipping away, thanks in part to six first-quarter points from Almond. Maine survived an opening 13-2 Armor run and cut the lead to 21-17 by the end of the first quarter.

What hurt the Red Claws was their inability to get offensive rebounds. They had one in the first quarter and just weren’t able to get second-chance shots.

They let the Armour dictate the tempo of the game and did little to stop Springfield’s fast break. Consecutive 3-pointers by Horner and JamesOn Curry fueled the early run.

But the Red Claws finished the first quarter with a 9-3 run sparked by Almond and Justin Brownlee.