BOISE, Idaho – With three key players out of the lineup, the Maine Red Claws didn’t miss a beat in a 108-94 victory over the Idaho Stampede on Wednesday evening at CenturyLink Arena in D-League action.
After starters Chris Joseph and Shelvin Mack received call ups on Saturday and with Chris Wright unavailable due to a concussion, the Red Claws (8-4) turned to Fab Melo and were not disappointed.
The Celtics’ top pick followed up his record-setting performance of 14 blocks on Saturday with a season-high 32 points and nine blocks to lead Maine.
“My focus has been on trying to adjust to the pace of the game at this level, and it really slowed down for me tonight,” said Melo, who hit 12 of 21 shots from the floor and eight of nine free throws. “We really wanted to be more aggressive tonight with all our starters out. And it worked well for us.”
Red Claws head coach Mike Taylor juggled his lineup with great success, though it wasn’t completely smooth.
The Stampede (1-11), which was led by Justin Holiday with 21 points, kept the game close deep into the fourth quarter before the Red Claws began to pull away.
“This was a great team win tonight,” Taylor said. “We really had to fight for this one, but everybody stepped in the roles we asked them to.”
Sloppy play (five turnovers) and poor shooting (33.3 percent) marked the Red Claws’ first quarter as Idaho built a 27-21 lead by closing the quarter on a 9-0 run.
But the Red Claws regrouped in the second quarter, shooting 55 percent and ending the half on a 10-3 run to take a 52-46 lead at the intermission.
Idaho trimmed the Red Claws’ lead to 78-75 entering the fourth quarter before Melo and Summers put the game on ice, combining for 20 of the team’s 30 points in the final frame.
Red Claws’ starter Micah Downs, who had a season-low three points on Saturday, struggled in the first quarter before helping spark the fast-break game.
“Micah’s game tonight kind of exemplified what this whole game was like for us,” Taylor said. “We struggled early but we played hard and were able to get it together when it mattered.”
Downs, who finished with 11 points, six assists and five steals, tried to stay positive despite his recent slump.
“I started the season really well, but I’m frustrated with myself,” Downs said. “I need to find my shot again. I didn’t have it tonight, but I tried to find other ways to help our team win. And that’s really what it’s all about.”