SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – The Maine Red Claws entered Saturday night’s game in Sioux Falls with an impressive 6-1 road record, which included a win Friday night at the Sioux Falls Arena against the Skyforce.
But on Saturday, the Skyforce never trailed in front of their biggest crowd of the season at 5,912 and dropped the Red Claws to 9-5 overall with a 101-87 victory.
The Red Claws still lead the D-League’s Eastern Division.
DaJuan Summers led the Red Claws with a double-double by registering 22 points and 10 rebounds. Fab Melo also finished with a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Melo started the game on fire by scoring 10 points and grabbing six rebounds in the first half, but was held in check in the second half.
“It’s frustrating, especially the way we played (Friday),” Summers said of Maine’s win Friday in Sioux Falls. “We were a little flat to start the game tonight, and we just never got going after that.
“We showed some signs of life but we just couldn’t get over the hump. It was a back-to-back so maybe there were some signs of fatigue. Shots we normally make, we just weren’t hitting tonight.”
Despite trailing by as many as 21 in the third quarter, the Red Claws made it interesting in the fourth when they put together a 9-2 run to pull within 91-79.
“We felt there was life at that point,” Red Claws Coach Mike Taylor said. “We were just looking for that spark. The players fought back and cut the lead a number of times, but Sioux Falls was able to regain their distance.
“It was a frustrating game for us. We worked hard but we couldn’t find that spark to get over the hump.”
The Skyforce opened an 11-2 lead early in the first quarter. The Red Claws cut the margin to 16-15 later in the quarter but were never able to take the lead.
The Skyforce built the lead to as many as 13 points, at 45-32 in the second quarter, thanks in large part to a four-minute drought by the Red Claws.
At 79-58 with 1:35 to play in the third, Sioux Falls looked to cruise to its eighth win of the season. But the Red Claws finished the quarter on a 6-2 run, then outscored the Skyforce 4-1 to start the fourth.
Maine went on a 9-2 run midway through the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 12, but Sioux Falls broke several traps defensively down the stretch to increase the lead to as many as 19 in the waning moments.
The Red Claws were held to 40.3 percent shooting from the field and turned the ball over 22 times, resulting in 27 Sioux Falls points.
“We played better defensively tonight than we probably have in six games,” Skyforce Coach Joel Abelson said. “This was a fantastic defensive effort, but you see crazy things happen in this league. This team still believes we’re going to win games. I still believe we’re going to win games. The effort was there tonight and that’s all I can ask.”
The Red Claws also shot 58.3 percent from the free-throw line, but all nine players on the roster scored.
“Some nights it’s easy for you and some nights it doesn’t come easy,” Taylor said. “Tonight was a tough night. I’m happy with how the team worked but we just didn’t make the plays we needed to make in the game, and Sioux Falls just beat us. That’s going to happen.”