PORTLAND – If the Maine Red Claws really wanted to regain first place in the NBA D-League East Division, they were going to have to shake free of the last-place Springfield Armor on Saturday night.
It wasn’t easy.
Maine enjoyed double-doubles from DaJuan Summers and Shelvin Mack to beat the Armor 116-107 before a sold-out crowd of 3,045 at the Portland Expo.
Maine (13-8) moved into first place in the East. Both Erie (10-7) and Canton (12-9) lost Saturday.
Springfield (5-13) remains in the cellar of the division.
Summers scored 26 points and added 11 rebounds. Mack, in his first game at the Expo since returning from the Washington Wizards, recorded 20 points and 12 rebounds.
Micah Downs, with 4 of 7 3-pointers, scored 24.
Fab Melo scored 12 points, including some key baskets down the stretch, and collected eight rebounds and six blocked shots. Melo returned Friday after missing two weeks with a concussion.
With Mack and Melo back, and newly signed backup point guard Andre Barrett, the Red Claws are humming.
“I love the depth of the team now,” Red Claws Coach Mike Taylor said. “We survived our time with eight guys. Now we have a lot of good guys, a lot of weapons.”
Springfield, like everyone in the D-League, is constantly looking to improve, tweaking its roster here and there.
“We’re like a stew right now,” Springfield Coach Bob MacKinnon said before the game. “We’re trying to throw everyone in the pot and get them going. So we’ll see.”
The Armor went back and forth with Maine. Through three quarters there were 14 lead changes and 13 ties. And when Dennis Horner drove in for a layup with 7:55 remaining, Springfield led, 90-88.
Maine missed a shot. Ben Uzoh rebounded and scored on his own drive for a 92-88 lead with 7:24 left. Uzoh led Springfield with 20 points.
Maine, with Mack directing the charge, kept attacking. The Red Claws hit three straight 3-pointers, one from Chris Ayer and two from Downs. Maine led 97-92 and never trailed again.
Mack carried no chip on his shoulder when he returned to the D-League after the Wizards released him Monday.
“It wasn’t difficult,” Mack said, “especially coming back to a place like Maine. I’m able to come right back and fit in, and play the way I play.”
NOTES: The Red Claws activated point guard Andre Barrett to the roster. Barrett, 30, is a former D-League All-Star who has played for six NBA teams. To make room for Barrett on the roster, the Red Claws placed forward Chris Wright on the inactive list. Wright, who suffered a concussion in late December, is improving but hasn’t been cleared to practice. Boston Celtics assistant coach Jay Larranaga was in attendance with courtside seats. Larranaga is a D-League product, serving as head coach of the Erie BayHawks the previous two years. The Red Claws return to the Expo next weekend for games Friday and Saturday night against Iowa.
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or: