PORTLAND – With 6:51 to go in the game, the Maine Red Claws called timeout and the Portland Expo crowd got to its feet, screamed and cheered.
The complimentary shirts that were thrown into crowd offered a little consolation for the defensive collapse experienced by the home team. The Canton Charge scored 70 points in the second half and routed the Red Claws, 108-83.
The loss, Maine’s second to Canton this weekend, dropped the Red Claws (21-20) into third place in the NBA D-League’s East Division behind Canton (24-15) and Erie (22-18). Maine trails Erie by 1½ games for the last playoff spot.
The Red Claws and Charge were locked in a bruising, defensive tussle in the first half, with Maine leading 39-38.
Then the flow of the game changed abruptly.
“The second half we obviously had a lot of defensive breakdowns,” Maine Coach Mike Taylor said. “We didn’t guard the ball well one-on-one. They got dribble penetration and they did a good job of finding the open guy.”
Canton hit five 3-pointers in the third quarter and also began controlling the boards as it built a 76-65 lead.
The Charge kept coming and Maine could not keep up. Canton shot 51 percent overall and 48 percent from 3-point ranger (12 for 25), and outrebounded Maine 40-25. The Red Claws shot 42 percent overall, and just 15 percent from behind the 3-point line (3 of 20).
“Our offense went a little bit stale,” Taylor said. “It comes down to guys have to make shots. Guys have to make plays. We didn’t make enough shots, didn’t make enough plays to keep pace. And then the defensive breakdowns.”
Chris Wright led Maine with 20 points. DaJuan Summers scored 15, Curtis Jerrells added 14 and Mark Tyndale had 12. Fab Melo was held to six points and five rebounds. He blocked three shots.
Canton features the best defense in the D-League (94 points per game), while Maine has the second worst (104 ppg).
Once the Charge got into a flow — from 17 turnovers in the first half, to three in the second — Maine could not stop them.
“We knew if we kept defending well, we could get together on offense,” said Canton guard Antoine Agudio, who made 5 of 9 3-pointers and led the Charge with 21 points.
“We just took care of the ball and hit shots. That was the difference.”
Canton began the year 6-8, with two losses to Maine. But unlike other D-League teams, Canton has not made many roster changes. The Charge are 18-7 in their last 25 games.
“We have good chemistry,” said Agudio, a four-year pro who played his college ball at Hofstra. “We share the ball well and play defense. That’s what team basketball is all about.”
Maine has one more home game (at 7 p.m. Thursday vs. Fort Wayne) before going on a five-game road trip that will include a March 20 game in Canton.
Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: