To a man, the Maine Red Claws know exactly what they must do Saturday night in Hidalgo, Texas, to have a chance of beating the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in Game 2 of their D-League quarterfinal series:
Play like they did in the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s 120-118 loss at the Portland Expo in Game 1.
Maine outscored the Central Division champion Vipers 41-26 in the final quarter.
“We fought hard but we started off slow. We can’t do that. Not in no playoffs,” said Red Claws guard Josh Selby, who fueled the comeback with 23 of his 28 points in the fourth. “Next game we’ve just got to come out a little more aggressive, play smarter and play better defense.”
In the fourth quarter the Red Claws forced turnovers and got steals (five of each). They moved the ball well (five assists). They put up eight more shots than the Vipers and made 58 percent of their shots while holding Rio Grande Valley to 39 percent.
Too bad the Claws were down 17 when the quarter started.
“We’ve got a big job,” Claws Coach Mike Taylor said. “To go down to RGV is a tough challenge, a tough task, but we’ve got to make our adjustments. If we do better in transition (defense), keep our ball movement going for 48 minutes and play with a little more composure, a little more defensive discipline, I like our chances.”
The Vipers have won 11 straight games and 15 of their last 16. If Maine can win Saturday night, a deciding Game 3 will be played Monday.
“We’ve got to win two. It’s going to be tough, they’re a good team, but like I say, if we play hard all four quarters, then who knows?” Selby said.
An upset will have to start on defense, from the opening tip.
On Thursday, Rio Grande rolled off 11-0 and 14-2 runs in the first quarter to establish a 29-13 cushion.
“We’ve got to start at the beginning of the game,” Red Claws forward Chris Wright said. “We’ve got to attack out of the gate. We can’t be so passive. That’s a team that can score in bunches.”
The Vipers were scoring so easily, some were checking the “worst defeat” categories in the team and league record books.
“A lot of their guys got to the rim anytime they wanted, or they’d get to the lane and penetrate and kick and it was causing us scrambles, and guys were getting wide open and making shots,” Red Claws guard Jermaine Taylor said.
In the teams’ two regular-season games, both high-scoring Viper victories, there was a similar one-sided quarter. In the first game at Maine, it was a 31-13 third quarter. When the teams played 10 days later in Hidalgo, the Vipers built a 39-17 first-quarter edge.
“We want to try to get out to an early lead or make the game close from the beginning, because down the stretch we can defend well to make stops and get the win,” Wright said.
When Maine rallied Thursday, it did two things very well. It stopped point guard Andrew Goudelock from getting into the lane and extended pressure on the wings to eliminate easy entry angles to the post. Center Chris Daniels (28 points) did not score in the fourth quarter.
Selby, a 6-foot-2 guard out of Kansas, is playing for his third D-League team this season, with a nine-game stint with the Memphis Grizzlies added in.
“Josh Selby and Jermaine Taylor have been outstanding additions to our team. Credit Austin Ainge (the Celtics’ personnel director) and the staff for giving us the firepower as the team has changed,” Mike Taylor said.
Selby was 8 of 11 from the floor and 5 of 5 at the line in the fourth quarter. His career high with the Claws is 31 points.
On Thursday he had two 3-pointers wiped out by officials’ calls, the first when he was called for an offensive foul for kicking his legs forward to draw contact, the second when he was ruled out of bounds while setting up for his shot.
Steve Craig can be contacted at 791-6413 or: