In the Maine Red Claws’ thinking, giving up 30 points to forward Richard Howell was not a problem. Coach Mike Taylor liked his defense. In fact, holding the Idaho Stampede’s two guards to a total of 34 points was reason to celebrate.
But there is no celebrating after a loss.
The Red Claws defended OK on Saturday night. But as for shooting the ball, Maine won’t spend much time looking at the stat sheet. The Red Claws shot 36 percent and could not keep up with the Stampede in a 101-90 loss before 2,233 at the Portland Expo.
It was Maine’s first loss of the year, dropping the Red Claws to 3-1. Idaho stayed unbeaten at 5-0.
The oft-witnessed scene Saturday night was a Maine shooter letting a 3-pointer go and watching it clanging away. The Red Claws shot 6 for 32 from the 3-point line.
“The shots we usually hit, we didn’t hit tonight,” Taylor said. “We defended well enough to win this game. This was all about our deficiency on the offensive end.”
Chris Wright paced Maine by driving to the basket for 28 points while grabbing 11 rebounds. Forward Romero Osby also double-doubled (19-10). Guard Frank Gaines tallied 16, although his usually dependable bombs were missing (1 for 6 on 3-pointers). Point guard Abdul Gaddy added 10 points and four assists
Guard Chris Babb contributed eight points, seven assists and solid defense against guard Pierre Jackson.
Jackson, a 5-foot-11 dynamo, came into the game with a 31-point average, including a 43-point performance Friday night in Springfield, Mass. He was contained to 19 points, while his backcourt mate, Dee Bost, scored 15.
“Great defensive effort. Their backcourt is one of the most explosive in the league,” Taylor said. “We executed our defensive game plan.”
But Idaho passed well and if their guards were covered, they found the open player, which was usually the 6-8 Howell, a former standout at North Carolina State. He hit 14 of 22 shots.
“They made the right plays,” Taylor said. “With the two scoring guards, We had to make sure we took those guys away. We had to give something up and Howell made himself very effective.”
Idaho has been very effective in the early part of the season.
“That was so good about this team so far, everyone steps up when they’re needed,” Stampede Coach Mike Peck said.
The Red Claws trailed 50-43 at halftime after shooting only 35 percent, including 1 for 17 on 3-pointers. It might have been worse if not for the success of Wright and Gaines driving to the basket. Each had 14 points in the half.
To start the fourth quarter, Wright scored a fast-break dunk to close to 78-67. But Maine did not score for the next five minutes and Idaho led 88-69. The Red Claws could not mount a rally to come back.
NOTES: Idaho remains one of three teams still unbeaten in the D-League, along with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers (6-0) and the Canton Charge (5-0), a 95-88 winner over Erie Friday night. The Charge lead the East Division, with the Red Claws in second place … Maine now plays three straight games (and four of their next five) against the Springfield Armor (0-4). The Red Claws are at Springfield Sunday at 3 p.m., and are back at the Expo next Friday at 7 p.m.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: