The Maine Red Claws were running and dunking early. Friday night seemed to be a festive time for a rout over the hapless Springfield Armor.
But the Armor apparently are tired of losing.
Springfield picked up its game, played inspired defense and beat the Red Claws 92-81 before 2,075 at the Portland Expo.
The Armor (1-5) not only won a game for the first time this season but ended a 10-game losing streak, dating to five losses last season.
The Red Claws dropped to 4-2, which includes two previous wins over Springfield.
Game No. 4 in this New England rivalry is at 7 p.m., Saturday as the Armor play host to Maine at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass.
Maine forward Chris Wright led all players with a double-double (23 points, 13 rebounds). But Maine had only two players in double figures (Frank Gaines scored 20), and the Red Claws shot only 37 percent to Springfield’s 47 percent.
“Our guys really locked down defensively,” Springfield Coach Doug Overton said. “We started out on the bottom of the league and we want to work our way back to the top.”
Springfield put four players in double figures, led by 6-foot-9 forward Marcus Hubbard, coming off the bench for a double-double (22 points, 12 rebounds).
“You’ve got to give Springfield a lot of credit. They played a very good game,” said Maine Coach Mike Taylor. “They were very physical. Their frontcourt, especially Hubbard, did a very good job.”
The best way to avoid Springfield’s physical play was to run. Early on the Red Claws raced up the court on fast breaks, usually with Wright finishing them with a flair or a dunk.
Maine jumped ahead 20-11 late in the first quarter.
“We got off to a great start. Everyone’s feeling good,” Taylor said. “But we were not as productive as we needed to be. In general they were more efficient than we were.”
That was by design.
“We wanted to take care of the ball and not get into that running game they like,” Overton said.
Springfield closed to 25-23 at the end of the quarter.
The Armor’s defense stiffened in the second quarter and Maine found few easy shots. Springfield took a 52-45 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, the Armor led 67-57 in the closing minutes when Maine made a mini-run.
Gaines hit a driving jumper and Marcel Anderson popped in a 3 to close to 67-62. Springfield missed again and the Red Claws raced down on a fast break.
But Maine threw the ball away.
“It felt like every time we made a run we would have an untimely turnover,” Taylor said. “We talked to the guys (after the game) about making high-percentage plays.”
Instead of closing in, Maine allowed Springfield to rally back and take a 75-63 lead at the end of the quarter. Maine never got closer than eight points in the fourth quarter.
NOTES: As expected, forward Romero Osby, who is out with a pulled hamstring muscle, was deactivated to make room on the roster for new center Zeke Marshall. … The Red Claws’ next home game is next Friday at 7 p.m. vs. Sioux Falls.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: