The Maine Red Claws are off to a 5-2 record, but face some challenges Friday night when the team plays host to the Sioux Falls Skyforce at 7 p.m. at the Expo.
The Skyforce are 6-2, tied for second place in the Central Division of the NBA D-League.
In their seven previous games, the Red Claws have mostly feasted on teams with losing records. Only the Idaho Stampede had a winning record, and they beat Maine 101-90.
That loss came at the Expo, where the Red Claws are only 2-2. Their success has come on the road (3-0).
The Skyforce are affiliated with the Miami Heat.
Sioux Falls’ leading scorer and rebounder is 7-foot Justin Hamilton (16.9 points and 9.5 rebounds a game), the Heat’s second-round draft pick this year out of Louisiana State.
Sioux Falls’ first-year coach, Pat Delany, has some New England ties, having played at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., and serving as an intern with the Celtics in 2002. He joined the Heat in 2003, first as video coordinator, then as an advance scout before taking the Skyforce job this year.
The Red Claws, in second place in the East Division (behind 8-1 Canton) are coming off three straight games against the Springfield Armor (winning two, but losing the home game).
Maine continues to be led by 6-8 forward Chris Wright, who is fourth in the D-League in scoring with a 24.1-point average, along with 8.4 rebounds a game.
Guard Frank Gaines is second among the Red Claws with 16.1 points per game.
The game will be a battle of two of the better defenses. Sioux Falls leads the league, holding opponents to a 40.1 shooting percentage. Maine (42.1) is second.
After the game, the Red Claws will be making the familiar trip to Springfield for another game with the Armor.
The players will spend Christmas in Portland, before heading to Des Moines, Iowa, for two games.
Their next game in Portland is Dec. 31 at 1 p.m., against Delaware.