DES MOINES, Iowa — The Maine Red Claws have spent the month reeling from injuries and losses.
A new month and a little help are almost here.
Maine’s tumultuous month continued Thursday night with a heartbreaking 98-94 loss to the Iowa Energy before 2,386 fans at Wells Fargo Arena.
“We just keep coming up short,” Maine guard Frank Gaines said.
The loss was the sixth in the last seven games for the Red Claws (9-14) who despite turning the calendar on a new year haven’t been able to turn the page on a losing season.
January has turned into a forgettable month for the Red Claws, who have been trying to find a way to recover from season-ending injuries to three key contributors.
With Jermaine Taylor (knee), Karon Taylor (knee) and Romero Osby (torn labrum) all out, the Red Claws went searching for help.
They appeared to find some, acquiring forward Daniel Orton and guard Tyler Brown as part of a four-team deal with the Erie BayHawks, Tulsa 66ers and Texas Legends.
In return, the Red Claws sent the rights to Fab Melo to Texas.
But neither Orton nor Brown was able to contribute as the deal, according to Maine Coach Mike Taylor, remains on hold with the league.
“Erie has done some stupid stuff that’s kind of messed up all four teams,” Taylor said. “We’re not supposed to comment on it until that’s done.”
Taylor said he hoped the deal would be completed by the time the Red Claws come home for Saturday’s game against Fort Wayne.
Brown, though, made it to Des Moines, where he sat on the end of the team bench in street clothes awaiting word.
“Not being able to play tonight was kind of a shock,” Brown said. “It something you’ve got to deal with.”
The missing pieces to the puzzle were damaging for the Red Claws, who were unable to fully recover from a slow start.
Iowa appeared to put things out of reach for good with a strong second-quarter burst.
While clinging to a three-point lead, the Energy went on a 16-2 run to build a 46-30 lead.
Iowa’s lead blossomed to as much as 23 later in the game but slowly disappeared late in the fourth quarter.
Maine, which stayed within striking distance, never could overcome the deficit.
A layup and free throw by Maine’s Chris Babb trimmed the lead to 95-94 with 45.5 seconds left.
The Red Claws even had a chance to take the lead on their next possession but Chris Wright missed a jumper with 12.9 seconds remaining and the Energy wrapped it up.