NEWARK, Del. — Frank Gaines engineered a spirited comeback but the Red Claws could never get over the hump Tuesday night, losing to the Delaware 87ers, 126-116.
Gaines scored 15 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter, while big men Vitor Faverani and Chris Wright added 27 points apiece at the University of Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center. Maine, which had won the previous two games against the 87ers, had its three-game winning streak ended.
Lorenzo Brown, who was returned to Delaware by the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, led the 87ers with 27 points.
“I think our energy level was a little bit low,” said Maine Coach Mike Taylor, “and it took awhile to get started.
“We dug a hole, I thought we needed to be a little more focused on the right things. We were not happy with some things that went on out there, but we got back our focus and made a good comeback.”
Taylor was referring to Faverani and Tayshawn Taylor each picking up technical fouls midway through the third quarter as Delaware built a lead that reached 21 points. The Red Claws went with a smaller lineup in the fourth quarter, pushed the transition game and eventually gave themselves a chance to steal a win.
Eight straight points, capped by two Gaines free throws, cut the Red Claws’ deficit to 112-107. But that was as close as they would get.
Brown hit a 3-pointer, Arnett Moutrie drove the lane for a basket and Bo Spence nailed a 3-pointer that settled the outcome.
“They just hit some tough shots,” Gaines said. “We just can’t get in that position like we did in the fourth quarter.”
The Red Claws, in third place in the East with a 12-15 record, never led. Delaware (a league-worst 8-23) took an 11-2 lead and maintained a comfortable cushion for most of the night.
The Red Claws trailed by as many as 11 points before going to intermission down 66-58. Each time the Claws closed the gap, Delaware would answer with a burst.
Faverani, back from the Boston Celtics, worked inside the lane for a basket and foul to bring Maine to within 50-48.
The 87ers responded with a pair of strong plays by Moultrie. The 6-foot-10 forward scored off a spin move down the lane, then skied to jam a follow of Lorenzo Brown’s errant jumper. Vander Blue then weaved his way through the Red Claws for a three-point play and a 57-48 advantage for Delaware.
Even after Wright scored on a huge jam off a follow with two seconds left in the half to whittle the deficit to five, Lorenzo Brown sank a sprawling 3-pointer from 25 feet at the buzzer.
Moultrie, a first-round pick out of Mississippi State in 2012, had not played since breaking his ankle with the 76ers. He’s insisted he’s been healthy and ready to play with the 76ers and wanted to get some game action. So he did Tuesday night – with the 87ers – looking spry and scoring 17 points in limited work.
“I liked him,” 87ers Coach Rod Baker said with a smile. “Obviously it helps to have a couple guys from the 76ers (including Brown).
“We played with a lot of energy. Even more, we played with a lot of defensive energy.”