One of the best teams in the league added an NBA guard to its roster.

Meanwhile the Maine Red Claws lost their starting point guard to an injury in the first half.

Yet there was underdog Maine building a 10-point lead in the third quarter, 81-71.

It didn’t last.

The Fort Wayne Mad Ants rallied past the Red Claws for a 113-104 win Thursday night at the Portland Expo.

Jamaal Franklin, on loan from the Memphis Grizzlies, led all scorers with 32 points, including 18 in the fourth quarter.

Frank Gaines paced Maine with 25 points, but the Red Claws’ Achilles – turnovers – did them in. Maine lost the ball 27 times, seven of them in the fourth quarter. Fort Wayne had only 12 turnovers.

“We’ve got guys talented enough to win these games,” Maine Coach Mike Taylor said. “Build a 10-point lead and have the game right where you want it, but unfortunately the turnovers come back to haunt you.

“Some of the turnovers were just flat careless.”

Red Claws point guard Abdul Gaddy did not play in the second half after straining his left quadriceps muscle. He is listed day to day.

While Gaddy has been playing well lately, Maine certainly had a capable backup in Tyshawn Taylor, who was with the Brooklyn Nets last year and early this season. Taylor scored 23 and added four assists. He also had five turnovers.

“Tyshawn responded,” Mike Taylor said. “But you’re talking about an NBA point guard who has to hold himself to a higher standard.

“We have to get to the point where all of our players are taking care of the ball.”

With the loss, the Red Claws fell to 16-22. They are now five games out of eighth place – and a playoff berth – in the NBA D-League, with only 12 games to play. Three of those games are against Fort Wayne (24-14), including Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Expo.

The Mad Ants can play an aggressive defense, along with a fast-break attack. That combination gave Fort Wayne a 21-10 lead late in the first quarter.

Maine chipped away, controlling the ball better and rebounding. The Red Claws, on a Chris Wright 3-pointer, led 53-50 after halftime.

Maine kept building that advantage, up by as much as 10, before settling for an 83-79 lead after three quarters.

But the Mad Ants got aggressive again, and Maine could not handle the pressure. Plus, Fort Wayne pounded the board for six offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter.

Then there was Franklin, a 6-foot-5 guard out of San Diego State who was the Grizzlies’ second-round draft pick last year. He hit three of his four 3-pointers in the fourth.

“Adding Jamaal to the style that we play, he makes unselfish plays and he embraces defense,” Fort Wayne Coach Conner Henry said. “He also has the ability to catch fire like he did.”

Ron Howard’s jumper gave Fort Wayne an 88-87 lead early in the quarter, and Franklin followed with a 3, and Maine never caught up.

Wright had a double-double (17 points/13 rebounds) for Maine.

The announced paid attendance was 2,584.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at:

kthomas@pressherald.com

Twitter: KevinThomasPPH