The Maine Red Claws looked like an undermanned group that played two nights ago in Ohio, and is not headed to the D-League playoffs.
The Sioux Falls Skyforce featured a near-full roster, had six days off, and is a team planning on the postseason.
Who do you think won Friday night at the Portland Expo?
Maine could not keep up, losing 104-94.
Maine fell behind by 19 after three quarters, setting up a fourth-quarter rally that fell short.
“We had a great chance to come back and really compete at the end,” Coach Mike Taylor said. “We finally found a unit that was playing hard. We had opportunities.”
The Red Claws dropped to 19-27. Sioux Falls improved to 28-19, the fifth-best record in the D-League (the top eight teams reach the playoffs).
Maine again was down to eight players. The Red Claws had received All-Star forward Chris Wright from the Milwaukee Bucks – and Wright scored 29 points in a loss at Canton on Wednesday – but Wright was unavailable Friday night because of flu-like symptoms.
Also, the Red Claws have never replaced Chris Babb, who signed with the Celtics three weeks ago.
The Red Claws struggled on offense Friday, falling behind early.
Guard Frank Gaines led Maine with 22 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter. But Gaines, like his teammates, was cold early (2 of 9 through three quarters).
It wasn’t just a lack of scoring that hurt Maine. While the Red Claws shot 37 percent through three quarters, Sioux Falls shot 48 percent, getting some easy looks.
“We talked after the game that your effort, your concentration, your discipline on the court is not a water faucet. You don’t turn it on and off,” Taylor said. “You’ve got to play hard and focused all the time.”
Point guard Abdul Gaddy kept Maine within range with his continued good play, ending with 18 points, many of them on drives through traffic.
Guards Tyshawn Taylor and Tyler Brown each added 11. Damen Bell-Holter added nine points and 13 rebounds. Center Zeke Marshall (eight points/nine rebounds) played the best post defense for Maine.
Former Red Claws forward Henry Walker (he was called Bill in Portland) led Sioux Falls with 22 points, including four 3-pointers.
The announced paid attendance was 2,883.
The Red Claws and Skyforce meet again at the Expo at 1 p.m. Sunday. Maine will then conclude its home schedule Monday night at 7 p.m., against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: