The Maine Red Claws kept their game close. They entertained another crowd at the Portland Expo.
But in the end, this team experienced a familiar conclusion in their 2013-2014 season.
The Fort Wayne Mad Ants flew past the Red Claws 123-114 Monday night.
The defeat was Maine’s fourth straight as the Red Claws closed the door on their fifth season at home.
The Red Claws still have two road games left, Thursday and Friday, with a chance to improve on their 19-29 record.
Unfortunately, Thursday’s game is at Fort Wayne. The Mad Ants (32-16) sport the best record in the NBA D-League.
On Monday, the Red Claws featured guard Frank Gaines (27 points) and guard Abdul Gaddy (15 points/eight assists).
Gaddy and Gaines represent some of the success the Red Claws did enjoy this year. They are both rookies and Expo fans saw their play improve.
“It was an excellent year for developing players,” Maine Coach Mike Taylor said.
“There was a lot of talk (in the organization) about Frank Gaines and Abdul Gaddy.”
Gaines and Gaddy were among the eight rookies to play for Maine, including six who are finishing the season with the Red Claws, the D-League affiliate of the Celtics.
“It was clearly a commitment from the Celtics and our team to build a young core and try to develop these young guys,” Taylor said. “That was our plan and we stuck with it. I’m pretty pleased with the development-side of things.”
On the win/loss side of things, Taylor watched a team that reached the NBA D-League playoffs for the first time last season slide down the standings.
Trouble hit the Red Claws early in the season when premier scoring guard Jermaine Taylor and promising rookie forward Romero Osby went down with season-ending injuries.
“We’re a no-excuse team,” Taylor said. “And clearly there was some benefit for these young guys because we relied on them a lot.”
The rookie who took on much of the responsibility was guard/forward Chris Babb, who has been rewarded with a contract in Boston.
Babb’s absence was felt. Since Babb signed with Boston, Maine is 4-9, including Monday’s loss.
Damon Bell-Holter, another rookie who was with Maine from the start of the year, scored 14 Monday night. He became a key player off the bench.
The only veteran to be with Maine at the start and at the end was Chris Wright, who was gone briefly for a 10-game contract with the Milwaukee Bucks. Wright, who missed the two previous games with the flu, scored 11 on Monday.
Tyshawn Taylor also gave the Red Claws a veteran presence. The former Brooklyn Nets backup point guard has played half the season with Maine. He tallied 26 against Fort Wayne.
Maine and Fort Wayne were tied at 61 at halftime, but the Mad Ants scored the first nine points of the second half. They never trailed again.
“I was disappointed the way we came out of the locker room,” Mike Taylor said. “On defense, we weren’t locked in.”
NOTES: The announced paid attendance was 2,255 … Maine tied a franchise record, committing 33 fouls … Forward Daniel Orton missed the game for personal reasons.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at [email protected]