Sunday, March 9, 2014
By Fran Sypek
Special to the Press Herald
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — The Maine Red Claws have seen enough of the Springfield Armor lately to know their rivals were capable of having a breakout game.
WHO: Red Claws at Iowa Energy
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday
What the Red Claws did not know was they would be the ones to wake what could be a sleeping giant.
Springfield dominated defensively and earned only its second victory this season, beating the Red Claws 93-74 Sunday before 1,304 at the MassMutual Center.
It was the lowest offensive output for the Red Claws (5-4) this season.
“You’ve got to give Springfield a lot of credit – they played very well,’’ Red Claws Coach Mike Taylor said. “They outplayed us.’’
Defense was definitely the difference. The Armor (2-9) turned in their best defensive effort this season, while the Red Claws were off their game, especially on the boards.
“We’ve been a very good defensive team all season, and today I don’t think we brought the type of winning defense we had in the previous eight games,’’ Taylor said.
“We were unproductive offensively.’’
Maine (5-4) trailed by as many as 26. It wasn’t until the final quarter when the Red Claws were able to connect from 3-point range.
“The league is competitive, and the difference between the best teams in the league and the worst teams in the league is not as much as people might think,’’ Taylor said. Springfield has been playing better, and today they were very physical and they defended well.’’
The previous low for Maine came during a 92-81 loss to Springfield on Dec. 13. Maine has won three of the five meetings between the teams, who have played four times in the last 13 days.
The Armor got an early Christmas present from the parent Brooklyn Nets, who sent them forward Tornike Shengelia and guard Tyshawn Taylor.
“Those two players make a big difference for them,’’ Taylor said.
Shengelia led Springfield with 23 points, and Willie Reed added 19 for the Armor, who snapped a four-game losing streak. It’s the first time this season the Red Claws have lost consecutive games.
“We just didn’t play to the same standard,’’ Taylor said.
The Red Claws shot only 35.3 percent from the field.
One bright spot was Damen Bell-Hotler. He led the Red Claws with 21 points and displayed a strong inside-outside game.
“That was a positive for us,’’ Taylor said. “He had his best game of the season.’’
NOTES: The Red Claws are idle until Friday when they begin a two-game series at Iowa.
“All we can do is take whatever positives from this game as we can, go home and enjoy the Christmas break, and then come back and we ready to go,’’ Taylor said.
The Red Claws are without Romero Osby, who injured his shoulder Friday night against Sioux Falls. “We missed him, but we have other guys who can step up,’’ Taylor said. “We’re a no-excuse team, and we have confidence in the next man up.’’