March 15, 2013

Red Claws feel the heat after loss to Ants

It's desperate times for an undermanned Portland team that hits the road in need of a hot streak.

By Kevin Thomas
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - At 5 p.m. Thursday, DaJuan Summers filed this message on his Twitter account:

click image to enlarge

Fab Melo has his attempted slam-dunk knocked away by Fort Wayne’s Brandon Wallace during Thursday’s 105-90 loss at the Expo Center that leaves the Red Claws 1 1⁄2 games out of a playoff berth with just eight games left in the season.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Maine’s Mark Tyndale reaches for a pass while Fort Wayne’s Ron Howard defends during first-half action of Thursday’s game at the Expo Center, won by the Mad Ants.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer


WHO: Maine Red Claws at Austin Toros

WHEN: 8:30 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Cedar Park Center


"Wheels down in LA."

Back at the Portland Expo, Summers' former team, the Maine Red Claws, was watching the wheels come off.

Maine took a 12-point first-quarter lead against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants and then coughed it up, losing a 105-90 decision, before a crowd of 2,328.

Guard Josh Selby scored 31 points. Chris Wright and Micah Downs had double-doubles. Wright recorded 21 points and 20 rebounds -- tying his own franchise rebound record -- and Downs scored 18 while grabbing 11 rebounds.

The loss was Maine's third straight, all of them at home.

The Red Claws (21-21) are still only 1 1/2 games out of a playoff spot (tied with the 20-20 Mad Ants). But of Maine's eight remaining games, seven are away, including a five-game road trip.

And unless the Red Claws improve their play, it won't matter where they are playing.

"Disappointing performance from our guys," Coach Mike Taylor said. "Something we have to get corrected. We need better focus. We have to play harder and we have to play better together.

"The guys have to take it to heart."

Recent roster changes have not helped Maine, especially with point guard Shelvin Mack returning to the NBA just before the three-game losing streak, and then Summers getting summoned by the Los Angeles Clippers Thursday.

Mack (20.1-point average) and Summers (18.0) had been Maine's leading scorers.

On Thursday, Maine initially looked in an offensive flow with a 32-20 first-quarter lead. But then the Red Claws lost their groove, scoring 19, 13 and 26 points in the next three quarters.

Maine quit working the ball inside. After eight assists in the first quarter, the Red Claws had only nine more the rest of the game.

"We got off to a great start in the game. We were right where we wanted," Taylor said. "Then we lost our concentration. We settled too much for perimeter shots."

While Maine could not get back in gear, the Mad Ants began to exploit the Red Claws' defense, the second-worst in the league (104.5 average by opponents). Like Canton did in its sweep of Maine last weekend, Fort Wayne drove at will, reaching the basket or finding open shooters.

"We didn't do a good job with our transition defense. Our focus was just drifting," Taylor said. "These are points we talked about all week.

"We're really searching for some leadership out there among our guys."

The Red Claws will begin their five-game road trip in Austin, Texas, Saturday night at 8:30. They will face the Mad Ants again Thursday in Fort Wayne.

Maine returns to the Expo on March 28 for a 7 p.m. game against Erie.

NOTES: Summers, a 6-foot-8 forward out of Georgetown, is headed back to the NBA for the fourth straight season. Summers is expected to join the Clippers before their Sunday game with the Knicks. Summers previously played for Detroit (two seasons) and New Orleans. He is the second Red Claws player to get an NBA call-up. Mack is already with his third NBA team this season, the Atlanta Hawks. Mack recorded seven points and two assists in Atlanta's win over the Lakers Wednesday night.


Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

Twitter: KevinThomasPPH


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