Saturday, March 8, 2014
By MARK JEANNERET Special to the Telegram
PORTLAND - Fab Melo enjoyed a memorable night. Too bad it didn't include a victory.
Melo established a D-League record with 14 blocks and recorded the third triple-double in franchise history, but it wasn't enough as the Maine Red Claws dropped an 85-78 decision to the Erie Bayhawks at the Expo Saturday night.
"Fab Melo was fabulous today," said Red Claws Coach Mike Taylor. "He played the best game of his short D-League career. He was tremendous on both ends. Obviously, with the D-League record for blocked shots, that says it all right there. But he provided some offense and rebounding for us to get the triple-double. Fantastic effort."
Melo, who totaled 15 points and 16 rebounds, provided an inkling that something special might be in the works with five blocks in the opening quarter. He knocked away three more in the second quarter before taking a third foul and heading to the bench for the final 3½ minutes of the half.
"You feel different," Melo said about his early prowess. "They kept going inside and I was blocking. After that they started being afraid to go up. When you get into their head you change the game completely."
While Melo was doing his thing under his basket, Chris Wright was picking up where he left off the night before. Wright, who finished with 11 points, pounded home three rim-rattling dunks, including an acrobatic completion of an alley-oop set-up by Michal Downs to help the home side to a 22-18 lead after one quarter.
However, Maine's offense got progressively worse as the game wore on and spoiled the effort turned in at the other end of the court.
"That was the story of the game for us," said Taylor, who saw his team shoot 30.7 percent from the field and 18.5 percent from 3-point distance. "Offense has not been a problem for us this season, but we just missed some shots that ordinarily go in."
Maine, which saw its three-game home winning streak end, trailed 42-41 at the half.
Despite offense troubles of its own, Erie managed a 10-1 run in the third quarter to build a 56-48 lead. The Bayhawks carried a 64-58 advantage into the fourth quarter.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Melo made back-to-back blocks to raise his total to 10 and equal the franchise record set by Kurt Looby in 2010. His final four blocks shattered the league record of 11 by Fort Wayne's Cheikh Samb in 2008.
"In my sophomore season (at Syracuse, last season) I broke the school record against Seton Hall with 10 blocks," Melo said when asked to remember a similar performance. "I had 14 points but I didn't get the triple-double. I think I had nine points."
NOTES: Kris Joseph returned from Boston before the game. It marked the fourth time this season that Joseph was recalled and subsequently reassigned to Portland.