Thursday, May 23, 2013
By PAUL D. BOWKER Special to the Press Herald
FORT WAYNE, Ind. - The Maine Red Claws won their fourth consecutive road game Friday night, best among all D-League teams, but they had to battle for it.
WHO: Red Claws at Erie BayHawks
WHEN: 2 p.m. Sunday
That much Coach Mike Taylor is certain of.
They fought off a nine-point deficit, and Micah Downs scored 24 points to lead the Red Claws past struggling Fort Wayne, 107-104. Maine used a 30-point fourth quarter, powered by strong shooting and effective defense, to pull it off.
"I'm really proud of the way the guys fought and competed, and stuck with it and were persistent," Taylor said.
"At the end we've got some good guys who found a way to win."
Maine (6-2, first place, East Division) is 4-0 on the road, unmatched by any D-League team. The Red Claws play Sunday at Erie.
Kris Joseph, a Boston Celtics draft pick who has divided his time between Boston and Maine this season, scored 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting. Fab Melo, also on assignment from the Celtics, scored 10 points and had two rebounds.
One of the Maine stars down the stretch was Shelvin Mack, a guard from Butler who had a season-high 11 assists and three steals.
"He knows how to win," Taylor said.
"He's really making good decisions for us. We have so much confidence and belief when Shelvin's out there."
Kim English, a 2012 Detroit Pistons draft pick, and former Boston Celtic Jajuan Johnson each scored 24 points for the Mad Ants.
The game had an NBA look to it, as five of the 10 starters were reassigns from the parent league.
Fort Wayne, which entered the evening with a four-game losing streak, was also bolstered by the addition of forward Khris Middleton, like English a second-round Detroit draft pick. Miles Plumlee, a center from Duke, is on assignment from the Indiana Pacers.
Middleton, in particular, gave the Red Claws trouble as his quickness allowed him to dribble through the defense and into the paint for several layups. He finished with 19 points.
The Red Claws had already defeated Fort Wayne twice this season, but the Mad Ants showed a renewed energy that kept Maine fighting from behind much of the game.
During one play in the third quarter, the Mad Ants grabbed three consecutive offensive rebounds.
But the Red Claws still grabbed a 95-94 lead and with less than five minutes left on the clock, Maine players jumped off their bench when a strong defensive stand forced a shot-clock violation by the Mad Ants. Joseph followed that up with an insurance basket to put the Red Claws up by three.
Less than two minutes later, Maine's Dajuan Summers converted an offensive rebound for a 101-96 lead with 2:14 remaining. Maine never trailed after that.
Poor shooting in the opening quarter sent the Red Claws to an eight-point deficit.
Maine made just 36 percent of its shots in the first quarter, many of the misses coming off open looks.
And the Red Claws were shooting at the basket that had a mechanical malfunction during pregame warmups, leading to a 45-minute delay of the game's start.