Wednesday, March 12, 2014
By Paul D. Bowker
Special To The Press Herald
Maine’s win Thursday is its fourth in five games, and ends a long losing streak in road games.
WHO: Springfield Armour at Maine Red Claws
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Portland Expo
CANTON, Ohio — When Chris Wright of the Maine Red Claws went vertical to snag a defensive rebound with less than two minutes left in Thursday’s game against the Canton Charge, teammate Daniel Orton jumped off the bench. He punched at the air with his fists in a celebratory manner.
Red Claws Coach Mike Taylor, pacing the sidelines, slapped his hands together as he applauded the play.
That should tell you just how excited the Red Claws were to finally end a road losing streak that was closing in on two months. Maine’s 113-105 victory over the East Division leaders in the NBA D-League also seemed to deliver a message.
“I like where our team is at,” Taylor said. “I think earlier in the season with the injuries, it wasn’t as good a place. Now we’ve got guys we like, guys we trust. We’ve just got to keep working and keep getting better.”
The Red Claws (13-15) hadn’t won on the road since Dec. 14 in Springfield, Mass. Their ninth consecutive road loss came Tuesday night at Delaware.
“It’s always good to get a win on the road. A win on the road is huge,” said Orton, who scored his first double-double as a Red Claw with 18 points and 13 rebounds.
The Red Claws have now won four of their last five games. They return home Friday to face Springfield.
The Red Claws silenced more than 3,000 kids assembled for a promotional morning game with a three-point shooting barrage that established an 11-point lead in the opening quarter.
Frank Gaines, who led the Red Claws with 29 points, hit four of his first five shots and wound up with three 3-pointers. Tyler Brown, who was acquired just last week from Texas, came off the bench to score 20 points and hit a game-high four 3-pointers.
“He’s shown in practice the ability to get really hot and shoot the ball,” Taylor said. “In his first game with us in Maine, he also had a little bit of a glimpse of what he can do. Today he really showed a lot of his offensive ability. We’re really pleased with what he’s doing.”
Canton, led by Jorge Gutierrez’s 21 points, didn’t hit any 3-pointers.
Once the Charge began strongly defending Maine’s three-point shooting attack, Orton stepped up. His 13 rebounds and 11 defensive boards were game highs. He hit 7 of 10 shots and one of his three assists included a court-length pass to Wright for a fast-break layup in the third quarter.
“Everything seems like it’s coming together for me,” said Orton, a 6-foot-10 center from Kentucky.
“I’m starting to get a flow with this team, starting to get more chemistry with the guys, learning how the other guys are playing, playing off of me and everything.
“We’re starting to really figure everything out. That’s really helped me find my baskets.”
Orton was coming off a game at Delaware in which he had zero rebounds and six points. It led to a conversation between him and the head coach.
“Daniel had a great game,” Taylor said. “I think he really responded in a great way. I’m very, very happy to say I’m proud of him today.”