January 1, 2013

Travel-weary Claws put on a show at Expo

With just eight players and very little sleep, Maine stays atop its division in front of a sold-out house.

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - The list of excuses would have been impressive.

click image to enlarge

Maine’s DaJuan Summers elevates on a dunk for two of his 23 points Monday afternoon at the Expo during the Red Claws’ 105-84 win over the Springfield Armor.

Photos by Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Chris Ayer of the Red Claws shoots over Carleton Scott of the Springfield Armor in the first quarter of their game Monday at the Expo.

Additional Photos Below


FRIDAY: Erie BayHawks at Red Claws, 7 p.m.

SATURDAY: Canton Charge at Red Claws, 7 p.m.

But the Maine Red Claws didn't use any of them, beating the Springfield Armor 105-84 Monday afternoon, before a sold-out Portland Expo crowd of 3,045.

The Red Claws were playing their third game in four days, their fourth in less than a week.

They were without four standouts because of injuries and NBA call-ups.

And, to cap it off, the Red Claws endured a brutal day of travel Sunday from South Dakota, featuring broken down buses and vans and delayed flights. They arrived in Portland at 3 a.m., in time for a few hours of sleep before their 1 p.m. tip-off.

"You just have to make yourself be ready," forward Micah Downs said. "You don't have much of a choice."

Downs and DaJuan Summers paced Maine with 23 points apiece. Summers also recorded 15 rebounds, while Downs added seven steals.

Champ Oguchi (16 points), Scott VanderMeer (14) and Xavier Silas (11) were also in double figures.

The Red Claws (10-5) continue to lead the NBA D-League East Division, while Springfield dropped to 4-8.

"I can't put into words what our team has been through in the last few hours with this travel schedule," Maine Coach Mike Taylor said. "I'm so proud of them. They didn't let tired stop them.

"It's a situation where we battled through it. You have to find a way to generate that energy. These guys did it."

And they did it with only eight players. Besides losing point guard Shelvin Mack to the Washington Wizards and Kris Joseph to a temporary call-up to the Boston Celtics, both power forward Chris Wright and center Fab Melo were out because of concussions. Both are day-to-day.

Wright has missed four games, and the 6-foot-8 Summers has stepped in, scoring 88 points in those four games.

"On any team, guys get hurt and other guys have to step up," said Summers, who has played for both the Detroit Pistons and New Orleans Hornets in his four-year pro career.

VanderMeer, a 7-foot center, started Monday and played 25 minutes. He grabbed seven rebounds along with his 14 points, some of which came on nifty hook shots. Until Monday, VanderMeer had seen limited playing time behind Maine's other post players.

"The D-League is all about opportunity," VanderMeer said. "You go into it with a positive mindset and wait your turn. With Fab being down, I have to be able to step in."

Silas continues to handle point-guard duties smoothly. He had four assists. Oguchi dished out five. Newly signed back-up point guard Hank Thorns added three assists with six points.

Maine jumped to a 20-point lead in the second quarter. Springfield rallied in spurts but never cut the deficit under 14.

"We kept fighting but we'd run into a wall. And they'd throw another big flurry at us," said Springfield forward Carleton Scott, who led the Armor with 15 points and nine rebounds.

Taylor was thrilled with the flurries on offense, as well as what happened at the other end.

"I'm really pleased with the team today. I think we played some of the best defense we've played all season," he said. "These guys know what they're doing out there and it's great to see them have success."


NOTES: Downs' seven steals was two short of the team record of nine set by Avery Bradley. ... The Red Claws had extra motivation to play well, with Boston Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge in attendance along with his son Austin, the Celtics' director of player personnel. ... This was the first of nine meetings between the two New England rivals. They play each other five times in January.

Staff writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:


Twitter: KevinThomasPPH


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Additional Photos

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DaJuan Summers, who has scored 88 points in his last four games, drives to the hoop in Monday’s 105-84 win.


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