BISMARCK, N.D. – After playing Springfield at home on Sunday night, the Maine Red Claws rolled into Bismarck at about 6 a.m. on Monday.

It showed.

The Red Claws got into early foul trouble, committed 25 turnovers and never really got in sync in a 103-90 loss to the Dakota Wizards.

“We drove all night and we got in about 6 a.m. But you know what? We’ve done that before and played well,” Red Claws Coach Austin Ainge said. “I’m not putting it all on that.”

Despite the fatigue, the Red Claws (27-18) managed to stay close until the Wizards, who are also battling for home-court advantage in the first round of the D-League playoffs, closed it out.

Russell Robinson had a double-double for Maine, with a team-high 20 points and 10 assists. He helped the Red Claws grab the lead when their outside shooting heated up, finding the open shooters and contributing a couple of 3-pointers himself.

Maine scored the first 11 points of the second quarter, with Marcus Landry knocking down a pair of 3-pointers and Maurice Ager a third. That staked the Red Claws to a 28-22 lead.

Maine went 6 for 9 from beyond the arc in the first half and, at one point, led 39-28.

“They have a lot of shooters and they keep the floor spread and hit you from every angle,” Wizards guard Darren Cooper said. “They were getting a lot of open looks, so we just wanted to run them off that 3-point line and make them shoot the tougher shots.

The Red Claws got careless with the ball, though, and allowed the Wizards back into the game. Dakota forced four turnovers during a 12-0 spurt late in the first half and took a 46-44 advantage into the halftime break.

It didn’t hurt the Wizards’ cause that they got to the line — a lot. Dakota shot 27 free throws in the first half compared to just five for Maine. For the game, the Wizards went to the line 43 times compared to 17 for the Red Claws.

“We were a little sluggish out there,” Ainge said. “We certainly couldn’t get any calls, either.”

Red Claws center Paul Davis picked up three fouls early and eventually fouled out. Though he scored 14 points in limited minutes, Davis also committed eight turnovers.

Ainge was frustrated with how often his team coughed up the ball.

“(The Wizards) are pretty good defensively, but they’re not that good,” he said. “We gave them the ball way too many times — just silly, silly things.”

Still, Maine trailed just 86-82 with four minutes to play when Darren Cooper hit a critical 3-pointer, one of his three on the way to a season-high 18 points.

“He paid the rent for us tonight,” Wizards Coach Rory White said.

The Wizards, who were without leading scorer Romel Beck, pulled to within a half-game of the Red Claws in the overall standings. But Ainge was less concerned about earning home-court advantage than he was getting his team back on track as it continues its four-game trip.

“Home court is important, but playing well is, I think, more important,” he said. “We’ve just got to play better.”


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