AUGUSTA – The grind of twice-daily practices will soon ease. The regular season is just days away, meaning training camp is coming to a close.

So, too, is the window for members of the made-over Maine Red Claws to impress the coaching staff and secure a roster spot.

The Maine Red Claws, preparing for their second NBA D-League season, played their first and only exhibition game Monday night, against the Springfield Armor at the Augusta Civic Center.

The outcome — the Claws defeated the Armor 102-88 before 3,018 fans — mattered little to players and coaches.

It was the process from opening tip to final buzzer that intrigued the Claws the most.

“There’s a little bit of pressure,” said 6-foot-11 Red Claws center Magnum Rolle. “You want to rise to the occasion. We’re all competing for roster spots and it’s been a real intense competition. It’s starting to be for real now. We have to elevate our games. Everybody wants to make it a difficult decision for the coaches.”

Paul Harris scored a team-high 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Red Claws. Rolle and Chamberlain Oguchi each scored 16 points for Maine, which led by as many as 21.

Lamonte Ulmer, who played at Rhode Island and is one of several guards trying to make the final roster, also had 10 rebounds off the bench.

“It’s going to be hard to let any of these guys go,” Ainge said. “They all deserve to be here.”

JamesOn Curry scored a game-high 21 points to lead the Armor.

The final roster will be named later this week before the Red Claws — a Boston Celtics and Charlotte Bobcats affiliate — open the regular season Friday against Austin.

Fifteen players were invited to camp, which opened Nov. 9, and only 10 will earn spots on the opening day roster.

“The emphasis is on the execution of what we want to do more than winning,” Red Claws Coach Austin Ainge said. “We still have decisions to make. This game is all part of it. We wish we had three, four, five of these.”

Players have about 10 days to make an impression in camp, and with just the one exhibition game on the schedule, Monday was certainly an important night.

“We’re getting into the flow of basketball,” said Harris, who played at Syracuse.

Added Ulmer: “Every day is a tryout.”

The Red Claws, who finished 27-23 in their inaugural season, focused on young, high-energy players during the D-League draft. The fresh-faced roster played how Ainge figured it would Monday: Impressive at times, mistake-prone at others.

Both coaches — Ainge and former Celtic Dee Brown of Springfield — went to their respective benches early and often.

Maine led by as many as 19 in the first half, but couldn’t put the Armor away. Springfield closed the first half on an 18-3 run to pull within 44-40 at the half.

“Our energy level went down,” Harris said. “Basketball is a game of runs and they made one.”

The Red Claws re-gained a double-digit lead in the third and never looked back.


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