PORTLAND – Antoine Walker brought his comeback story to Maine on Thursday night.

But the Red Claws held off the Idaho Stampede 105-99, shutting down the former NBA star in the final minute at the Portland Expo.

Walker flashed his old game at times and scored 25 points, but bounced a last-minute 3-pointer off the rim that would have tied the game at 100. He later turned the ball over with 22.5 seconds left with the score 103-99.

“It’s still the small things,” said Walker, whose performance had fans cheering for both teams at times. “It hurts to have that turnover at the end of the game. You want to be sharp. I’m not as sharp as I want to be. But I’m having a lot of fun playing. Right now I’m focusing on myself and trying to get better.”

The win was a step in the right direction for Maine, which snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 4-6.

The Red Claws moved the ball well and six players scored in double digits. DeShawn Sims put up a team-high 24 points and Tiny Gallon scored 16 while contending with Walker under the basket.

“He’s a veteran and against a young guy like me is going to get the best of the post,” said Gallon.

“He told me after the game, ‘Don’t hang your head. Bring your game.’ “

Maine led by more than 10 points for most of the game until a 13-0 run by Idaho to start the fourth quarter made it 84-84.

But the Red Claws pushed through.

“Getting to play with a pro who’s really good gets you amped up,” said Sims. “But we had been stressing ball movement, getting everyone involved. We just kept at it.”

Walker will return to the Expo on Sunday for a 5 p.m. game.

“He beat us in a variety of ways. Our game plan was to bother him, change up the defense, but it’s easier said than done,” said Red Claws Coach Austin Ainge.

“He’s clever. He’s good. He tricked our guys three or four times.”

Stampede Coach Randy Livingston, who was an assistant for Maine last year, said he believes Walker will make it if he keeps battling the young hungry players found around the D-League.

Walker, at 34, is trying to return to the NBA. He last played in 2008.

“I used the D-League to get to the NBA. He pushes himself, he’ll get rewarded,” said Livingston.

“Basketball is simple. For him, I think he has some game left. You have to be willing to tussle with these young guys. The D-League is for the love of the game.”

Sherron Collins, assigned last week by the Charlotte Bobcats, made his Expo debut late in the first quarter, setting up Gallon with a nifty behind-the-back pass.

Maine went on a 10-2 run to start the second period.

By halftime it was Maine 61, Stampede 50, thanks to a balanced offense.

After three periods Maine held an 11-point lead: 82-71.

Ainge was happy with the performances of several players: “DeShawn was huge all night. Eugene Spates came off the bench to put up 14 points in 12 minutes. And I thought Mario (West) had a great night. He’s still battling a hamstring. But tonight he let the game come to him. He was our glue guy.”

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:

[email protected]


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