This time the Maine Red Claws dug a big hole for their opponents rather than themselves.

Chris Babb returned from a five-game absence and Omari Johnson scored 30 points to lead Maine to a 121-108 D-League win over the Westchester Knicks on Saturday night.

A crowd of 2,521 at the Portland Expo saw the Claws end a two-game losing streak after scoring the first nine points.

“The guys don’t have to be geniuses to realize we came out flat the past two games,” said Maine Coach Scott Morrison. “It was important to fix that.”

Not only did Babb (20 points) come back from a knee injury but point guard Andre Stringer returned after missing seven games with an ankle injury. The Claws (19-10) went 2-7 in that stretch.

“They’re obviously great shooters and they bring more stability to our team,” said Johnson. “We’ve been with them since Day 1. So when they come back, there’s more of a team feeling. We have people we can trust with the ball, people who know the plays in and out.”

Johnson (seven), Babb (six) and Stringer (two) accounted for 15 of Maine’s franchise-tying 22 3-pointers. Johnson also grabbed 15 rebounds.

In Thursday’s 101-96 loss to Iowa – the second straight game in which the Claws fell behind by more than 20 in the first half – Johnson had only seven points.

“He took good shots tonight,” Morrison said of Johnson. “He tried to get in the paint when he didn’t have the 3. Whereas the other night I thought he settled for some tougher pull-ups. … Everyone has bad games. We’ve got to get his bad games more efficient and enjoy the good games he has so often as well.”

Included in Johnson’s total was a catch-and-dunk offensive rebound off a Jason Calliste miss and a clinching 3-pointer with a little over a minute remaining after Westchester, for the first time since the first quarter, cut the deficit to single digits.

“You can’t change the past,” Johnson said of Thursday’s performance. “I just had to come out with a new mentality and try to do something different.”

Christian Watford added 16 points and Andre Dawkins – on assignment from the Celtics in his second 10-day contract – added 13. Ralph Sampson chipped in with seven points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots.

“Ralph’s been playing real well and rebounding as well as he has all year,” Morrison said. “I was happy with Sherwood (Brown) tonight, too. We’ve been working on attacking more off the dribble. Early in the year he was probably settling for 3s and we could use another guy who can attack and kick, so hopefully he keeps it up.”

The Red Claws led by as many as 21 in the first quarter, 25 in the second and 27 in the fourth. Thanasis Antetokounmpo scored 30 points for the Knicks, who lost for the eighth time in nine games. Darnell Jackson and Walker Russell each scored 22.

NOTES: The Red Claws wore purple uniforms in honor of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence. … Guard Luke Loucks, with Maine to start the season, rejoined the team after a stint with Erie and made both his 3-point attempts to go with three assists and no turnovers.

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or:

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