Fresh from the Jetport, Corey Walden strolled into Cross Insurance Arena for the first time Wednesday. He chatted for a bit, then grabbed a basketball and dribbled onto the hardwood court laid atop the hockey ice used by the Portland Pirates. He stopped at the foul line, took aim and let fly.


A good omen? The Red Claws certainly hope so.

Trailing 1-0 in their best-of-three D-League playoff series with Canton, the Red Claws will make their CIA debut Thursday night because the cozy Expo is occupied this weekend with the 47th annual Portland Home Show.

For the second straight year, the Red Claws dropped their opening playoff game on the road after winning the Atlantic Division title. Last year, Fort Wayne finished the sweep at the Expo.

The Red Claws will return to their old digs for next week’s conference finals only if they can beat Canton on Thursday and Friday nights at the unfamiliar civic center, which last hosted pro basketball in October 2014 when the Celtics played an exhibition against Toronto before a crowd of 5,909.


Maine is 0-5 in postseason play and 1-4 against the Charge this season, including Tuesday night’s 115-114 playoff loss. The Claws led for most of the game and had a chance to win at the buzzer when Walden drove left and put up a shot that caught the backboard and rim before rolling out.

“Corey got a decent look,” Coach Scott Morrison said. “If there’s a piece of dust on the rim, maybe it would have fallen in.”

Walden logged a team-high 42 minutes Tuesday night, and finished with 16 points, three assists and four turnovers. Coty Clarke led the Claws with 25 points and 16 rebounds. He also had three assists and three turnovers.

As a team, Maine turned the ball over 18 times, with Celtics assignee James Young losing the handle four times and Marcus Thornton three.

“We definitely have to take care of the ball better,” Morrison said. “Eighteen turnovers is too many. We also need to do a better job on the defensive glass.”

Canton grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, six above the team average. The Claws forced 11 turnovers, four below Canton’s average.


The Claws led by as many as 15 early in the second half at 69-54 and never trailed until the final four minutes. They took a lead of 112-111 on a Walden floater with 36 seconds left and again of 114-113 on a Clarke fadeaway jumper with 10 seconds left.

“Their guys hit some tough shots and we hit some tough shots,” Walden said. “We know we played well enough, we played hard enough to win the game. We just need that extra boost to get over the hump.”

If the Claws found themselves a bit fatigued at the end, their westward travel might have had something to do with it. They spent six hours Monday at Logan Airport awaiting a flight that didn’t leave until early Tuesday morning. Eventually they left the airport and went to the Celtics’ practice facility in Waltham, Massachusetts for a brief workout and spent the night nearby before catching a 5 a.m. day-of-game flight that routed them through Charlotte, North Carolina.

“I’m Canadian so my geography is not great,” Morrison said, “but that didn’t seem like the most direct route.”

On the bright side, the Claws put forth a balanced offense Tuesday night, with seven players scoring in double figures. By contrast, Canton relied on the quartet of John Holland (30), Quinn Cook (26), Nick Minnerath (25) and Michael Stockton (21) for 89 percent of its scoring.

“They’re a tough team to defend,” Morrison said. “I thought we did a decent job in the half-court but our turnovers led to easy baskets for them. That and our rebounding. If we can clean those two things up, we’ll have a chance to win.”


The Celtics also assigned rookie forward Jordan Mickey to the Red Claws on Tuesday, but both he and Young were back at TD Garden on Wednesday night as Boston hosted New Orleans, the team that signed Tim Frazier, the reigning D-League MVP whose return to Maine sparked a 7-0 run from late February to mid-March.

“I’m cheering for him to get a triple double,” Morrison said, “and lose.”

Walden downplayed the seeming neutrality of CIA, which will be as familiar to Canton players as it is to the Claws.

“We’ve all played in big arenas, small arenas, all sorts of gyms,” he said. “We’ll have a warm-up before the game and guys will get acclimated, and we’ll be ready to go.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.