The Maine Red Claws returned to the Portland Expo for the first time in nearly a month Thursday night, and Marcus Georges-Hunt, who had been away even longer because of an NBA call-up to the Miami Heat, put on a show.

There was a spinning drive with an around-the-back assist, a baseline dash with a nifty head fake setting up a reverse layup to beat the shot clock and several no-look assists off the dribble.

When the Claws fell behind early in the third quarter, Georges-Hunt’s three-point play punctuated by a playful 1-2 boxing combination against the green padding of the basket stanchion helped bring an Expo crowd of 2,250 back to life.

The result was a 110-94 victory over the Westchester Knicks.

Georges-Hunt finished with 27 points and nine assists, with only one turnover.

He was one of the three Claws with at least three 3-pointers on a night the team made half (16 of 32) their shots from downtown.

“It made me more hungry for success,” Georges-Hunt said of his 10-day stint last month, which didn’t result in any NBA minutes but gave him a new sense of confidence.

Maine Red Claws guard Marcus Georges-Hunt looks for an open teammate Thursday against the Westchester Knicks at the Portland Expo. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

“I took a lot of things I learned in Miami and incorporated them into how I play up here. Different edge. Different drive. I’m continually working.”

Thursday’s game marked the first in Portland for the Red Claws (25-17) since Feb. 12. They went 2-4 on their trip, necessitated by high school basketball playoffs at the Expo.

Along the way, the Red Claws bid adieu to leading scorer Ryan Kelly, signed for the rest of the season by the Atlanta Hawks. Earlier Thursday, they learned that All-Star forward Abdel Nader would miss the game because of a bruised knee.

Even so, the Claws had one of their better offensive showings in the first half, which ended at 59-59 and left Coach Scott Morrison less than pleased.

“We were not giving our best effort defensively,” he said. “Guys were doing what we want them to do (offensively) and having success, but we were giving it right back to them by being soft defensively, or lazy or distracted, whatever word you want to use. They were scoring too easily in that first half.”

Things didn’t change much in the third quarter. At least, not at first.

Maine Red Claws guard Marcus Georges-Hunt goes for a layup. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

Westchester opened with a 10-2 run and seemed poised to take control. In stepped rookie guard Demetrius Jackson, on assignment from the Boston Celtics, who tipped a simple entry pass, chased it to the sideline and smartly signaled for time while falling out of bounds.

That set up the three-point play with the pugilistic punctuation by Georges-Hunt, and the Claws closed the quarter on an 18-4 run to take the lead for good.

Jackson finished with nine assists and 13 points. Jalen Jones sank six 3-pointers among his 25 points and 10 rebounds. Arthur Edwards (14 points) and Coron Williams (12) combined for 5-of-7 shooting beyond the arc.

“The guys played with more fire and urgency, rebounded better and we got some good shots instead of turning it over,” Morrison said.

“They hit some tough shots, too, but we tried to make sure that more of their shots were difficult and they had to earn them as opposed to the first half, where they kind of just drove into the paint and scored.”

Maine opened the fourth quarter with a 13-4 run to put the game out of reach. The Knicks (16-24) have lost 10 of 13 games. They remain in town and play again Sunday.

Maine’s victory, coupled with a Delaware loss, extended the Claws’ lead in the Atlantic Division to 21/2 games with eight to play.

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or:

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