The Maine Red Claws wrapped up their home season Thursday night, and for the first time in four seasons the end truly means the end.

Following three Atlantic Division titles, the Red Claws failed to make the G League playoffs despite a format that expanded from eight to 12 teams.

Playing a Long Island team locked in a fight for one of the final Eastern Conference playoff berths, the Claws took a double-digit lead early, fell behind, rallied to make it close at the end, but eventually lost 112-103 before a crowd of 2,179 at the Portland Expo.

The loss is Maine’s ninth in a row and 17th in 18 games.

Daniel Dixon led the Claws (17-32) with 29 points. Trey Davis added 28 and Vitto Brown 18.

Isaiah Whitehead, on assignment from Brooklyn, poured in 33 for the Nets (27-22).

The Red Claws’ final game is Saturday in Ontario against Raptors 905, a team that clinched a postseason berth in mid-March.

Maine’s season started with hope and promise and a roster that included two players – guards Jabari Bird and Kadeem Allen – with contracts that allowed them to spend up to 45 days with the parent Celtics as they honed their skills with the Red Claws.

Bird, however, hasn’t played for Maine since early January because of a back injury. He and Allen actually played together for the Claws only 16 times in the 50-game season. Maine went 10-6 with its dynamic duo.

The Claws also started with four players who spent time in Celtics training camp: Dixon, Daniel Ochefu, L.J. Peak and Andrew White.

Only Dixon suited up in home whites Thursday night. Peak is injured. Ochefu was traded early in the season and the Atlanta Hawks signed White to a two-way contract in January.

Help seemed to arrive at the end of December, when a trade brought Anthony Bennett, a former NBA overall No. 1 draft pick, to Maine. Sure enough, a New Year’s Eve victory in Bennett’s debut lifted the Claws to 12-10.

That turned out to be the season’s high-water mark.

The Claws opened January with three straight losses. They finished the month 3-7. February was worse: 1-7. They are winless in March (0-8).

“Most of those games have been decided by a couple possessions, so it’s not like we’re getting blown out of the water,” Bennett said. “It’s definitely been tough to lose those games, but at the same time, we come back the next day, in practice and film, looking to get better.”

A casual observer might point a finger at Bennett, who had to be helped off the court in obvious pain Thursday night with an ankle injury after landing on someone else’s foot while grabbing an offensive rebound.

When Bennett plays at least 10 minutes, the Claws are 2-18 and have lost 14 in a row.

Coach Brandon Bailey, in his first year following Scott Morrison’s successful three-year reign, said any such blame would be misplaced.

“Not at all,” Bailey said. “AB has been great in the locker room. He’s been a good leader for us. Our win-loss has nothing to do with him. There’s a lot that plays into why we’re losing games right now, but he is certainly not the reason why, at all.”

Despite their last-place division finish, the Claws always played tough at home, and won more often (14) than not (10). Fans noticed. The average crowd this season (2,036) was only slightly down from last year (2,110) despite a league-mandated loss of 300 courtside seats for safety purposes after an opposing player sustained a concussion in November.

The Claws also left a memorable impression on Sunday, Fan Appreciation Day, when Davis – a childhood friend of Marcus Smart who caught the attention of Celtics brass during preseason workouts – set a franchise record with 57 points.

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH