With Tacko Fall still unavailable because of a bone bruise, the Red Claws borrowed another 7-footer from the parent Boston Celtics.

Vincent Poirier’s first visit to Maine proved memorable, but his presence wasn’t enough to hold off the surging Wisconsin Herd Thursday night. Wisconsin finished off a 123-118 G League victory by holding Maine scoreless over the final two minutes before a crowd of 1,950 at the Portland Expo.

It marked the first time in five home games this season that attendance was anything but a sellout.

“We were obviously geared up to play Maine, they’re a great team,” said Wisconsin Coach Chase Buford, whose team has won 10 straight after an opening-night loss. “That was a fun basketball game to watch and be a part of.”

With Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge among a contingent of Boston front office folks watching from courtside, the Claws stumbled out of the gate, missing their first eight shots and falling into a 17-0 hole.

A second-quarter surge led by Trey Davis helped the Claws head to intermission with a 65-63 lead. Davis finished with a game-high 26 points in 19 minutes. He drained 5 of 8 shots from beyond the arc.

Poirier came off the bench to score 14 points and grab nine rebounds. He also blocked three shots, one of them by chasing down a Wisconsin fast break and then dunking at the opposite end after one of 10 assists dished out by Red Claws point guard Tremont Waters.

“I mean, I lost the ball first,” said Poirier, pointing out that the whole crowd-pleasing sequence started with his turnover. “I don’t really want to make a turnover, so I have to make something. Tremont gave me the ball, so it was an easy dunk.”

That dunk, midway through the fourth quarter, put the Claws ahead 108-103. Wisconsin responded with three consecutive 3-pointers from three players to take a 112-108 lead.

From there, it was nip and tuck down the stretch, with Waters setting up Jaysean Paige for a 3-pointer that gave Maine a 118-117 advantage with two minutes left. The Claws didn’t score again. Justin Bibbs missed from deep. Kaiser Gates missed from inside. Waters forced up a deep 3.

The Herd sandwiched four free throws around a Jaylen Adams drive and that was that. Adams finished with 22 points and Frank Mason 25. The victory assured Wisconsin (10-1)  of a spot among the four teams (with the best records through 12 games) that will qualify for the G League Showcase’s $100,000 prize, which goes to the winner of the championship bracket.

The Claws (7-3) still have a chance at a berth, but now they need help.

“We just came out flat,” Maine Coach Darren Erman said of the team’s early struggle. “We didn’t play hard enough defensively. They got shots that they wanted. Once we turned up the pressure and fought back, it was a great game.”

Yante Maten (13 points, 15 rebounds) finished with a double-double and Bibbs added 16 points but the Claws were outscored by 20 (62-42) in the paint and by 11 (17-6) on fast-break points. They return to  the Expo Saturday night against Delaware and Fall, the 7-foot-5 rookie center, is unlikely to be back.

Poirier, a native of France who played for two years in Spain before signing with the Celtics as a free agent over the summer, said he plans to be back this weekend.

“I know right now I cannot go with the Celtics so I have to show them I can play,” Poirier said. “And Tacko is injured, so it’s a good opportunity for me to come and play a little bit.”

 

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