Scoring is never an issue for the Maine Red Claws. They’re third in scoring in the G League, averaging 120.5 points per game.

Defense? Let’s just say Coach Darren Erman wants to see it get a little better. And that’s what he saw Tuesday afternoon when the Red Claws defeated the Delaware Blue Coats, 126-115, before 2,417 fans at the Portland Expo.

Maine forced 22 turnovers, stealing the ball 15 times, to take a potent Delaware offense out of its game. Those turnovers led to 33 points for the Red Claws, who were playing the Blue Coats for the fourth time in just 18 games.

“We just came out ready,” said point guard Tremont Waters, who scored 18 points and had 11 assists. “We know what they like to do and where they want to get to. We watched the film. The game plan was to not make anything easy for them. And we did that.”

Whenever the Blue Coats started to make a run, Erman would call a timeout, just to remind his players of what they wanted to do. “We came out with good pressure,” he said. “Our energy was good throughout. They’re going to make shots, they have shot makers … I felt like we played hard and did a good job.”

Maine came out fast, taking a nine-point lead several times in the first quarter. After Delaware made a run, taking a 33-31 lead late in the first, Sheldon Jeter hit a 3-pointer from the left corner and the Red Claws led 34-33 after one quarter.

Delaware scored the first two baskets of the second and was up 37-34 on a Haywood Highsmith fast-break dunk when Erman called a timeout.

After the timeout, Jaysean Paige hit a 3 to tie it, then stole the ball and passed ahead to Bryce Brown for a dunk that gave the Red Claws the lead for good.

Consecutive 3s by Kaiser Gates and Brown extended the lead to 45-37. Delaware would get no closer than four the rest of the way.

That’s not to say the Blue Coats didn’t make runs, but each time they tried to, the Red Claws would respond, either with a defensive stop or a big basket.

“I feel defensively we’re starting to click a little more,” said Bryce Brown, who led the Red Claws with 26 points. “We’ve definitely picked it up on that end. That’s kind of where, when it came down to getting a stop late in games, we would slip up on that a lot. But the past two or three games, we’ve been doing a much better job of controlling the leads.”

Offensively, Brown had plenty of help. Carsen Edwards, playing just his fifth game for Maine and first at the Expo, scored 23 points. Yante Maten added 16, and Tacko Fall contributed his seventh double-double of the season with 13 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots.

“I feel like we have a lot of scoring threats on the team, a lot of guys who can stretch the floor,” said Brown. “That’s what our team is about, being able to pick someone up because we have so many scorers. There’s a lot of big scorers.”

Delaware, second in the league in scoring, kept trying to come back. The Blue Coats pulled within five, 115-110, on an Xavier Munford putback with 2:36 remaining. But Edwards found Brown for a 3-pointer, and Brown followed with two foul shots for a 120-110 lead.

After a 3-pointer by Delaware’s Marial Shayok (21 points), the Red Claws defense struck. Gates blocked an inside shot, with Edwards getting the ball and finding Waters for a transition 3 that restored a 10-point lead with 1:11 remaining.

That the Red Claws held on is a tribute to their recent work on defense.

“I feel that we could have a better record, but the process is good,” said Erman. “We’re getting better. I think hopefully we can go on a little run here.

“Sometimes we’ve got to value the ball a little bit. But you can tell our defense is catching up a little bit with our offense.”


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