NBA D-League: Red Claws light up Expo, but lose home-opener
PORTLAND, Dec 01, 2012 (Menafn - Sun Journal - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --The Maine Red Claws' home-opener featured a number of crowd-pleasing plays from high-flying forward Chris Wright and Boston Celtics first-round draft pick Fab Melo.
Even with Melo in, first-year Red Claws head coach Mike Taylor hopes his team learns to mellow out when it comes to crunch time.
The Los Angeles D-Fenders rallied from an eight-point deficit to defeat the Red Claws, 97-94, in Friday night's home-opener at the Portland Expo.
Micah Downs finished with 22 points to lead Maine, with Wright adding 19. Melo anchored Maine's strong defense with 11 rebounds, two blocked shots and a pair of charges drawn to go with eight points.
Darius Johnson-Odom, who led the D-Fenders with a game-high 24 points, hit a 3-pointer to pull LA within one with 43 seconds left. Gary Flowers followed by stripping Downs and going the other way for a layup to put the D-Fenders in front for good at 95-94 with 24 seconds left.
Xavier Silas' 3-point attempt to put Maine back in front rolled out with seven seconds remaining. Former Celtic Orien Greene hit a pair of free throws, forcing Maine to make a 3 to tie it, but Shelvin Mack's 3-pointer at the buzzer bounced off the front of the rim.
"We had the game in a position where we wanted it. We had a position to close them out and I think we had some poor decisions in how we managed those possessions," Taylor said. "We need to run some clock and we need to get better shots. We came up empty and we created run-up opportunities for LA."
"The biggest thing is taking care of the ball," said Mack, who finished with 16 points and game-high nine assists. "Me personally, I think I had five turnovers just trying to make the highlight play and getting excited for the crowd. But we've got to come down and make the smart play in order to be a great basketball team."
The Red Claws, who led by as many as 16 at one point, also hurt themselves with poor free throw shooting (17-for-27, 63 percent).
Aside from Celtics legend Dave Cowens, Melo received the most enthusiastic greeting from the 3,045 partisan fans during team introductions.Although he was rarely involved in the offense, he kept the cheers coming during his 12 minutes on the floor in the first half. His slam dunk putback helped Maine race out to a 16-6 lead.
The No. 22 pick in the 2012 draft added a pair of free throws and five rebounds as the Red Claws built a 27-12 lead after one quarter. LA chipped away with Melo resting on the bench, but he continued to make an impact on the defensive end when he returned, drawing a charge and blocking a shot.
"Everybody played good 'D,'" Melo said. "We're just getting our chemistry, and we're going to bounce back for the next game."
"I thought Fab was great out there," Taylor said. "He did a really good job protecting the rim, blocking shots. I thought Fab did an excellent job drawing some charges. The defense was there for us."
Two quick fouls forced Melo back to the bench with Maine clinging to a four-point lead late in the second quarter.Greene scored seven points in a row for the Defenders, who closed to within 47-45, at halftime.
Downs scored 10 points in the third quarter as the Red Claws took a 72-69 lead into the final period, when Wright and Melo electrified the crowd with big plays at both ends.
Wright drove the lane and threw down a power dunk for a 82-79 lead with 7:19 remaining, then Melo stuffed Jarrid Famous on a dunk attempt, leading to a Downs layup. Mack then hooked up with Melo on a pick-and-roll alley-oop that made it 88-81 and brought the crowd to its feet with 5:55 remaining.
"It was pretty fun to see the fans," Melo said. "I didn't expect we'd get a house like that. There were a lot of fans."
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