Jeff Roberson of Maine lays up a shot ahead of Bryce Alford of Oklahoma City during the second quarter Thursday. (Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald)
PORTLAND — There was a homecoming of sorts at the Portland Expo on Thursday night.
Two former Red Claws and a New England native in his fifth year as head coach of the Oklahoma City Blue enjoyed a 108-96 NBA G League basketball victory over Maine before a crowd of 1,259.
The Blue improved to 10-2 while the Red Claws, whose only lead came after an alley-oop dunk by Dallas Lauderdale from P.J. Dozier to make it 2-1, fell to 4-9.
Chris Wright played 84 games in a Red Claws uniform over three seasons starting in 2011 and remains the franchise leader in several statistical categories, including scoring. Now 30 and a veteran of two NBA stints as well as seasons abroad in Poland and Israel, Wright came off the bench to score 11 points for OKC.
“Most definitely this was special,” Wright said, “because this was where I got my (professional) start. The people here remember your time on the court.”
Vitto Brown led Maine with 20 points, including four 3-pointers. P.J. Dozier, the Celtics two-way player who filled the same role for Oklahoma City last season, had 18 points and drained 3-of-10 from deep.
As a team, the Red Claws shot 20.9 percent from behind the arc (9-of-43) and were just 2 of 21 in the first half. Meanwhile, OKC sank 12-of-25 3-point attempts, a 48 percent success rate.
The Blue started pulling away midway through the first quarter, led by 10 at the first break, 14 at halftime and 26 entering the fourth quarter. A late Red Claws flurry made the score closer, but the margin never dropped below 11.
“You’ve got to appreciate the resiliency we had and the will to fight no matter the odds,” Brown said. “At the same time, you have to put away the fact that we shot nine-for-whatever (on 3-pointers) and shoot better the next game. And play better defense, too.”
Bryce Alford, son of Indiana legend Steve Alford, led the Blue with 22 points, and Abdul Gaddy, who played 46 games for the Red Claws in his rookie year (2013-14) as a pro, added 17.
Blue head coach Mark Daigneault, a native of Leominster, Massachusetts, is the league’s Coach of the Month for November. A busload of two dozen family and friends made the trip north and sat behind the visiting bench.
“It was the first time a lot of them had seen me coach a game, so it was neat,” said Daigneault, a student manager at UConn who later worked as an assistant at Holy Cross and Florida.
The Red Claws travel to Wisconsin for a Saturday night game and return to the Expo next Friday for a second game against the Herd.
NOTES: Celtics rookie Robert Williams attended Thursday morning’s shoot-around in Portland but left town to attend to a personal matter. “It’s excused from both organizations,” Red Claws coach Brandon Bailey said. “He’s not in trouble.” … Guard Marcus Georges-Hunt, who suffered a knee injury in late November at Texas, also left Maine and is unlikely to return this season after an MRI revealed a torn meniscus.
Nick King of Maine is fouled by Justin Leon of Oklahoma as he looks to score in the second quarter Thursday. (Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald)Nick King of Maine looks to finish after getting fouled by Justin Leon of Oklahoma as he looks to score in the second quarter Thursday. (Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald)P.J. Dozier of Maine looks to capitalize after Dez Wells of Oklahoma slipped in the first quarter Thursday. (Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald)Justin Bibbs of Maine drives to the basket ahead of Dez Wells of Oklahoma on Thursday. (Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald)