PORTLAND — Leading scorer and crowd-pleaser Chris Wright sat out Saturday night’s NBA D-League game against Erie with flu-like symptoms.

The Maine Red Claws looked anything but sick in his absence.

Instead of looking for one or two players to make up for the missing production, the Red Claws decided to have everyone do a little extra and came away with one of their most impressive wins of the season, 115-92, at the Portland Expo.

It just turned out the man who replaced Wright was the biggest beneficiary.

Damen Bell-Holter led six players who scored in double figures and the Red Claws never trailed while snapping their four-game losing streak.

Bell-Holter, who started in Wright’s place, led Maine with a season-high 24 points, five rebounds and five assists.

“We played really good team basketball tonight,” Bell-Holter said. “After two quarters, we were all looking at each other and saying we were playing really good team basketball. Nobody cares who’s scoring. We’re moving the ball, making extra passes, and it really showed up big tonight.”

Frank Gaines added 18 points and 10 rebounds for Maine (9-12), while Chris Babb hit of five of eight 3-point shots en route to 17 points.

Abdul Gaddy and Ty Walker chipped in with 14 and 11 points, respectively. Sherwin Brown added 13 points off the bench.

“We’re really pleased with the teamwork on the offensive end today. The ball movement was excellent, possibly the best ball movement we’ve had all year,” Maine coach Mike Taylor said.

“The guys knew they needed each other. They relied on each other out here. They made plays together,” Taylor added. “We were missing our key players and the rest of the players took that responsibility really well.”

Wright is averaging 21.3 points per game, good for seventh in the league. The Red Claws were also missing forward Romero Osby, who has been sidelined since leaving their Jan. 11 game against Bakersfield with a shoulder injury.

Bell-Holter, a 6-foot-9 rookie out of Oral Roberts, was averaging nine points per game, mostly off the bench, before Saturday night’s performance.

“He was excellent,” Taylor said. “Damen is learning a lot about pro basketball. He’s a physical player. He’s a talented player. The mental side of the game has been a challenge for him at times, and he’s picking things up, but slowly. Today, he got out there and just relaxed.”

“Everybody knows professional basketball is all about opportunity, and I just took advantage of my opportunity,” Bell-Holter said.

Justin Brownlee led Erie  (6-15) with 26 points. Former Red Claw and Boston Celtic Ricky Davis had nine points.

Maine led 29-25 after one period, then opened up a double-digit lead midway through the second on a Walker putback. Babb’s 3-pointer and Gaines’ jumper made it 46-32, then Babb connected with Walker on an alley-oop dunk that gave the Red Claws their biggest lead of the half.

Erie trimmed four points off the deficit, but Brown pumped it back up to 15 just before halftime with a drive and contorting reverse layup followed by a steal at midcourt and dunk that made it 60-45 at the break.

Half of Maine’s points in the half came in the paint, and it converted 10 offensive rebounds into 14 points.

The Red Claws quickly inflated their cushion into the 20s with seven of the first nine points  of the second half. Gaddy hit a trey, then took it to the hoop on back-to-back trips. Babb added a floater and Gaines a layup in transition to make it 72-51 a little less than four minutes in.

“We talked while preparing for the game that we needed to defend to win,” Taylor said. “The guys really bought into defending  every possession.”

Babb sank consecutive 3-pointers to make  it a 27-point game and Maine maintained a 26-point lead going into the  fourth. Maine led by as many as 30 in the final frame.

Maine heads back  out on the road for games against Canton and Iowa next Monday and Thursday before returning home to face Fort Wayne next Saturday.


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