PORTLAND — The Maine Red Claws bounced back after their nearly game-long lead disappeared and defeated the Salt Lake City Stars 104-95 at the Portland Expo Building on Sunday.

“Luckily, we were able to regroup and play a little bit more solid, and match their effort for enough of the game,” Red Claws coach Scott Morrison said.

The victory moves Maine’s (28-17) magic number to clinch the NBA Development League Atlantic Division to two games with five regular season games remaining.

The Stars (14-30), meanwhile, are stuck in the cellar of the Pacific Division.

For the first half, the disparity between the teams’ success this season seemed evident. The Red Claws led by eight points (25-17) after one quarter and nine points (49-40) at halftime.

All they needed was one final knockout punch to put the game away. Or so it seemed.


“To be honest, I think the first half was a bit of fool’s gold,” Morrison said. “They missed nine free throws; missed, I think, two open layups and a dunk.

“And we talked about that at halftime. I don’t think we were playing as well as the nine-point lead would suggest against this team. I think we got lucky.”

The Stars made only 8-of-17 at the free-throw line in the first half, and 14-of-43 from the field (5-of-20 in the opening quarter.

“The third quarter, their shots started falling, and we didn’t really clean up our act until (they took the lead,” Morrison said.

Salt Lake cut four points off Maine’s lead in the third quarter, making the score 72-67.

Marcus Paige opened the fourth with a 3-pointer for the Stars to make it 72-70. Abdel Nader hit a pair of free throws and then set up Asauhn Dixon-Tatum for an alley-up to push the Red Claws’ lead back to 76-70.


But then Salt Lake went on a fast-break fueled 8-0 run, capped by Brandon Triche’s layup after a turnover, capped by to go up 78-76 with 8:13 left in the game. It was the Stars’ first lead since the opening minutes.

“We saw both our Achilles heels tonight — defensive rebounding and transition defense,” Morrison said.

The Red Claws actually outrebounded the Stars overall (58-43) and on the offensive glass (10-8), but Morrison pointed out that Salt Lake’s Chane Behanan had six of those offensive boards (“It seemed like he had about 40,” Morrison said).

Salt Lake scored 22 fast-break points, while Maine managed only four in the game.

The Red Claws responded to losing their lead. Jordan Mickey, assigned to Maine by the Boston Celtics last week, tied the game with a reverse layup, and Marcus Georges-Hunt hit a 3 to take back the lead, 81-78.

“We just tried to stick to what we were doing,” Nader said. “They went on a nice little run, they hit some easy corner 3s in transition, and after that we kind of just settled in and took great shots, and defended and rebounded.”


Behanan hit a free throw, but Maine added to its advantage. Jalen Jones grabbed a long rebound and set up Georges-Hunt for layup — two of only four fast-break points for the Red Claws — and then Jones scored a bucket of his own to make it 85-79.

After a jumper by Salt Lake’s Jermaine Taylor (a former Red Claws player), Nader hit a jumper and then a triple to push the lead to 90-81 with 4:38 left.

That trey was the first of four straight 3-pointers by the Red Claws. Cameron Ayers hit one, and then Jalen Jones hit a couple, one that beat the shot-clock buzzer and another while he was falling back with a defender right up in his face.

“I practice those shots,” Jones said. “Whenever I get a chance, I’ve been working hard on my shot, you know, my whole career. They happen to fall at the end, and I was very happy about that.”

After the 3-point barrage, with 2:32 to play the Red Claws’ lead was 99-86, their largest cushion of the game, and the Stars’ threat was over.

Nader led all scorers with 25 points. He also had 10 rebounds and six assists.


“He had a good all-around game,” Morrison said. “We’ve got to get him going back the way he was in January and February, which he’s close to right now, to finish the season.”

Mickey finished with 21 points and six blocks, Jones had 14 points and 17 boards, and Georges-Hunt contributed 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

Taylor topped Salt Lake with 17 points, and O’Brien added 14.

The Red Claws have two games left on a six-game homestand. They next host the Canton Charge (28-18) on Thursday, followed by the Reno Bighorns (16-27) next Sunday.

Maine Red Claws guard Josh Hagins, left, looks to go to the hoop against a Salt Lake City defender at the Portland Expo on Sunday.

Maine Red Claws forward Abdel Nader goes up for a shot against Salt Lake City at the Portland Expo on Sunday. The Red Claws won, 104-95.

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