PORTLAND - It was billed as a battle between two of the NBA Development League's elite, with the East Division and Central Division leaders squaring off in Portland. The Maine Red Claws (17-12) started off hot, but injuries to key players slowed their efforts in the second half as the Rio Grande Valley Vipers (16-9) ran away with the second half, winning at the Portland Expo Building Saturday night, 113-95. With the loss, the Red Claws drop to second in the East, just 1.0 games behind Canton.
The two teams began the game trading baskets, with neither building a lead of more than four points throughout the first quarter. Maine's Micah Downs and Chris Wright started off hot, but Rio Grande Valley's Terrel Harris and Terrence Jones, who is on assignment from the Houston Rockets, were equally up to the task as the Vipers took a 28-26 point lead after one. The second quarter began with a 14-4 Maine run led by Downs' six points to take a six-point lead midway through the quarter. The teams traded runs, with Jones finding ways to keep the Vipers in it. A Downs buzzer beater sent the Red Claws into the locker room with a 59-52 lead.
That lead would not last long, as Rio Grande Valley scored the first seven points of the second half, part of a 22-5 run that would put the game out of reach. Xavier Silas and Andre Barrett traded hoops with Rio Grande's Wesley Witherspoon to keep the game close, heading into the final quarter trailing 83-72. The fourth began the same way as the third, with Jones keying a 7-0 run to push the game out of reach. Omar Reed and Hank Thorns would get hot in the quarter, but the iron was unkind to Maine in the second half, as they shot just 26 percent with several shots rattling in and out.
Rio Grande Valley's Jones led all scorers with 27 points while grabbing seven rebounds. The Vipers also got significant contributions from Vernon Macklin (20), Glen Rice Jr. (14 points, eight rebounds), Touré Murry (13), Andrew Goudelock (12 points, eight rebounds, eight assists) and Witherspoon (10).
Maine was hampered by in-game injuries to Downs and Barrett and were also without the services of stalwart DaJuan Summers, who is sidelined indefinitely with a hamstring injury. Led by Reed's strong performance off the bench (21 points, 13 rebounds), the Red Claws received solid efforts from Downs (20), Wright (18 points, nine rebounds), Silas (16 points, seven assists, six rebounds) and newcomer Garrett Stutz, making his Red Claws debut, with 11 points and six rebounds. Barrett handed out six assists after seeing limited action (26:13) due to a tweaked hamstring. Downs (29:27) played a strong game before being sidelined by a sprained ankle and will be evaluated further after the game.
The Red Claws will be on the road next Thursday in Springfield before returning to the Expo Building on Friday night when they take on the Bakersfield Jam, the top team in the NBA Development League, at 7 PM.