PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine Red Claws, presented by Unum, survived a late-game scare from the Grand Rapids Drive to hold on and secure win number five on the season, 99-96.
Boston Celtics two-Way player Jabari Bird led all scorers alongside teammate LJ Peak who came off the bench in the win. Bird finished with 23 points on 8-16 shooting and grabbed 4 rebounds. Peak also scored 23 points on 7-16 shooting while grabbing 6 rebounds. Trey Davis who also came off the bench for Maine scored 21 points on 8-13 shooting.
Grand Rapids (4-3) was led by Derek Willis who scored 18 points on 7-16 from the floor and grabbed 10 rebounds. Luis Montero finished with 16 points of his own on 4-11 shooting.
The Red Claws (4-1) started the game with a made pair of tough layups from Kadeem Allen and Andrew White that gave them the early 4-0 advantage over the Grand Rapids Drive. A quarter of the way through the 1st , the score was knotted at 6-6 while both teams played tough defense and struggled on the offensive end. After falling behind the Drive 12-8, Allen nailed a three from the top of the key to bring the Grand Rapids lead back to 1 point, 12-11. Late in the quarter Bird drained a three off a dish from Trey Davis that tied the score back up at 17-17. Maine closed the quarter out with a 9-5 run which gave the Red Claws the 26-22 lead over Grand Rapids.
In the 2nd quarter Speedy Smith started the scoring for the Drive with a layup and the free throw to cut the Maine lead back to 26-25. Grand Rapids continued to pour it on early in the quarter after Landry Nnoko completed a layup and the free throw to give the Drive a 33-26 edge over Maine. Halfway through the 2nd quarter Grand Rapids led Maine 37-31 after the Red Claws closed the gap from 10 points down. Peak was hot in the quarter, nailing a deep three pointer in the face of a defender to close the Drive gap to 1 point, 37-36. Bird drained a corner three after a late timeout that knotted the score up at 44-44. Davis converted on an and one with just under a minute to play in the half that gave Maine their first lead since the start of the quarter, 49-47. Smith missed a deep three pointer for the Drive to close out the half, Maine led 51-49.
Bird opened the second half up for both teams with a floating layup that extended the Maine lead to 4, 53-49. With just under eight minutes left to play in the quarter, White made a cutting layup on the nice setup pass from Daniel Ochefu, extending the Red Claw lead to 9 points, 60-51. Devin Williams had his shot blocked and grabbed the rebound, then laid it in to give Maine their biggest lead in the game to that point, 67-57. After Maine took a 10 point lead, Grand Rapids went on a quick 9-0 run capped off by a free throw after Red Claws coach Brandon Bailey was given a technical foul. Grand Rapids flipped the switch late in the 3rd, going on a 15-0 run before Davis made a three for Maine, the score was 72-67. Davis made big play after big play for Maine, draining a three off the screen which gave the lead back to the Red Claws. They led the Drive 76-75 heading to the 4th quarter.
Grand Rapids quickly took the lead back on their first possession of the final quarter on an alley hoop from Smith to Chris Anderson, the Drive led 77-76. After Maine took the lead back from Grand Rapids, Zeke Upshaw made a three that gave the Drive a 2 point lead which vanished on Maine’s next possession after a Davis jumper, which tied the game at 82-82. Halfway through the final quarter, Willis made a layup after a Maine turnover and Smith steal that brought the Red Claw lead back to 3 points, 87-84. Davis continued to score for Maine, making a free throw with 2:38 left in the game, giving the Red Claws a 92-87 edge.
With just under 2:00 to play, Montero drilled a corner three to knot the game up at 92-92. Bird scored the next 5 points on a three pointer and a behind the head alley hoop dunk on a dish from Davis, giving Maine the 97-92 advantage with 25 seconds remaining. Grand Rapids would then score 4 points in a matter of four seconds to cut the Maine lead down to 1 point, 97-96. Peak was the late game hero for Maine, making a pair of free throws and stealing a crucial inbounds pass to secure the Red Claws win over the Drive 99-96.
Maine shot 42.7% (35-82) from the field, including 32.4% (12-37) from deep. Grand Rapids shot 40.5% (32-79) from the floor and 31.4% (11-35) from downtown.