Game Review: Maine Red Claws 81, Erie BayHawks 77

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

After a blowout loss Saturday night in their home opener, the Erie BayHawks had a chance at revenge tonight against the Maine Red Claws. As it turned out, they had a great chance at revenge, and they squandered it, losing 81-77 despite leading most of the way. Maine improves to 6-1 while Erie falls to 2-4.



Erie outscored Maine in each of the first three quarters, holding Maine to 16, 20, and 16 points, respectively, before the Red Claws broke through with a 29-point fourth quarter to to win the quarter and the game.

When Bill Walker hit an awkward runner off the glass to give Maine a 77-75 lead with 1:05 to play, he gave Maine their first lead since the score was 19-18 in the opening minutes of the second quarter. Ivan Harris answered back with a long jumpshot to tie it. Then, on the other end of the court, Lester Hudson drew a foul call that looked questionable and sank the two free throws to put Maine back in front by 2. Donell Taylor missed Erie's last best chance to tie. And Will Blalock hit two more free throws to put the game on ice for the Red Claws.

By all accounts, Maine stole this game that belonged to Erie for most of the night. I'd like to see the replay of the foul call that sent Hudson to the line in the final minute, but even if it wasn't a legitimate foul, Erie allowed Maine to hang around and claw (yes, I like using that term for Maine) their way back into this one late.

Lester Hudson played well for Maine, but he wasn't the difference in this one. Poor execution down the stretch was the issue. Erie didn't seem to know what to do or who to turn to when things got tight. Last year they had Erik Daniels as a go-to guy. This year, I don't think anyone's established themselves as a consistent crunch-time performer, and it really cost them tonight.

Erie now sits at 2-4 with another home game against Maine on the schedule tomorrow. With their disappointing record in mind, here's 2 pros and 4 cons that I took away from watching tonight's game.

PROS

  1. Jackie Manuel
    Taylor and Bryant garnered early headlines with their numbers, but Manuel is my early pick for BayHawks MVP. He's just a consistent all-around performer. Whenever Manuel makes a key play, the crowd at Tullio Arena is treated to a sound clip of Ozark Mountain Daredevils' "Jackie Blue" (roughly from about :11 to :15 of this clip). Point is, we heard it often tonight. Manuel dominated the third quarter offensively for the BayHawks, scoring the team's first 8 points. For the game, he scored 15 on 7-15 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocked shots. Not surprisingly, he also led the team in minutes played with 46:25. Manuel has led the team in minutes played in all but one game so far this season.

  2. Team defense and rebounding
    The team bounced back in a big way from Saturday night in the areas of defense and rebounding. The numbers speak volumes. Tonight, Maine shot 35 percent from the field (31.3 from 3-point range) compared to 47.7 percent from the field (and 59.3 from 3-point range) on Saturday. Yet even with all those extra missed shots, Maine's offensive rebounds dropped from 17 to 8. Overall, Erie won the rebounding battle tonight 54-39.
CONS
  • Shooting woes
    Pick a spot on the floor, the BayHawks have struggled there against Maine. They were 1-8 from 3, 14-23 from the free throw line, and just 31-78 from the field. Needless to say, this was not exactly a pretty game to watch even though it was competitive throughout. Of particular concern is the 3-ball, one of the most dangerous weapons in basketball. It has simply been lacking from Erie's arsenal this season. Including tonight's performance, the team is now just 16-57 from 3 this season (28 percent). Last year's team leader from beyond the arc, Ivan Harris, is struggling as well, converting just 2-13 3s through six games.

  • Shot selection
    Obviously, this ties into the point above, but the fact of the matter is that the BayHawks are wasting two many possessions by finishing them with a long, contested 2-point jumpshot off the dribble. That's not the way to play efficient basketball. And I can't even pinpoint just one guy. Donnell Taylor, Cedric Jackson, Ivan Harris, they're all guilty of it.

  • John Bryant
    In his defense, maybe Maine is just a bad matchup for him. After all, that's the only team I've actually seen him play against in person. But after hearing him touted as a potential all-star and watching him fill out the box score to start the season, I'm concerned. Coach Treloar took my advice (wink) and played Bryant just over 17 minutes tonight with Aminu and Gunter seeing increased roles. To Bryant's credit, he pulled down 10 rebounds while he was in there. But he also looked out of sync on offense (1-5 shooting, 4 turnovers) and overmatched on defense (5 personal fouls).

  • Lack of a closer
    Tonight marked the second time that Erie blew a fourth quarter lead this season. They also blew an 11-point fourth quarter lead against Sioux Falls. They nearly lost another game after leading by 17, needing overtime to secure a victory in another game against Sioux Falls. There are a number of important factors that play into maintaining a lead: limiting turnovers, rebounding to prevent second opportunities for the opponent, not sending the opponent to the free throw line. But the one aspect that stands out to me is that Erie is unsure who to go to on offense.

    There is no alpha dog at this point in time. Donell Taylor seems to be the default choice because of his experience. John Bryant had a play run for him late because of his size and post moved, but I'm not sold on anyone as THE MAN on this team just yet, and I don't think the players or coaches are either. The difference was clear tonight. Bill Walker wanted the ball down the stretch and made a play. Same with Lester Hudson. Both of those guys are on assignment from the NBA and it shows. Well, Erie doesn't have any NBA players assignd to its roster right now, so they need to figure out a go-to guy or else these late-game disappointments may becoming a recurring problem.

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About this blog/blogger

Blog Talk BayHawk is an unofficial Erie BayHawks blog covering the NBA D-League. It features opinions and information about the NBADL and the Erie BayHawks. Blog Talk BayHawk is written from a basketball fan’s perspective to fill In the gaps left by professional journalists’ coverage of BayHawks basketball and the Erie professional basketball scene.

Matt Hubert is a 25-year-old writer and basketball fanatic born and raised in Erie, Pa. He graduated from Mercyhurst College in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in English and a dual concentration in writing and creative writing. Matt's not wavering from his stance as a lifelong Los Angeles Lakers fan, but he will cover the BayHawks' NBA affiliates in Cleveland and Toronto when it makes sense to do so throughout the year.

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