Friday, February 26, 2016

Delaware 87ers 131 at Maine Red Claws 138 (NBA D-League) - February 25, 2016

I chose this week to visit the AHL's Portland Pirates because the other minor league team that plays in Portland was home the day before. The Maine Red Claws are the D-League affiliate of the Boston Celtics and were hosting the Delaware 87ers at the Portland Exposition Building on Thursday night.

The Expo was built in 1915 and is celebrating 100 years this season. It is located east of downtown, right next to Hadlock Field, where the minor league Portland Sea Dogs play. As you would expect from such an old venue, there are not a lot of amenities. Out front there is only one ticket window and if you have a couple in front of you going over all the options, the wait can take a while.

There are five different price points here, quite a large number for a venue that seats 3,100. The cheapest option is the $6 end zone benches (below), which are quite far from the court due to the presence of "courtside suites" in front of them. Along the sides, prices start at $10 for seats that don't face the court, and rise for each section closer to center, with the best seats costing $30.

I bought the cheapest ticket and sat there until I was surrounded by the high school band that was to play the national anthem. It was not very comfortable so I moved to the sideline and managed to stay there for the entire game. The building is quite small and it can be difficult to move around beforehand as the Red Claws draw quite well, with 2,243 on hand for this one. There is a large concession stand to the left of the main entrance, with a very good selection for this level. Of course, you can buy a lobster roll or lobster mac'n'cheese but at $12, those are costing you twice as much as the ticket! Two smaller concession stands with just popcorn, pretzels, and soda are at the other end of the court.

The Red Claws were formed in 2009 and their name pays tribute to the lobster industry, as well as Celtic legend Red Auerbach. The logo is unique and includes the outline of Maine on the floor.

Another great touch is calling the Red Claw fans Crustacean Nation. It even rhymes!

I usually don't bother collecting giveaways as they serve no purpose other than to take up space, but on this night the freebie was a replica of the building that was issued to commemorate its 100th anniversary.

The roof even comes off to reveal a basketball court! Only 1,000 of these were given away, so it is relatively rare in the memorabilia game and I'll be keeping this one.

The team hasn't had much success, with just a couple of playoff appearances in six seasons. As such, the banners celebrate players that were called up to the NBA, which isn't that much of a thing as many of them see just a few minutes of action before being sent back down.

Last year they finished first in their division but lost in the first round of the playoffs. Tim Frazier (recently waived by Portland) won both the MVP and Rookie of the Year while PEI native Scott Morrison (below in the tie) won coach of the year.

Overall, the Expo is in surprisingly good condition for being 100. I didn't realize how old it was until I opened the replica! It was renovated when the Red Claws were formed in 2009, but it is still too small to handle the crowd before the game. I also wish that some of the history that has happened here was documented somewhere in the lobby, but that's a minor complaint. If you are in Portland for the Pirates, check out the Red Claws schedule too and if you can see a game here, you should do so.

The Game

I've made this joke before, but the D in D-League doesn't stand for defense. That was the case on this night as Delaware and Maine went back and forth all night.

The score after the first quarter was 38-33 Maine, but Delaware dominated the second stanza 38-25 to take an eight-point lead into the break. Maine took the third quarter 41-35 to enter the final frame down 106-104. The teams traded the lead a few times and with two minutes to go the game was tied at 129. At that point, Davion Berry sank a three for Maine, and then Delaware's Jordan McRae (#4 above, who recently played for Phoenix) missed a jumper. Berry followed with a jumper and then Russ Smith missed another. After both clubs missed threes, Delaware had to foul, and the Red Claws made their final four shots to win 138-131.

McRae, who sent the D-League scoring record earlier this season with a 61-point game, led Delaware with 27 points but was also -11. Coty Clarke (#4 above) was the Player of the Game as he led Maine with 31 points and 11 rebounds. Both teams shot 50% from the field, including 50% or better from beyond the arc. It was an impressive display of shooting ability, much like the NBA All-Star Game.

An entertaining affair, made more so by the referees letting them play. Only 30 fouls were called, and although the players often questioned the officials after they felt their missed shot was due to an uncalled infraction, I thought the refs did a really good job. This game was far more fun to watch than those whistlefests that dominate the college game today.


The D-League has added another franchise for next season, the Windy City Bulls, who will play out of Hoffman Estates, a Chicago suburb. I expect those NBA teams without an affiliate to eventually create one so that the league will have 30 teams with a 1-to-1 relationship with the NBA, like the AHL has with the NHL. As such, I am removing the D-League from my venue quest as I can't keep chasing these tiny venues all around the country. Once I finish the AHL and CFL next season, I'll just have minor league baseball to complete before I finally retire from sports road tripping.



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