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Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Maine Monthly: Bradley steals the show

By Greg Payne



Boston Celtics rookie Avery Bradley tied an NBA Developmental League record with nine steals as the Maine Red Claws escaped with a thrilling 109-106 victory Sunday over the D-League's top team, the Tulsa 66ers, who entered the game winners of 14 straight (check out the highlights above). We take our occasional look at how Boston's D-League affiliate is faring:

--SINCE THE LAST TIME WE MET--

January was a busy month for the Red Claws, including a trip to the D-League showcase. Here's some of the top headlines from the past month:

Harris cashes in overseas: Paul Harris, the Claws' top choice in the 2009 D-League draft, left the team in late January, signing a contract with a team in the Philippines. Harris told the Portland Press Herald: "Playing time played a little part, but it was a situation where I felt like we went to the [D-League] Showcase. It was the biggest stage of the year. I think I played pretty well. I waited around to see what happened. Nothing really happened."

Janning traded to Rio Grande for Anderson: Matt Janning, a Northeastern product who spent time with the Celtics' summer league squad in Orlando, was traded to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in exchange for shooting guard Antonio Anderson, a Lynn, Mass. native. “Antonio Anderson is a versatile player who plays the game at a high level on both ends of the court and led his team to last year’s D-League Championship,” said Red Claws president and general manager Jon Jennings. “Antonio is a player we were very interested in last year and are thrilled to be able to add him to our roster.” Janning, who started the NBA season on the Phoenix's roster, joined Maine in December after being cut by the Suns.

Where they stand: The Red Claws are 12-17 overall, good for fourth place in the D-League's Eastern Conference. The playoffs are seeded by the top eight teams in the league and, right now, Maine is about three games back of a final spot with two months (and 21 total games) remaining in its season.

--CLAWS WEEK IN REVIEW--

The Red Claws snapped a five-game losing streak at the start of last week, while going 2-1, culminating with the big win over Tulsa. Here's a glance at the week that was:

Monday, Jan. 24: Claws 95, Legends 89: Trailing by 10 at the end of the third quarter, the Red Claws exploded on a 17-1 run to start the fourth frame, and forward DeShawn Sims (who scored a game-high 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting) buried a 3-pointer with 42.6 seconds left to help Maine seal things.

Friday, Jan. 28: Bayhawks 113, Claws 109: Four Red Claw starters scored in double figures, led by Bradley's career-high 24 points, but it was not enough to overcome the efforts of Erie's Tasmin Mitchell (25 points) and Blake Ahearn (29 points), who broke a late tie with a go-ahead 3-pointer with 48.9 seconds left. The Red Claws shot a blistering 54.8 percent from the field, but were severely hindered by the 20 turnovers they committed.

Sunday, Jan. 30: Claws 109, 66ers 106: Bradley posted his D-League record-tying nine steals to go along with 14 points and seven assists, as the Claws silenced the 66ers, who entered the game undefeated in the month of January. Sims poured in a team-high 26 points, while Tiny Gallon chipped in 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Sims continued his run of making big shots late in games by burying a turnaround fading jump shot with 13.5 seconds left, putting Maine on top, 107-106. Bradley would help seal things with two free throws in the final seconds.

--EYES ON FAMILIAR FACES--

Avery Bradley (6-2 guard, NBA assignment) -- The Celtics' first-round draft pick has struggled shooting the ball since he arrived in Maine (he's shooting 39.7 percent from the field), but he's still registered double figures in scoring in six of the seven games he's participated in. In addition, Bradley's averaged 6.6 assists per game and 5.6 rebounds per game over his last three, and continues to live up to his reputation as a stellar defender, swiping the ball from the opposition 3.14 times per game since joining the Red Claws. Season stats: 15.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists.

Tiny Gallon (6-9 forward, affiliated) -- After a difficult four-game stretch earlier in January in which he averaged only 9 points and 3.3 rebounds per contest, Gallon has responded in his last four games, posting much more impressive averages of 17.5 points and 8 rebounds, while shooting 56.4 percent from the field. Season stats: 15.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists.

Jamar Smith (6-3 guard, affiliated) -- Smith posted double digits in scoring in 11 of Maine's 12 games in January, including a 15-point outing on 6-of-11 shooting in the Claws' impressive win over Tulsa on Sunday. Season stats: 13.6 points, 2.6 rebounds, 4.9 assists.

Mario West (6-5 guard, camp cut) -- West posted his fourth double-double of the season against the Texas Legends last Monday, registering 15 points to go along with 10 rebounds, a steal, and two blocks. He's reached double figures in scoring in three of his last five games. Season stats: 13.1 points, 5.5 rebouds, 3.0 assists.

DeShawn Sims (6-8 forward, summer league) -- Maine's offensive juggernaut posted just seven points against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers on January 19, but recovered convincingly in his next game with a 31-point outing against the Texas Legends on January 21. The Michigan product has averaged 23 points per game over his last four contests. Season stats: 18.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists.

--WHAT'S ON TAP--

The Red Claws won't take the court again until Friday, when they kick off a four-game road swing against the 9-20 Dakota Wizards. For those looking for a good game to attend down the road, might we suggest March 18, when the Red Claws will hold Larry Bird bobblehead night and the first 1,000 fans through the turnstiles will receive the collectible pictured below.

“Larry Bird left an indelible mark on the Boston Celtics, the NBA and basketball as a whole,” said Jennings, who was an assistant coach for the Celtics when Bird was a player. “We are thrilled that Larry allowed us to produce this limited edition collectible, and we know that Red Claws fans will be proud to add it to their memorabilia collections."

Maine Red Claws
Greg Payne is a student intern for ESPNBoston.com