Bob MacKinnon and the Springfield Armor had their work cut out for them before Thursday night’s game against Maine. Springfield was without its four top scorers – JamesOn Curry, Jerry Smith, Dennis Horner, and Jeff Foote – who all received invitations to NBA training camps for tomorrow.
Despite the absence of four starters, the Armor (3-1), who sit atop the Eastern Conference standings, were able to have other players step in as Springfield rolled over the Red Claws (1-4) 97-89 Thursday at the MassMutal Center.
“Milton Lee has done a tremendous job of getting us players,” said MacKinnon. “If we lose players, the next guy steps in.”
The Armor had six players in double figures and got nice contributions from unlikely sources.
Travis Cohn and David Akinyooye both averaged single-digit minutes in Springfield’s first three games. Both finished with 12 points off the bench. Akinyooye was active on the boards, coming away with seven rebounds, and Cohn came away with three steals.
Marcus Hill, who was reacquired Monday after being cut during training camp, was solid off the bench in his debut with the Armor
Springfield didn’t have an answer for Red Claws point guard Tyc Snow, who disrupted the Armor defense in the first quarter with pick-and rolls that usually ended in open elbow jumpers or easy shots in the paint for his teammates.
Hill came in and with his ball pressure forced Snow to beat Springfield another way.
“Especially coming off the bench you see guys tendencies,” said Hill. “I really wanted him to make sure coming off the ball screen he wasn’t getting easy shots.”
Offensively, Hill did an excellent job setting up and finding his teammates as he finished with a team-high five assists.
It looked like Springfield was going to head into the locker room with a lead, but with under 70 seconds remaining in the first half and the Armor leading 41-38, Springfield played its worst basketball of the night.
Akinyooye missed a block out that allowed an offensive board and a put back. That was followed by a Lance Hurdle turnover that led to a Justin Brownlee fastbreak score. The next Armor possession wasn’t any better as L.D. Williams was called for a charge. That turnover set up a Durrell Summers three with just under seven seconds remaining. Jamar Brown’s tip-in as time expired helped Springfield enter the break down just two.
However, that Red Claws run didn’t carry over in the second half as Springfield regained the lead early and held on to it.
“Our motto is, we may not win the first or second quarter, but we’re going to try to wear you out and win the game,” said MacKinnon.
Rookie Jonathon Thomas and Lance Hurdle, who had a team-high 28 points, combined to score the first 11 Armor points as they quickly gained the lead back within the first minute.
Thomas, who played his best game after being the Armor’s top pick, scored in a variety of ways. Early in the second half, Thomas got to the line, scored in transition, and had two nice jumpers in the half court set.
“When Jon is aggressive he’s a good player. Jon’s going to be a really good player and we’re happy with is development,” said MacKinnon.
The Armor kept the lead through the rest of the third quarter and by the fourth Springfield had completely worn down Maine.
Springfield opened the final quarter with an 11-4 run, getting the lead up to its largest of the game at 13. Maine never got within seven for the remainder of the game.
Maine was led by a game-high 30 points from Durrell Summers. Springfield got 13 points from L.D. Williams. Jamar Brown recorded another double-double with 12 points and a season-high 16 rebounds.
Springfield heads to Maine tomorrow for a game at Fort Wayne. The Armor lost to Fort Wayne the last time to two played last Friday. Maine heads to Canton for a game with the Charge on Saturday.