Clemons' Hot Start Carries Maine
GREENSBORO, NC - The Maine Celtics, presented by Unum, came out of the gates hot with a 47-point first quarter to cruise to their biggest win of the season, 144-107 over the Greensboro Swarm.
Maine was led by Chris Clemons' 41 points, including 22 in the first quarter, and an 18-point, 12-rebound, 10-assist triple-double from Denzel Valentine, the 21st in franchise history. Matt Ryan had 20 points, three rebounds and three assists. Isaiah Cousins tallied 16 points, three rebounds and three assists. Deonte Burton posted 15 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. Marcus Derrickson scored a season-high 10 points, adding three assists.
Arnoldas Kulboka put up 28 points on 8-14 shooting along with six rebounds for Greensboro. Kai Jones registered 25 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. James Bouknight finished with 12 points, five rebounds and three assists. Scottie Lewis added 10 points and three assists.
Clemons finished at the rim for the game's first points. Jones nailed a three to put Greensboro on the board. Valentine hit from deep on his way to seven of Maine's first nine points, with Jones putting up seven of his own to give the Swarm an early 10-9 lead. Burton and Clemons canned consecutive triples to put the Celtics ahead for good, as Clemons caught red-hot fire, scoring 16 straight points and finishing with 22 in the first quarter. Kulboka's 10 first-quarter points off the bench kept the Swarm offense alive, but Maine took a 47-27 lead into the second half, setting a franchise record for points in the first quarter.
An 8-3 run in the first minute-and-a-half of the second quarter got Maine out to a 55-30 lead, and Cousins tacked on a three after Greensboro's timeout. The Celtics were in full control by the mid-second, creating instant offense at all three levels of the floor and limiting the Swarm mostly to contested looks. Valentine dropped off a behind-the-back pass to Derrickson for his second-straight bucket in the paint. Jones threw down four big dunks in a short span to inject life into the Greensboro offense, making it 69-44. Clemons answered with a tough fadeaway from the free throw line to give himself 27 points. Kulboka hit the 20-point mark as the Swarm were down 79-54. A challenge from Greensboro coach Jordan Surenkamp was overturned and Clemons hit the ensuing 1-for-2 free throw. Maine cruised into the break with an 81-54 advantage, shooting 27-46 (58.6 percent) from the floor, 8-18 (44.4 percent) from downtown and 8-8 (100 percent) from the line in the first half. Greensboro shot 19-48 (39.6 percent) from the floor, 6-19 (31.6 percent) from downtown and 6-9 (66.7 percent) from the line.
The Celtics kept the pressure on to open the second half as Ryan tallied eight-straight points to put Maine's lead at 89-62. Valentine splashed home another three and was houding the Swarm ball handlers defensively. The teams began to trade buckets as things settled, but Greensboro was already down big. Cousins and Derrickson continued to provide a lift off the bench, allowing the Celtics to coast through the remainder of the third. Clemons pulled up from the top of the key and beat the buzzer to give Maine a 112-85 lead after three.
Maine attacked the paint early in the fourth, finishing four shots on the interior to take a 125-94 lead and effectively put the game out of reach. Charles Matthews worked his way to the rim and finished an and-one for his first points as a Celtic. Tyler Hagedorn raced down the lane for a dunk and Valentine soon recorded his 10th assist to notch the triple-double. The Celtics reserves kept the pace down the stretch and helped them coast to their largest margin of victory this season. Maine finished 51-92 (55.4 percent) from the floor, 14-31 (45.2 percent) from deep and 15-18 (83.3 percent) from the stripe. Greensboro finished 37-98 (37.8 percent) from the floor, 8-34 (23.5 percent) from deep and 15-21 (71.4 percent) from the stripe.
The Maine Celtics will complete a two-game set with the Greensboro Swarm on March 31 before finishing out the regular season against the Lakeland Magic on April 2.
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