Maine Celtics

Maine Celtics Lose Heartbreaker

February 23, 2024 - NBA G League (G League)
Maine Celtics News Release

BIRMINGHAM, AL - For the second time in as many nights, the Maine Celtics suffered a narrow loss at the hands of the Birmingham Squadron, this time 99-98.

JD Davison paced Maine (11-11) with 19 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Joe Wieskamp tallied 15 points and four rebounds. Neemias Queta put up 12 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks, his first double-double with Maine. Drew Peterson notched 13 points, nine rebounds and five assists and Brandon Slater logged 13 and five rebounds. DJ Steward had 12 points.

Karlo Matkovic led Birmingham (10-12) with 21 points and 10 rebounds. E.J. Liddell posted 16 points and five rebounds and Dereon Seabron registered 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Malcolm Hill scored 14 points, Jalen Crutcher chipped in 12 and six rebounds and Landers Nolley II added 11 points.

Crutcher pulled off a Rajon Rondo-esque behind-the-back fake and finished the layup to open the scoring. Davison got on the board first with a driving layup for Maine. Even at a half-doze apiece early on, Seabron buried a triple to make it 9-6 and the Squadron took that lead into the first stoppage. Crutcher's three and Liddell's mid-range turnaround stretched the lead out to eight as Birmingham's #1 offense came out of the gates firing. On the other hand, Maine was ice cold in the first quarter, shooting around 20% as a team for most of the frame with numerous unlucky misses in the paint. Steward provided a punch with nine points in the latter half of the first, capping it off by laying in a touchdown pass off an inbound from Slater to beat the buzzer and make it 28-23, Squadron after one.

Peterson knocked down a three on the first possession of the second for Maine while Nolley continued to fill it up for Birmingham. He'd knock down a pair of floaters to make it an eight-point game again, though a layup and three from Wieskamp and a hair-trigger triple from Tony Snell tied the game at 34 soon after. The Squadron answered with a 7-0 run as the skilled and physical Matkovic began to make his presence felt on both ends of the floor. Maine's efficiency was steadily picking up though, and Davison's layup pulled them within a possession. The tempo ramped up in the last few minutes of the first half with the advantage going to Birmingham, which took a 6-2 run into the locker room to put themselves ahead 55-48 at the break. The Squadron shot 52.4% from the floor while Maine went 6-18 from downtown.

A tomahawk poster dunk followed by an emphatic chase-down block in transition from Wieskamp got Maine rolling in the second half, but despite the highlights from the Iowa product, the Squadron extended their lead to a baker's dozen off a three each from Hill and Crutcher. The Celtics fought back with an 8-0 run coming entirely off shots at the rim and a 1-for-2 from Jordan Walsh, and then Slater sank a left-wing three and converted an and-one to build Maine's run to 12-4 and bring it down to a one-point game, 65-64. With Maine sticking around within a possession, the Squadron got the last look of the third and Matkovic dropped it through to put them up 74-71 with 12 minutes to go.

Queta gave Maine its first lead of the night long into the final frame, but Nolley got it right back for the Squadron and then Hill drilled a contested three as the shot clock expired to make it a two-possession game. The Celtics refused to go away, responding to every Birmingham run in kind and finding ways to get to the rim, trailing by just two as crunch time approached despite an unusually cold night from distance. With the Squadron holding a four-point lead, 83-79, a replay review temporarily paused the action and resulted in a free throw for Steward. Seabron lengthened Birmingham's lead to five with a layup on the ensuing possession.

Seabron's rim pressure was a force down the stretch, helping the Squadron stay in control with a 91-86 lead with just over three minutes to go. Davison, the engine of Maine's late-game offense, scored six-straight and then lobbed one up to Queta to make it a one-possession game once more. With Birmingham up 96-93 inside the final minute, the Celtics forced a turnover and Queta tipped in Davison's miss on the other end. Hill and Peterson traded a pair of free throws that kept it a one-point game with the Squadron leading 98-97 with 10.2 seconds left. After Seabron split a pair, Davison drew contact on a layup just ahead of the horn and was sent to the line. Down two and needing both free throws, Davison's second attempt rattled out, the Celtics couldn't collect the offensive board, and Birmingham escaped with a win.

The Celtics return home to the Expo for a Sunday matinee with the Westchester Knicks, a 1:00 PM tipoff. Maine then hits the road for a back-to-back with the Wisconsin Herd on March 1 and 2.

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