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Celtics Will Host Nets In ECF Sunday

Chase Whitney /April 6, 2024

Game details:                           

Matchup:Maine Celtics vs. Long Island Nets

Location: Portland Expo; Portland, Maine

Tipoff:7:00 PM EST    

Television: ESPNU

For the second time in franchise history, the Maine Celtics are in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The last time Maine advanced this far into the playoffs, the likes of Abdel Nader, Demetrius Jackson, and Jordan Mickey led the charge. This time around, Maine was led to the conference finals by JD Davison, Neemias Queta, and Drew Peterson, who all notched double-doubles while DJ Steward chipped in 18 points and six dimes in the second-round win over Delaware. Now, the Celtics are back within arm’s reach of the G League Finals once again.

After the Friday night showdown on the other side of the East playoff bracket, Maine knows who stands in the way of their path to a championship: the Long Island Nets. In the regular season, the Celtics and Nets split their regular season matchups 2-2, with both teams sweeping a two-game set in their home arena. Sunday night’s showdown determines the winner of the season series, and more importantly, the Eastern Conference champion.

Breaking down the Nets:

On the season, the Nets boast the #15 offense and #15 defense – middle of the pack in efficiency rating on both sides of the ball in the grand scheme of things, but Long Island has been a different team since late-February.

Winners of 12 of their last 16 games including the playoffs, the Nets are top-10 in offense and defense since this extended hot streak began on Feb. 22. Led by a trio of impactful Two-Way players and some key role players, Long Island is one of the hottest teams in the league over the last month-plus not named the Maine Celtics.

The Nets draw a ton of contact at the rim and live inside the arc. Long Island was second in the league in free throws made and attempted per game, and 62.7% of their total field goal attempts come from 2-point range – they’re a strong, slash-heavy team that scores well from inside 17 feet. Despite ranking in the bottom-10 in 3-pointers made per game, the Nets do have some efficient shooters. Former Maine Red Claw Kaiser Gates is one of them, and Jalen Wilson leads the team at 39.8% from deep. Patrick Gardner can stretch the defense out at the center position, hitting at a 35.6% clip from beyond the arc.

Wilson leaves his mark on the offensive end and the defensive end. The rookie second-round pick defends the perimeter and provides help on the interior, while fellow Two-Way player Jacob Gilyard is a pest at the point of attack despite his 5-foot-8 listed height. Gilyard hit the game-winner against Capital City in the first round, then put up 28 points, four rebounds, nine assists and five steals to lead the Nets over Osceola in the second round. Keon Johnson added 26 in the win over the Magic and Jaylen Martin had 21 points to help lead Long Island to their second-straight Eastern Conference Finals berth.

One more win in front of an energized Expo crowd and the Celtics are in the G League Finals for the first time in franchise history. Same as last round, there’s only one key to the game; do whatever it takes to win.