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Game Preview - NBA G League Finals Game 2 - April 11, 2024

Chase Whitney /April 11, 2024

Game details:                             

Matchup:Maine Celtics at Oklahoma City Blue  

Location: Paycom Center; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 

Tipoff:8:00 PM EST      

Television: ESPNews 

One. More. Win. 

That’s all it’ll take for the Maine Celtics to win the NBA G League Finals and bring the franchise’s first-ever championship to the city of Portland. Following an impressive 20-point victory over the Oklahoma City Blue at the Portland Expo in Game 1, the Celtics are heading down to OKC for a pivotal Game 2 matchup. 

Coming into Game 1, the Blue had just flown cross-country from after winning the Western Conference Finals in Stockton, California the night before. A day prior to that game, they were traveling from Sioux Falls, South Dakota just two days after hosting a first-round game with Rio Grande Valley. Now, they’re back at home, well-rested and rejuvenated with a chance to even the series and send it back to Portland for a winner-take-all Game 3. 

Breaking down the matchup: 

As they’ve done throughout the months-long hot streak that’s carried them to the Finals, the Celtics relied on their defense to cruise past the Blue last time out. Maine limited Oklahoma City to 14 first-quarter points and never led by fewer than 11 points the rest of the night, due in large part to holding the Blue to 35.1% shooting from the field, 26.7% from three (12-45) and giving up only six free throw attempts. It’s fair to assume they’ll shoot a bit better than that this time around, and head coach Blaine Mueller and his staff are likely preparing for that possibility – Jaden Shackelford and Ousmane Dieng were the only Blue to make multiple 3-pointers in Game 1. But, the stout pick-and-roll defense of JD Davison and Neemias Queta, along with the ball-hawking Jordan Walsh were significant factors that can be leaned on again in Game 2. 

Davison and Queta played big minutes in Game 1 and recorded 20-10 double-doubles to help carry Maine to the win, but it was their defense that stood out most. The Celtics suffocated the Blue in the pick-and-roll, giving up a mere .633 points per possession per Synergy Sports. Davison’s active hands, recovery speed and ability to absorb contact coupled with Queta’s supreme length, strength and mobility as a 7-footer are a force to be reckoned with on that end. With Walsh able to shadow an opponent’s best scorer and bother them with his length, athleticism and aggression, Maine has a truly dominant trio of defenders in its starting lineup. 

A 14-point first quarter doesn’t happen without great defense, nor does a 33-point first quarter happen without great offense. Much of that offense came from Drew Peterson, who put up 13 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals, playing all but six seconds of the opening frame to help the Celtics come firing out of the gates. Peterson finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, giving Maine three 20-10 performers in Game 1 to go with Walsh’s 15 points and six boards. 

We already covered the fact that Oklahoma City is likely to receive some positive shooting regression, the same goes for Joe Wieskamp and DJ Steward. In an uncharacteristic night for both hot-shooting guards, they combined for seven made field goals and one made three in Game 1. Shooters of the caliber of Wieskamp and Steward can’t be held down for long, and as the Blue devote more resources to slowing down the likes of Davison, Peterson, and Queta, scoring opportunities will arise for Weezy and DJ. 

As any Maine fan knows by now, the Celtics have never made it to the G League Finals, much less gone into a series-clinching game with a chance to win a championship. Homecourt advantage allowed the Celtics to claim Game 1 in front of an electric Portland Expo crowd, but now it’s time to hit the road for Game 2. Maine went 7-1 in its last eight road games, and they already won twice at Paycom Center to open the regular season way back in late-December. Winning big games on the road is nothing new to this Celtics squad despite the fact they haven’t left Portland in over a week. 

Again, only one key tonight for Game 2 of the NBA G League Finals; do whatever it takes to win. Let’s hope this is the last game preview of the 2023-24 season, and for the best possible reason.