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Comeback Falls Short In South Bay

By Maine Celtics Staff /March 3, 2023

EL SEGUNDO, CA – The Maine Celtics came all the way back from a 22-point second-half deficit to take the lead in crunch time, but Scottie Pippen Jr.’s go-ahead layup in the final second gave the South Bay Lakers a 129-128 win. 

Luka Šamanić led Maine (14-9) with 43 points on 15-21 shooting from the floor and 5-8 from range, adding seven rebounds. Denzel Valentine totaled 17 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. Two-Way guard JD Davison put up 14 points and 12 assists while Two-Way big Mfiondu Kabengele logged 16 points and nine rebounds. Kamar Baldwin finished with 11 points, five rebounds and six assists. 

Two-Way forward Cole Swider and Shaq Harrison each scored 22 points to lead South Bay (16-7); Harrison also grabbed 11 rebounds and dished seven assists. Two-Way guard Pippen finished with 20 points, four rebounds and six assists. Bryce Hamilton had 17 points and seven rebounds and Cameron Oliver scored 12 points. Fabian White Jr. turned in 11 points. 

Harrison scored the first four points for the Lakers and assisted on Swider’s step-back three to give South Bay an early 7-4 advantage. The Celtics got Šamanić going by feeding him in the post, then he stepped out for an above-the-break three, scoring nine of Maine’s first 11 points as they trailed 19-11 at the first timeout break. A 9-2 run from the Lakers widened the gap to nine, a margin they’d maintain through the rest of the opening frame. Javante McCoy beat the first-quarter buzzer to give South Bay a 36-27 lead after one. 

Scottie Lindsey threw one down and Šamanić sank a three to get Maine within four early in the second, but the Lakers had stretched their lead to a dozen, 50-38 by the 6:43 mark; Harrison had 11 for South Bay and Šamanić already tallied 14 for Maine. The Celtics shuffled between man and zone defensive schemes all night to stifle South Bay, who shot 66.7 percent as a team in the first half and finished the game at 57.8 percent. The Lakers got the lead to 20, 64-44 as the Celtics offense couldn’t find a rhythm late in the first half. Baldwin’s reverse finish with 1.4 seconds left in the quarter cut Maine’s deficit to 18, 70-52 at the half. 

South Bay quickly built their lead to 22 points, the largest of the night. Throughout the game, Šamanić was the catalyst for the Celtics; a couple of electrifying dunks shifted the energy for Maine at the outset of the second and sparked a 17-2 run to get back within 10. The run eventually built to 30-8 before the Celtics claimed their first lead, 93-92 on Davison’s and-one. White’s and-one put the Lakers back on top briefly before Šamanić’s 1-for-2 tied it at 95 to end the quarter. Maine outscored the Lakers 43-25 and shot 68 percent as a team in the third-quarter comeback. 

The pace was through the roof to open the fourth – Maine was shooting the lights out and the Lakers were pushing the pace at any opportunity as both offenses were firing on all cylinders. Swider and Šamanić traded transition dunks, and soon after traded crucial threes as the two went back-and-forth making plays in the clutch. Valentine made a trey to put the Celtics up four with 2:57 to go, but Pippen attacked the rim for a pair of layups to even it up at 124. A pair of free throws from Šamanić gave Maine the lead with just over a minute left, but Swider answered the call again, this time with a contested side-step go-ahead three. The Celtics went back to the well on their last possession, dumping it into Šamanić in the post, where he drew a foul and hit both ensuing free throws to put Maine back up by one with 8.2 seconds to go. After Pippen drew a foul with five seconds left, he caught the inbounds pass, dribbled to his left across the paint and hit a hanging floater over Kabengele’s contest with 0.1 seconds on the clock to give the Lakers a 129-128 victory. 

The Celtics and Lakers will complete a two-game set on March 5 at 8:00 PM EST. Maine will face the Ontario Clippers on March 6 at 6:00 PM EST before returning to the Expo for a pair of matchups with the Eastern Conference-leading Long Island Nets.