PORTLAND, ME – The Maine Celtics staved off a valiant comeback attempt from the Long Island Nets, hanging on in the clutch to take a 121-112 win and snap the Nets’ 16-game win-streak.
Kamar Baldwin led Maine (16-11) with 25 points, five rebounds and a career-high 16 assists. Two-Way big Mfiondu Kabengele posted 30 points, 10 rebounds and three. Tony Snell turned in 24 points on 7-11 shooting and 6-7 from deep, grabbing eight rebounds. A.J. Reeves and Luka Šamanić each scored 12 points, career-high for Reeves; Šamanić added 10 boards to record his 20th double-double of the season. Scottie Lindsey and Marvin Smith Jr. each had nine points.
Raiquan Gray scored 24 points and snared 11 rebounds to lead Long Island (22-4). Jordan Bowden had 20 points and four assists. Alondes Williams registered 16 points, six rebounds and nine assists. Kavion Pippen logged 14 points and Chris Chiozza and Kameron Hankerson each tallied 10 points.
Gray’s tip-in kicked off the day for Long Island, and Snell buried a transition three from the right wing to get the Celtics on the board soon after. Maine’s inside-out offense got going early; penetrating the lane and spraying out to shooters helped them take an early 12-9, and a couple more triples from Lindsey and Snell kept them ahead. Reeves got in the books with a three of his own as Maine started 6-9 from deep and ended the first quarter on a 5-0 run to take a 30-24 lead into the second.
The Celtics held a two-possession lead in the early portion of the second, with the vast majority of their points coming off threes and dunks. Maine busted out a 2-3 zone defense to throw the Nets off rhythm, deploying a small-ball lineup with Šamanić in the middle and Lindsey as the stretch-four. The small lineup worked for a stretch, as Maine built a 44-36 lead, controlling the pace and hitting Long Island with a barrage of three-pointers. Reeves knocked down his third three of the game as the combined attempts surpassed 40 with nearly four minutes left in the first half. The Celtics held a double-digit lead for the remainder of the half and took a 63-53 lead into the locker room.
Kabengele opened the fourth with a massive rejection of Bowden’s dunk attempt, and both players slammed to the floor before hopping up to sprint downcourt. The physicality ramped up in the third, matching the intensity from Thursday’s nail-biter as Treveon Graham was ejected and technical fouls were assessed for the second consecutive game. With Maine starting to pull away, the Celtics hot shooting resurfaced and led them to a lead as much as 22 points. After a Nets run to end the third, Maine led 93-75.
The Nets were down big in the fourth, but they found another gear and went on an 8-2 run to claw back within single digits. Long Island’s full-court press threw the Celtics out of rhythm and caused a couple of costly turnovers, and it wasn’t long before they were within a handful, 101-96 inside the four-minute mark. After a coach’s challenge by the Nets, Lindsey and Kabengele each hit a 1-for-2 that were Maine’s only points from 7:31 until the game was inside two minutes. Baldwin came through in the clutch again, hitting a pull-up from the free-throw line and a dagger step-back three to give the Celtics a 115-106 lead with less than a minute to go. Kabengele and Marvin Smith Jr. iced it at the line and Maine held on for a 119-109 victory, snapping the Nets’ 16-game winning streak. The Celtics shot 22-43 (51.2 percent) from deep and 17-19 (89.5 percent) at the stripe on the afternoon.
The Celtics return to action on March 15 against the Wisconsin Herd, the first game in a four-game Midwest road trip. Maine plays a two-game set with the Herd and with Windy City before returning to the Expo for the regular season finale against Westchester on March 23.