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Maine Celtics Clinch Playoff Berth In Regular Season Finale

By Maine Celtics Staff /March 24, 2023

PORTLAND, ME – For the first time since 2017, the Maine Celtics have secured a playoff berth and a home playoff game at the Expo with a 110-97 win over the Westchester Knicks. 

Two-Way big Mfiondu Kabengele led Maine (19-13) with 29 points and 16 rebounds, his seventh-consecutive double-double. Denzel Valentine added 20 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Two-Way guard JD Davison turned in 17 points, four rebounds and eight assists. Luka Šamanić tallied 17 points and six rebounds and Marvin Smith Jr. logged 10 points and nine rebounds. 

Jordan Allen led Westchester (9-22) with 23 points and five rebounds. Justin Wright-Foreman registered 20 points and five assists and Melvin Frazier Jr. had 15 points and 13 rebounds. Two-Way guard Trevor Keels posted 15 points and seven assists. Dmytro Skapintsev totaled 10 points. 

Walker’s left wing three opened the scoring for Westchester, and Valentine got the Celtics on the board with a nine-footer soon after. Three Celtics turnovers in the first two minutes gave the Knicks a quick 8-4 lead, and they’d build the game-opening run to 14-6. Šamanić sank a corner three to start a 7-0 run for Maine that got them within one before the Knicks fired back with a small run. Davison’s and-one free throw gave the Celtics their first lead, 23-22, and the margin stayed the same as Maine led 25-24 after one. 

The Celtics clung to a two-point lead as the second got underway, playing fast and physical but unable to convert with much efficiency. Westchester briefly went ahead 40-39 before Valentine canned a three to put Maine back in front. The Knicks responded with a 7-0 run, with the momentum swinging back and forth in the first two quarters. Šamanić’s interior scoring and Kabengele’s glass-cleaning helped kickstart Maine’s offense in the second, which finished the first half shooting 47.6 percent. Valentine hit another go-ahead triple late in the quarter, but Jordan Allen’s buzzer-beating fastbreak layup tied it at 49 going into the half. 

Kabengele’s throwdown broke the halftime tie, and Šamanić found him for another slam on the break to give Maine a 57-53 lead at the nine-minute mark of the third. A couple more Kabengele dunks got the Celtics bench and the Expo crowd going, with the energy feeding into a run for Maine. Davison hit a Euro-step on the break and threw down a couple of electrifying dunks of his own as the quarter wound down, and after Allen hit another late-quarter bucket, the Celtics led 81-68 heading into the fourth. 

A pair of triples from Kabengele and Valentine kicked off the fourth quarter for Maine before Smith drove into the paint and nailed a tough turnaround. The Celtics offense was clicking in the final frame, but so was Westchester’s – the Knicks outscored the Celtics 12-8 to get within single digits midway through the fourth, though it didn’t take long for Kabengele and Davison’s Two-Way chemistry to put the game away for Maine. A back-breaking 13-4 run late in the fourth sealed the deal for the Celtics, giving them a comfortable season-ending victory and their first playoff berth since 2017. 

The Celtics clinched a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference with the win, securing a home playoff game in the first round. The G League regular season ends on March 25 and the first round of the playoffs starts on March 28.