From start to finish, it was the JD Davison Show on Sunday afternoon at the Portland Expo, as the Maine Celtics defeated the Sioux Fall Skyforce 131-125. The Celtics jumped out to an 8-point lead at the half, pushed that lead to as many as 15 in the fourth quarter, and held on in a close game to defeat the Heat’s G-league squad – who was a league-best 10-1 entering the game.
Davison, the second-year guard out of Alabama who’s signed as a two-way player for Boston, finished the afternoon with 36 points (14-26 FG), 10 assists, and 7 rebounds – just two points shy of his G-league career-high. He said after the game that after a loss to Sioux Fall on Friday night, he went back, watched a lot of film, and figured out where the holes in the defense were and how to exploit them.
Drew Peterson finished with a career-high 30 points – including 6-8 from beyond the arc. He also posted 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, and a steal. Peterson signed with the Celtics last month after spending preseason, training camp, and the beginning of the G League season with the Miami Heat.
Drew Peterson has 30 points (6-8 from three), 8 rebounds, and 4 assists. He’s been absolutely on fire today. pic.twitter.com/v1Qp8Aytj6— Noa Dalzell (@NoaDalzellNBA) January 21, 2024
Maine Celtics’ head coach Blaine Mueller commended Davison for his aggression in Sunday’s match-up, and said that his teammates’ outside shooting helped him find open lanes.
“We shot it really well, which helps a ton,” Mueller said. “Just kind of loosens things up for him in the paint. He was able to find guys early -- it’s something we saw on film.”
With the Maine Celtics up four, JD Davison (35 points) hits the floater and DJ Stewart (14 points) steals the inbound pass and lays it in — to push the lead to 8 with a minute to go. pic.twitter.com/71cMNYxMvE— Noa Dalzell (@NoaDalzellNBA) January 21, 2024
“JD really played well with distributing, reading the defense – he made a lot of plays for us,” Peterson said. “He was great for us with really leading us out there. He opens up everyone’s game, takes a lot of pressure off everybody.”
Drew Peterson was on the Sioux Falls Skyforce until mid-December, so was facing his former teammates in this match-up. On Friday, when the two teams first faced off, he struggled, finishing with just 5 points. He was able to redeem himself on Sunday afternoon.
“I’m joking around out there with them pregame, so it’s great to see all of them,” he said. “And it’s definitely a little extra motivation. You always want to beat the team that you came from.”
In the fourth quarter, DJ Stewart made several big plays to help seal the win, including a steal and a layup with just over a minute to go to make it to push the Celtics’ lead to 8, and a pull-up jumpshot with 16 seconds left in the game to make it a two possession-game. Stewart also spent training camp and preseason in Boston, but was waived by the Celtics ahead of the regular season and has been a spark off the bench for the Maine Celtics.
Huge bucket by DJ Stewart, who has been all over this fourth quarter. Maine is going to win this one against the Skyforce, who was 10-1 heading into today. pic.twitter.com/PzGV9qpwA1— Noa Dalzell (@NoaDalzellNBA) January 21, 2024
“I thought our poise and execution offensively was really good,” Mueller said. “Down the stretch, same late shot-clock situation, just being able to recognize situations, their switching, how we were trying to attack it.”
With several days off this week, the entire Maine Celtics team traveled to Boston this week for a pre-scheduled trip that included watching Wednesday’s Celtics game against the Spurs, which ended up being Jordan Walsh’s NBA debut.
“It was awesome to be able to see that,” Peterson said. “I got a small opportunity in LA, and I know how moving that can be, so it’s cool to see Walsh get that opportunity, and the crowd go crazy when he touched the ball. It was really cool. I’m definitely looking forward to potentially getting the chance in Boston at some point, but I’m just sticking the course out here.”
JD Davison also got a few minutes in that one, while the rest of the team watched from the rafters and celebrated Walsh’s debut. He was eager to help Walsh get his first basket on Wednesday.
“I told him I was going to look for him, I wanted him to knock that three down,” Davison said, laughing.
With the win, the Maine Celtics move to 5-5 on the season. They’ll be without Jordan Walsh again for the rest of the week, since he is with the Celtics on their three-game road-trip this week. That meant other guys – like NBA veteran Tony Snell, Jordan Schakel (19 points) and Brandon Slater (12 points) — were able to capitalize on increased minutes.
Blaine Mueller spoke to Walsh’s improvements after Maine’s win over Sioux Falls. He said he was particularly excited Walsh got the opportunity to be on this road trip because he’s from Dallas, so if he gets any minutes against the Mavericks, he’d likely have family and friends in attendance.
“He’s just made some really, really huge strides on both ends of the court with his mindset being the focus on defense, and offensively, keeping things simple,” Mueller said. “He’s done a tremendous job with his close-out reads, his shot, shooting it on-balance, shooting it with confidence. Probably the area I’m most proud of for him is his passing. He’s really made some really big strides in just recognizing shift and rotation and rim reads, to find guys on the perimeter when he can’t go finish.”