They made bad passes on their first two possessions. They almost frittered away a seemingly-insurmountable lead late in the game.

But for the most part, the Maine Celtics displayed an exciting brand of basketball as they opened their 13th NBA G League season with a 119-111 victory over the Westchester Knicks on Friday night before a boisterous crowd of 2,002 at the Portland Expo.

“Always good to start off with a win,” said first-year head coach Alex Barlow. “There’s a lot of things we can do better, but I thought the guys did a lot of good things, especially for the first game.”

After some early stumbles, the Celtics took control late in the first quarter and led the rest of the way. They were up by 27 early in the fourth quarter before Westchester caught fire and reduced the deficit to nine (108-99) with more than five minutes remaining.

But the Knicks came no closer until the final seconds.

“The atmosphere was great,” said Celtics point guard JD Davison, who turned 20 a month ago. “All the fans, everyone was involved. You could hear the hollering and screaming and clapping, you could hear everything, so I loved it.”


It’s an interesting group the Celtics have assembled this season under Barlow. The two mainstays under two-way contracts with the parent Boston Celtics are Davison and center Mfiondu Kabengele.

Davison had a few glitches with turnovers in the early going, but otherwise showed the promise (and a flowing golden mane) that led the Celtics to select him with their only pick in the June draft. He scored 13 points, hit two of three from deep, had three assists to go with five turnovers and nine rebounds.

Kabengele is a rugged 6-foot-10, 250-pounder who was a first-round pick (27th overall) in 2019 by the Nets who immediately traded him to the Clippers. He’s a third-year pro with a formidable presence inside and a capable touch outside.

On Friday night, his dunk was Maine’s first basket. He finished with 24 points, 15 rebounds, two blocked shots and a pair of 3-pointers. He also made a game-high six turnovers.

“The fans were great,” Kabengele said. “I was surprised some of them had my rookie-year cards and pictures of me in college and stuff. I appreciated that. It was cool.”

Seven other Celtics saw action Friday night and six of them joined Kabengele and Davison in double-figure points. Denzel Valentine, one of two holdovers from last season’s club, hit five treys and finished with 17 points. Marial Shayok hit three 3-pointers and had 15. Kamar Baldwin (12 points, five assists), Luka Samanic (11 points, 11 rebounds), Scottie Lindsey (11 points) and Kendall Smith (10 points) all contributed.


“There’s a lot of good people on this team,” Valentine said, “and that leads to unselfish ball. Everybody’s playing team basketball. We don’t have a goal of going out there and getting numbers. We’re just trying to play as a team.”

Of Maine’s 44 field goals, all but 10 involved an assist. By contrast, Westchester assisted only 26 of its 48 field goals.

“Once you start passing it around,” Valentine said, “it gets contagious.”

Trevor Keels led Westchester with 25 points and Garrison Brooks added 22.

The teams meet again Sunday afternoon at the Expo. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m.

NOTES: A college point guard in basketball, Barlow also was a pretty decent teenaged shortstop back home in Ohio. He played on the same summer baseball team as Kyle Schwarber, Philadelphia’s designated hitter who homered off Houston’s Justin Verlander on Thursday night in Game 5 of the World Series. Barlow also played regularly with another Kyle familiar in these parts, Red Sox minor league pitcher Kyle Hart, who has spent much of three seasons as a Sea Dog and appeared briefly with Boston in 2020. Another former Sea Dog, outfielder Andrew Benintendi, played summer basketball briefly with Barlow, who remembers Benintendi hitting “like 11 threes. He’s obviously a very good overall athlete.”

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