The Maine Celtics waited until the fourth quarter to come alive in Sunday’s Eastern Conference final. They wasted no time getting going Tuesday night.

Drew Peterson rode a hot first quarter to 20 points, JD Davison scored a game-high 23, and Maine opened the best-of-three NBA G League Finals with a 106-86 victory over the Oklahoma City Blue in front of a sold-out crowd of 2,417 at the Portland Expo.

Maine, which led by as many as 28 points, also got 20 points from Neemias Queta and can win its first G League championship in Game 2 on Thursday in Oklahoma City. Game 3, if necessary, will be in Portland on Monday night.

“Even though it was a short turnaround from the conference finals to this, it felt like it was forever,” Maine Coach Blaine Mueller said. “We just came out with a sense of urgency and an energy, especially defensively. We got some stops and were able to get out and run, get some early buckets there.”

Against the hottest team in the G League, one that had won seven straight and 14 of 15 games, Maine (24-13) kept up the scorching surge that propelled it to a 99-77 victory over Long Island earlier in the East final. Maine gave up an opening 3-pointer but scored 18 of the following 22 points, and stretched that start to a 33-14 advantage by the end of the quarter.

While Oklahoma City (5-of-22 shooting, 22.7%) struggled from the field throughout the first, missing open and contested looks alike, the Celtics feasted on turnovers to spark their offense. Maine turned the ball over only two times to the Blue’s seven, and turned the mistakes into eight fast-break points compared to zero for Oklahoma City (24-14).


At the heart of the push was Peterson, a two-way player out of USC who struggled in the East final with 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting. He was a factor from the start Tuesday, leading the defense in the opening quarter with three steals, totaling 13 points and six rebounds.

He got the Expo crowd  after hitting a fadeaway jumper, stealing the ball and feeding Joe Wieskamp for a transition dunk to make it 16-7. Moments later he got the ball after a Davison steal and threw down a dunk on the break, and two possessions later he drained a 3-pointer for a 28-14 lead with 2:09 to go in the first. Maine closed the first quarter on a 10-0 run.

“It was a good start for us,” Peterson said. “I happened to be the guy that had it going a little bit early. … It comes with being aggressive. I had 14 shots in the first half of last game, and they just weren’t falling. And tonight, they were.”

Oklahoma City cut the lead to 11 at 36-25 on a step back jumper by Jaden Shackelford (21 points) with 8:46 left in the second, but Maine was ready with a response. Davison (eight points in the quarter) had a layup, Kylor Kelley had a dunk and Peterson hit a short jumper, pushing the lead to 42-25, and the Celtics never led by fewer than 14 again.

The Celtics put an exclamation point on the win to the delight of the fans in the third quarter, when Davison got a steal and immediately found Queta for an alley-oop dunk and a 70-47 lead with 8:06 to go. Another came with just over five minutes to play in the game, when Jordan Walsh stole a pass and on a breakaway slammed home a windmill dunk for a 98-79 lead.

Maine, which has now won four in a row, seven of eight and 13 of 15, led by double figures for the entire final three quarters.

“We knew they’re a great team. Blaine came in the locker room (at halftime) and just said it’s going to be a game of runs, they’re going to make shots,” said Queta, who signed a standard contract with the Boston Celtics on Monday. “We just had to stay locked in and stick to our game plan. I felt like we did that to the best ability that we could.”

Walsh finished with 15 points, and Wieskamp and DJ Steward, the leading scorer in the last game, had eight apiece.

“We have so many different guys that step up,” Peterson said. “I don’t know how many leading scorers we’ve had in games throughout the season. It’s incredible to see.”

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