PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine Red Claws, presented by Unum, won their first-ever playoff series in dramatic fashion, 124-119, eliminating the Fort Wayne Mad Ants in a decisive Game 3 at the Portland Expo. Maine advances to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time, and will play #1 seed Raptors 905, starting with Game 1 this Sunday at the Portland Expo.
Jalen Jones led Maine with 30 points on 11-15 shooting. Abdel Nader added 26 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists, including a crucial dunk down the stretch. Boston Celtics First Round Draft Pick Geurschon Yabusele added 26 points on 10-14 shooting off the bench to go with 9 rebounds. Jordan Mickey, on assignment from the Celtics, added 22 points and 14 boards to go with 4 bocks. Coron Williams added 11 points down the stretch in the win. Fort Wayne was led by Trey McKinney-Jones, who finished with 30 points.
Jordan Mickey started the scoring with a running hook shot. Immediately, the Mad Ants went to Hansbrough inside for an alley-oop. Jones’ 3-point play gave Maine an 11-10 lead, and Mickey’s put-back extended it to three. Jones scored 10 of Maine’s first 16 points in the 1st quarter. The teams went back and forth, with Hansbrough scoring at will inside for Fort Wayne, and the Red Claws doing the same on their end. Nader’s three point play, and subsequent three by Arthur Edwards extended the lead to five. Jones hit a three to beat the shot clock to cap a 13 point quarter, and the Red Claws had a 35-29 lead after one.
Mickey’s second and third efforts early in the 2nd resulted in a hoop and the foul, and the Red Claws took a 43-33 lead. Yabusele showed off his athleticism with a huge block on one end, then received a monster alley-oop slam on the other end — Maine took a 55-43 lead with 6:31 left in the half. Fort Wayne mounted a comeback — Travis Leslie’s bucket cut it to 57-52 — and Georges Niang’s jumper got it to three — in the blink of an eye, Fort Wayne got it to one point at 57-56 before Yabusele’s three righted the ship. Maine took a 67-62 lead into the break –- shooting 57.8% from the floor and 6-12 from downtown. Jones and Yabusele led the Red Claws with 15 points each at the half.
Niang opened the 3rd quarter with back to back buckets to cut it to one, when Jackson’s first bucket of the game stopped the run. Yabusele’s monster jam brought the crowd to its feet and the Red Claws held a 78-76 lead halfway through the period. Jordan Loyd’s tough floater tied it at 79, and a fast break bucket by Hicks gave Fort Wayne a 81-79 lead. Hansbrough got to the line and extended Fort Wayne’s lead to 87-81, the largest of the game. Yabusele’s fast break bucket make it 91-90 Fort Wayne heading into the final quarter.
In the 4th, Fort Wayne went on a run, with Trey McKinney-Jones’ three-point play making it 100-92 Mad Ants with 9:00 to go. Coron Williams and Jones hit back to back three’s – and the game was tied at 103 just like that. Jones’ three-point play gave Maine a 108-105 lead. Yabusele’s offensive rebound led to another three by Jones to make it 112-106 Red Claws. The Red Claws went on a 22-8 run to take the lead — Yabusele’s bucket made it 116-110 with 1:14 to go. McKinney-Jones dropped in a three with :45 to go to cut it to 116-115. Nader’s monster slam gave Maine a 118-115 lead. Yabusele’s huge rebound led to free throws for Mickey with :19 to go. Travis Leslie drained a huge three to cut it to 120-118 with :15 left, but Nader put the game away at the line.
The Red Claws shot 56.3% (45-80) from the floor, 42.3% (11-26) from downtown and 23-30 from the free throw line. Fort Wayne shot 51.1% (47-92) from the field, 25% (6-24) from beyond the arc, and 19-23 from the charity stripe.
The Red Claws will face #1 seed Raptors 905 in the Eastern Conference Finals, starting Sunday at 5 p.m. at the Portland Expo. Games 2 and (if necessary) 3 are Wednesday, April 19 and Thursday, April 20 on the road.