On a Wednesday night in a crowded Portland Exposition Building, the Red Claws eeked out a 124-119 victory over the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. That victory pushed the Red Claws to a 2-1 series lead over the Mad Ants, which gave them the opportunity to compete against the Raptors 905 in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Maine’s hard-fought victory was obviously due to the hard work of the entire squad, as four players finished the game with 20+ points. Although Guerschon ‘The Dancing Bear” Yabusele drew most of the attention due to him posting 26 points and 9 boards on 10-14 from the field in 30 minutes, he arguably wasn’t the biggest factor behind that victory.
That honor goes to our NBADL co-Rookie of the Year Jalen Jones, who put up a game-high 30 points and 7 boards on 11-15 from the field and 4-7 from beyond the arc.
Jones was able to push the Red Claws to victory due to the same tactics and abilities that allowed him to be our Rookie of the Year. Versatility was the name of the game for Jones as he was able to put a dent in the Mad Ants’ playoff hopes through his work as a perimeter shooter or pounding the ball in the paint against Tyler Hansbrough or Georges Niang.
As a perimeter shooter, Jones arguably looked more comfortable during that game against Fort Wayne than when he was killing it in the regular season. Jones just showed a willingness to launch his jumper whether he was wide open or had a hand directly in front of his grill. While that confidence might push Red Claws coach Scott Morrison to rip some hairs off his head, it’s a good sign for Jones, who has been working on his perimeter jumper since he was with Texas A&M.
After defeating the Mad Ants in the best-of-3 game series, Jones and the Red Claws will look to defeat the Raptors 905 in the upcoming Eastern Conference Finals. While the Raptors 905 are without Edy Tavares and Axel Toupane, who are currently in the NBA, Jerry Stackhouse’s squad will be an extremely tough team to beat.
That could especially be evident for Jones, who will be matched up against stud forward CJ Leslie. While Jones has stood as arguably the best offensive forward in the NBADL, he’ll be in for a challenge against Leslie, an unbelievable defender that can just shut down any offensive player in the league.
Will Jones be able to still put up numbers against Leslie and lead the Red Claws to their first D-League Finals? We’ll have to see when the series begins on Sunday night.