Tacko Fall rises to the occasion in home debut with Maine Red Claws

Tacko Fall rises to the occasion in home debut with Maine Red Claws

PORTLAND, MAINE -- The fans came in waves, some going straight to their seats while others stopped by the nearby concession stand to pick up a snack, a drink, and maybe a Tacko Fall jersey.

And when Tacko made his way to the floor before tip-off, “Wow! He’s really tall!” was uttered by a few - OK, quite a few - folks who were laying eyes on the 7-foot-7 center for the first time in person. 

There were others in the stands dressed in taco-themed outfits, paying homage to the man of the night in Maine, Tacko Fall. 

“This is Tacko, Maine,” quipped Red Claws guard Trey Davis. 

There was an undeniable buzz at the Portland Expo Building on Friday night, and the presence of Tacko Fall had a lot to do with it. 

And to his credit he did not disappoint, tallying a double-double in Maine’s 103-100 win over the Ft. Wayne Mad Ants (0-3) in the team's home opener.

Tacko played just over 27 minutes for the Red Claws (2-0) and finished with 16 points along with game-highs in rebounds (13) and - no surprise here - blocked shots (6). 

Before the game, Tacko talked about having spent more time working on his touch around the rim which is surprising when you consider he is the NCAA career leader in field goal percentage (.740). 

But most of those baskets in college came on dunks which is no surprise considering Tacko's 7-7 frame. 

However, NBA teams aren’t going to be as easy to dunk on as the guys in college, so the idea of being able to score around the rim without dunking can only be an asset to Tacko going forward. 

The work he put in along those lines paid off on Friday night as Tacko mixed in short shots near the rim with his usual assortment of point-blank dunks. 

He also showed better movement defensively and better timing in terms of when to attempt to block shots and when to “show” as though he’s looking for another swat but elects to not go for the block.

The caliber of competition certainly has to be factored into Tacko’s play. 

But there was no getting around the fact that Tacko was a better player in every phase of his game, compared to what we saw in summer league and during preseason.

Red Claws head coach Darren Erman has been with the Celtics all season and has seen first-hand the progress made by Tacko whose impact on Friday's outcome was undeniable particularly on defense. 

“Tacko was great in pick-and-roll,” Erman said. “He really protected the rim. He was really good at it and bailed us out defensively a lot.”

While Maine led for most of the night, the Ft. Wayne Mad Ants were able to cut the Red Claws’ lead down to single digits early in the fourth quarter, only for Tacko to put them back up by double digits with a dunk that made it an 82-72 game with about 10 minutes to play. 

Tacko’s size alone makes him a force defensively.

But on Friday, he showed that he could be a contributor on offense, too. Tacko’s presence also forced the Mad Ants to pay closer attention to Tacko when he was on the floor, something that opened things up for Tacko’s teammates.

“Tacko played great,” said Tremont Waters who had 17 points to go with seven assists. “He ran the floor, finished when he got the ball; did a great job of protecting the rim. It’s so much easier playing with someone who’s standing at the rim and can pretty much block anything. There’s no sneaky, quick finishes that guards can get off.”

Not that they didn’t try mind you, only to find that Waters’ assessment of Tacko’s rim protection was legit. 

Tacko’s presence on the floor was huge, much like the attention and adulation he has received from Crustacean Nation. 

Tacko said he stepped on the floor around 4:30 p.m. and was pleasantly surprised by the large - and very loud - fan base that was already at the game. 

“It just shows how much they love the Red Claws around here,” Tacko said. “They support the team and we appreciate it.”


Don’t miss any of NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics vs. Warriors on Friday night at 7:30 p.m.. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

How Kobe Bryant once used a cutout of Paul Pierce as 'motivation'

How Kobe Bryant once used a cutout of Paul Pierce as 'motivation'

Kobe Bryant will forever be remembered as one of the fiercest competitors in sports history. That unmatched competitiveness was amplified whenever his Los Angeles Lakers faced off against their archrival, the Boston Celtics.

Two months after the Lakers fell to the C's in the 2008 NBA Finals, Bryant headed to China to take part in the Summer Olympics. There, he helped the United States earn its first gold medal since 2000.

But the sting from his loss to the Celtics overshadowed the euphoria of his Olympics victory.

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WNBA star Sue Bird, who also was in China for the '08 Games, told a great story about witnessing Bryant's competitive attitude while drinking wine and playing card games with him that summer.

“He was fresh off [the Finals loss] and you could tell [he was still thinking it]” Bird told Los Angeles Sparks star and ESPN analyst Chiney Ogwuimike.“… [We were] just kicking it and he saw this newspaper — it was something about the Lakers series and blah blah blah — and there was a picture of Paul Pierce celebrating.

“And he didn’t say a word. He didn’t say anything. But we saw him take the paper. He started cutting out the Paul Pierce picture. He folded it up and put it in his pocket and was like, ‘Motivation.’ And we were like, ‘Oh, it never stops with him.’ And you can tell.”

Watch below:

There never will be another player like the "Black Mamba."

Bryant tragically passed away in a helicopter crash on January 26 along with his daughter, Gianna, and seven others. He was 41 years old.

You can listen to Pierce reminisce about the C's Finals win over the Lakers in the Celtics Talk Podcast below:

Here's how Celtics' Gordon Hayward is staying busy amid coronavirus outbreak

Here's how Celtics' Gordon Hayward is staying busy amid coronavirus outbreak

Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward is spending some much needed time with his family, but he's probably seen Disney's "Frozen" more times than he's wanted to. 

"I think I've watched 'Frozen' 35 times already," Hayward said, according to ESPN's Zach Lowe. 

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Watching Disney films isn't the only thing the 30-year-old gamer is doing -- Hayward told Lowe he's been teaching his daughters how to play Mario Kart and Pokemon. While Hayward is one of the NBA's biggest video game nerds, he, unfortunately, isn't participating in the NBA 2K Tournament that begins on Saturday.

While his daughters are enjoying watching movies and playing video games, Hayward says they're missing the TD Garden court. 

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"This was the first season they actually liked to go," Hayward said. "And not to watch me play. Just to hang out. They miss that."

Hayward probably misses it even more. He's averaging 17.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game while shooting 50.2 percent from the field and 39.2 percent from beyond the arc. In the C's final game before the NBA hit pause on the 2019-20 campaign, Hayward tallied 27 points against the Indiana Pacers with 10 rebounds. 

If the NBA season does resume at any point in the future, Hayward should be well-rested and ready to go.