On a blustery afternoon amid a cold spell and a spike in coronavirus cases, the Maine Celtics drew their largest crowd of the season at the Portland Expo.

The big fella was back in town.

Tacko Fall, a 7-foot, 5-inch basketball behemoth who proved a sellout attraction while swatting shots and flushing dunks for the erstwhile Maine Red Claws two years ago, returned to the Expo on Saturday for the first time since March of 2020.

As was the case during much of his earlier stint in Maine, the home team prevailed. The Celtics never trailed in a 98-86 G League victory over the visiting Cleveland Charge before a crowd of 1,846.

“There’s always a different energy around games with him,” said Celtics center Luke Kornet, who at 7-foot-2 found himself looking up at Tacko for the opening tap.

Kornet and Fall were Boston Celtics teammates for a few months last season, when the local G League franchise was on hiatus. After two years on a two-way contract with Boston, Fall signed with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers on another two-way deal and appeared in 11 games for them until being waived last Sunday because the Cavs had a more pressing need at point guard. They signed Brandon Goodwin from Westchester of the G League.

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“It was very much a surprise,” Tacko said of the transaction. “Because I’ve played well. The few times I was with Cleveland, I was staying within my role and doing what I needed to do, but we’ve had a few injuries (and illnesses) and it was what they needed to do. It’s part of the business.”

Having already settled in Cleveland with a year-long housing lease, Fall accepted the Charge’s contract offer Wednesday and joined them in Portland on Friday.

He’s still feeling the effects of a recent illness (not COVID, for which he has been tested many times) and looked a bit rusty Saturday. Against Maine, he dunked twice, both in the second half, and dropped in two more baskets from close range. He added one free throw and finished with nine points in 25 minutes to go along with 11 rebounds.

He also had a steal, missed three shots, turned the ball over six times and was whistled for five fouls.

Charge head coach Dan Geriot said Fall reported to camp in fabulous physical condition but bouncing between the Charge and the Cavs took a toll on Tacko.

“You don’t get as much of those five-on-five opportunities in NBA practices,” Geriot said. “It’s hard for a man of that size to stay in shape. He loses it quick and it takes him a little time to get it back.”

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Fall showed some of his old flash Saturday, at one point bumping Kornet aside for a forceful two-handed jam. The Celtics often double-teamed Tacko when he received the ball, particularly with former Claws teammate John Bohannon giving up considerable size.

“He presents a big challenge because he’s a humongous human being,” said Bohannon, the only Celtic in uniform Saturday who played with Tacko on the 2019-20 Red Claws. “You know there’s going to be some excitement when he’s here. The fans really take to him.”

Celtics two-way player Sam Hauser, whose parents Dave and Stephanie are visiting from Wisconsin for the weekend, led Maine with 31 points. He was 5 for 5 on 3-point attempts in the second half to keep the Charge at bay after the visitors pulled within 70-65 early in the fourth quarter.

Maine head coach Jarell Christian missed the game because of a personal matter, so associate head coach Alex Barlow was in charge. Fall warned Barlow before the game he would spoil Barlow’s coaching debut.

“It was just really good to see him play, to see him get an ovation from the fans,” Barlow said, “because he was really great for us when he was here.”


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