The Portland Expo is 114 years old.

Janis Joplin rocked these rafters. James Brown infused it with soul. Babe Ruth reffed a boxing match and Rocky Marciano fought an exhibition bout.

This summer, more than 400 asylum seekers found refuge within its walls.

On Friday night, the history of the old barn reached a new peak when professional basketball’s newest sensation, 7-foot-5 Celtics rookie Tacko Fall, made his Expo debut in the Maine Red Claws home opener.

The Claws held off the visiting Fort Wayne Mad Ants 103-100 before a sellout crowd of 2,417 to remain perfect two games into their G League basketball season.

Did Portland fans take to Tacko? Oh yes, they certainly fell for Fall, who came off the bench three minutes into the game and still managed a double-double by halftime, with 12 points and 11 rebounds to go along with five blocks and at least 10 altered shots.

He wound up with 16 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks in 27 minutes of action. He took 10 shots, and made seven, missing all three times he attempted a hook.

“It was crazy,” Fall said of the reception he received. “I got here around 4:30 and it was already loud, and the game was not until 7. It just shows how much they love the Red Claws out here. Their support is much appreciated.”

Fall was in the middle of Maine’s decisive 17-0 run early in the second quarter to give the Claws a lead they never relinquished.

Fort Wayne (0-3) trailed by as many as 17 early in the second half but cut the margin to single digits late in the fourth. Walt Lemon Jr., who opened last season with the Red Claws, missed a layup with four seconds left – eschewing a potential tying 3-pointer – with the score 101-98.

Yante Maten led Maine with 22 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Point guard Tremont Waters, who like Fall is on a two-way NBA contract with the Celtics, converted a 3-point play with 35 seconds left to give the Claws breathing room at 98-93 with 35 seconds left.

Waters also made three of four three throws in the final seconds to seal the victory. He finished with 17 points and seven assists.

“It was a good atmosphere,” said Darren Erman, the Red Claws new head coach. “The fans were into it, gave us a lot of good energy and you could tell we pressured the ball and played really good defensive, especially that first half.”

Bryce Brown (16 points) and Jaysean Paige (14) also scored in double figures. The 6-foot-2 Paige provided the most crowd-pleasing, non-Tacko dunk by taking advantage of Fort Wayne’s focus on Fall to corral an offensive rebound and flush it through the hoop for a 91-82 lead midway through the fourth.

“He draws a lot of attention,” Paige said. “It makes things easier for the guards.”

Naz Mitrou-Long of Fort Wayne led all scorers with 28 points. Lemon and Ike Nwamu each had 18 for the Mad Ants.

Erman said Fall proved particularly effective in altering shots and defending the pick-and-roll.

“You could see we struggled a little bit when he wasn’t in and protecting the rim,” Erman said. “He bailed us out defensively a lot. His pick-and-roll coverage was tremendous. That was as good as anyone you’ll find in the NBA.”

The game also featured the G League’s experimental free throw rule, in which, until the game’s last two minutes, only one all-or-nothing shot is attempted and 1, 2 or 3 points are awarded.

NOTES: Celtics rookie guard Romeo Langford left the game early in the second quarter. While defending a drive by Fort Wayne’s Brian Bowen, Langford fell and grabbed above his right ankle, wincing in obvious pain. He limped off the court and did not return.


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