As part of an annual “Autism Awareness Night,” the Maine Red Claws toned down noise and lights at the Portland Expo Friday night.

Unfortunately for the Claws, that same subdued approach seeped into their play.

The Westchester Knicks cut down the Red Claws 116-106 before a sellout crowd of 2,417 to become the first team to win in Portland with 7-foot-5 center Tacko Fall in the Maine lineup.

“I don’t think we had the right integrity of basketball (Friday),” Claws Coach Darren Erman said. “Their guys played harder. They got loose-ball tip-ins, rebounds, offensive rebounds, they out-hustled us. We were playing uphill all game.”

The Claws were playing for the first time since the helicopter crash Sunday that killed former NBA star Kobe Bryant along with his daughter and seven other people. In tribute, there was a moment of silence before the anthem and then each team held the ball for 24 seconds on its initial possession, a nod to Bryant’s number.

The other unusual aspect of the evening was the Claws jerseys, colored blue instead of the familiar red, and in a jigsaw puzzle piece pattern. The visiting Knicks, despite a short-handed roster of eight that boasted neither a two-way nor an NBA affiliate player, raced out to a 23-9 lead by knocking down 10 of their first 11 shots.

All eight Westchester players, including old friend Andrew White, shared in the bounty, each finishing with between 10 and 17 points.

“That was key,” Westchester Coach Derrick Alston said of his team’s balance.  “You try to develop the guys at the end of the bench so that when it’s their time to play, they can produce.”

Trey Davis came off the Maine bench and led all scorers with 30 points. The Claws took brief leads in the second and third quarters, but never came closer than four in the fourth, during which they drained only two of a dozen 3-point attempts.

Fall hadn’t seen game action since Jan. 19, having been away with the Celtics recently as insurance for their injury-riddle frontcourt. He entered late in the first quarter and blocked three shots in a little over a minute, delighting the home crowd.

He also had a pair of highlight-reel dunks on pick-and-roll passes from Tremont Waters and feathered in two hook shots. He was 6 for 6 from the field but missed all four of his free throws, one of them catching only air, while employing a newer, mostly one-handed style of shooting.

“I’m going to stick with it,” he said. “It’s going to work out. I’m not too worried about it.”

Early in the fourth quarter, Tacko got poked in the eye while attempting to block a shot. He lost a contact lens and did not return, finishing with 12 points, four blocks and six rebounds in 17 minutes of action.

After the game, he left for Boston with the expectation he would suit up for the Celtics on Saturday night against Philadelphia rather than for the Red Claws against Greensboro.

“He can help the Celtics or he can help us,” Erman said, “but he’s going to help someone (Saturday night).”

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.