Despite the color or team name on tee-shirts worn during the Orlando Magic’s preseason home opener against the Boston Celtics Friday, the crowd at Amway Arena was rooting for Tacko Fall.
“We want Tacko!” chants slowly began in the first half of the game, and increasingly grew more dominant into the fourth quarter.
With 5 minutes and 33 seconds left on the clock, the former UCF men’s basketball center took off his grey long sleeve Celtics shirt and stepped foot on the court.
“It’s very motivating, but at the same time, it does make you feel a little uncomfortable sometimes because I don’t want to take away too much attention from what is really important,” Fall said in a pregame interview. “But at the same time, it’s a blessing and I’m really thankful that I have so many people cheering me on and rooting for me to be successful.”
The chants from the stands – beginning in the summer league and continuing into the preseason opener against the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday – are something Fall said he is used to.
“It means the world to me,” Fall said after the game. “I just want to tell them thank you.”
Fall – who played four years at UCF and helped lead the team to the second round March Madness earlier this year – was one of six undrafted players to play with the Celtics in the 2019 Summer League. On July 25, Fall signed with the Celtics as a free agent, according to the Friday game notes.
“It’s been crazy,” Fall said. “It’s been a little overwhelming but I’m really thankful for it.”
Fall said his feel for the game is where he has improved the most since putting on Celtics threads.
“I feel like I’m a lot more patient out there, I can just see the game a lot better,” Fall said. “There’s still room, a lot of room for improvements, but I’m learning every day.”
Heading into the game, the Celtics held the all-time advantage over the Magic 63-51, with the Magic defeating the Celtics 116-108 in April.
Without starting center Nikola Vucevic, the Magic looked like a different team in their first preseason home opener.
Team officials said Vucevic would sit out of the game due to a mildly sprained ankle, just hours before the contest. Celtics guard Kemba Walker also sat out due to knee soreness, according to box records.
Magic guard Markelle Fultz said in the postgame press conference the team came out a little slow and couldn’t execute throughout the game.
“It’s something we’re gonna fix, learn from today, and move on,” Fultz said.
After returning to Amway Center with three preseason wins on the road, Magic head coach Steve Clifford said the team’s offense is a few steps behind the defense after the game against the Celtics.
“Once we’ve broken the line, we haven’t scored a lot,” Clifford said. “It doesn’t mean we’re not capable of it, just means that our defense, like most teams, our defense is far ahead of our offense.”
Magic guard Terrance Ross led the team with game-high 21 points, with guard Melvin Frazier Jr. contributing 10 points and forward Al-Farouq Aminu scoring nine.
The Magic will face the Philadelphia 76ers Sunday at 6 p.m. and the Miami Heat Thursday at 7 p.m. to wrap up preseason play before starting the regular season against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Oct. 23 at Amway Arena.