This past Friday night at the T.D. Garden, Tacko Fall got his first batch of minutes in a real opportunity against the Washington Wizards. In 19 minutes, Tacko finished with 4pts 8reb 3blk and was a plus 13 on the day (enough for third best plus/minus on the team). The most impressive part of it all is that it wasn't even Tuesday.
To put how meaningful his minutes were Friday compared to any other game into perspective, before that game he had only logged 39 minutes in his career through 8 total games played (only 6 minutes in the current season in 1 game played). This means that he played 33% of his total career minutes in the game against Washington. Now, Tacko finally got the opportunity to show his improvements, did he show Brad enough?
Fall checked into the game with about 6 minutes left to play in the first quarter (first time he has entered a game without it being garbage time) and he made an immediate impact by blocking Russel Westbrook on a drive to the hoop and an attempted dunk. This moment felt like a statement, as Russ was clearly attempting to challenge the massive center perhaps to send a message of his own, and was stopped in his tracks. What follows his blocked shot has been overshadowed by the flashy plays but is really the type of play that will earn Tacko more minutes moving forward from Brad. After he blocks the shot, the C's are instantly off running the other way for a fast break, as they get down to the other end, you see Tacko sprinting back down the center of the paint. Had Tatum seen him sprinting the floor and could've gotten it to him, it would've been an easy slam for Tacko as the only Washington player defending him was Bradley Beal whom Tacko has a 14" advantage on. Luckily, the play ended in a Jaylen Brown three pointer so it didn't matter on the scoreboard, but I bet that when Brad Stevens goes back to watch the film, Fall's effort is what will stand out. Here's the play;
What was most impressive about Tacko Fall's performance, as demonstrated above, was his ability to move quicker and with more fluidity than he has looked in the past. He was more effective with his closeouts, and was able to run the floor in transition. In the NBA today, if you cant move quick enough to at least get in front of your man or sprint the floor in transition, you really don't have much chance to survive no matter how tall you are unless you have highly skilled post game which has become harder to find. In the past, he was just too slow to be able to play legitimate defense. He could block shots of course, but only when he was conveniently positioned. Now, with his improved movement and footwork, he looks to be able to get himself in better position to get those blocks more proficiently, and that is a weapon the Celtics can use down the line. What does this mean for Tacko and Boston in the future?
It means that he can fill a role, and he can give our current bigs a rest if they need it in meaningful moments of games. Also, with his improved movement, Stevens can use him for stints against teams that are beating them on the drive by playing a zone with the 7'5" Tacko in the middle to put that to an end. I don't expect him to instantly start getting 15-20 minutes a night, but it is not totally out of the realm of possibility that Brad could play him on certain nights for more extended minutes and use him as a specialist off the bench in certain situations. Here are Tacko Fall's full highlights against Washington;