BY MASON BISSADA
Stephen Curry. D’Angelo Russell. Klay Thompson. Draymond Green. Kevon Looney. Sounds like a pretty formidable starting five, right ? Many teams in the league would kill for any one of those five names, including the Golden State Warriors.
Unfortunately, that lineup was just a fantasy for Golden State on Saturday as they squared off against the Charlotte Hornets. Curry (broken hand), Russell (tweaked ankle), Thompson (torn ACL) Green (torn ligament in finger), Looney (hamstring injury) and Jacob Evans (abductor strain) were all sidelined, forcing Head Coach Steve Kerr to run out a starting five composed of Glen Robinson III, Willie Cauley-Stein and rookies Ky Bowman, Jordan Poole and Eric Paschall. It is debatable whether the Warriors have embraced the tank, but it is undeniable that the tank, manifesting itself as an injury plague, has embraced the Warriors.
And yet, Golden State looked competitive throughout their 93-87 loss. This can largely be attributed to the fact that they were facing off against Charlotte. The Hornets, while holding a respectable 2-3 record coming into tonight’s game, also had the worst point differential in the Eastern Conference. Their offensive and defensive deficiencies gave the Warriors a puncher’s chance despite their seemingly endless list of injuries.
Golden State led by five at halftime and three at the end of the third quarter, but relinquished their lead midway through the fourth. With seconds left, Golden State gave up multiple offensive rebounds off of missed free throws by the Hornets and did not give themselves a chance to either win the game or send it to overtime. Head Coach Steve Kerr took responsibility for the crunch time failure. “I decided to screw things up at the end,” Kerr said postgame. “Tough way to lose. I was just so proud of the guys and the way they competed.”
Eric Paschall played the best game of his young career, scoring 25 points on 10 of 18 shooting. Paschall looked decisive, knowing when to drive and when to pass. The Warriors would frequently play through him in the post, running shooters off the ball around him as he surveyed the court. When facing up, Paschall used his surprising first step to his advantage, getting to the rim and using his big body to finish through contact. He has just enough of a handle to create seperation and wrong-foot his defender before knocking them off balance with his strength. Though his jumpshot is a bit unorthodox, Paschall was able to knock down a few mid-range jumpers. His 3-point shot is another story, as he went 0-4 on the night. Still, he answered the call as a number-1 option on a team desperate for shot creation.
“Eric’s just so confident,” Kerr said postgame. “He knows who he is. He’s got an interesting game. He’s an undersized 4-man but can put the ball on the floor and just bull past people and get to the rim. He also showed he could knock down a jumpshot. He’s doing a hell of a job.”
Ky Bowman, the Warriors’ two-way rookie out of Boston College and once the fourth-string point guard on the roster, also stepped up in terms of offensive creation as the starting 1, putting in a solid line of 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists. His ball-handling and dribble penetration were crucial, and he showed flashes of being a pest defensively.
Glenn Robinson III also pitched in, knocking in four of his seven 3-point attempts. This is a positive sign for Robinson. He’s always been an efficient shooter, but never attempted enough shots from beyond the arc to keep defenses honest. If seven attempts from behind the line can be his new normal and he can maintain decent efficiency while doing it, he suddenly becomes a valuable player at a position of need.
For the Hornets, shooting guard Dwayne Bacon led the way with 25 points on 10-21 shooting. Bacon poked holes in the Warriors’ defense, both in the half court and in transition. Centers Willie Caulie-Stein and Omari Spellman often looked lost defending the paint, and Bacon was able to take advantage. Going forward, this is where Draymond Green will be missed the most. Terry Rozier (8-17) added 20 points and seven assists.
As this Warriors’ season transitions from competitive NBA basketball to rookie-scouting summit, it’s a positive sign that Golden State’s young guns didn’t shy away from the moment. Paschall looks like a real player, and he has another 76 games to continue his ascent.
The Warriors next host the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night at 7:30 from the Chase Center.