It was crunch time in the Golden State Warriors’ win over the Pelicans on Friday night, and coach Steve Kerr’s bunch suddenly couldn’t make a shot. New Orleans appeared poised to wrestle the game away, after coming back from a 19-point deficit.
So what did Kerr do? He turned to his bench. Specifically, power forward Eric Paschall. The All-Rookie performer from a season ago rewarded Kerr with an enormous put-back basket that got the Warriors back on track and led to an eventual 125-122 victory.
It was a triumphant return for Paschall. This was his first game back from a hip injury that made it painful for him to get out of bed.
After Paschall’s tip-in, guard Jordan Poole’s career night (38 points, six assists, four rebounds and the game-winning layup) continued unabated. It was a confidence building win for Golden State, as superstar guard Stephen Curry, forward Andrew Wiggins and power forward Draymond Green all took the night off to rest for Sunday’s big game against Memphis.
But that Kerr inserted Paschall at a time when the offense had stalled — even with Poole on the court — is telling. Kerr has struggled to find a role for the talented Paschall. He’s thrived as a small-ball center, but that role is already taken by Green.
Paschall’s strength is different than Green’s though — it’s scoring one-on-one, especially within the 3-point arch. That’s why Kerr has trouble finding him a spot. The coach’s offense doesn’t allow for many one-on-one opportunities, especially not for a reserve.
It appears he’s ready to let Paschall work a bit, however, if the offense is in dire need of points. That could be Paschall’s role moving forward. As limited as it is, it could be important as the franchise attempts to build another championship roster.
Paschall’s role could be similar to that of former Warriors forward Marreese Speights. Known as “Mo Buckets,” Speights didn’t play much. But when he did, he made a giant impact with his offense. Eventually, Speights’ 3-point shot came along, too. That’s the ideal case for Paschall for now.
His defense isn’t quite what Kerr would like, but Speights had the same issue and was an essential piece of a championship squad. As the Warriors build toward a title run, they need role players, and Kerr may have finally figured it out with the talented Eric Paschall.
(Photo credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)