Omari Spellman

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in thrilling 104-90 win over Bulls

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in thrilling 104-90 win over Bulls

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Warriors finally did something that's eluded them for more than a week: Finish a game at home.

In Wednesday's 104-90 victory over the Bulls at Chase Center, Golden State outscored Chicago 26-17 over the final 12 minutes to claim its fourth victory of the season. 

Less than 48 hours after surrendering a 25-5 run to close Monday's loss to OKC, the Warriors built a 17-point lead in the final two minutes against Chicago, providing an impressive launchpad for its upcoming five-game road trip.

Here are the takeaways from the win. 

Paschall shines

Paschall has been one of the best rookies in the league through the first month of the season and once again proved why Wednesday. In 36 minutes, he finished with 25 points, seven rebounds and three assists. 

Paschall got going early with an and-1 layup in the first quarter before displaying a Draymond Green-like flex to Golden State's bench. With 10 seconds left in the half, he finished a dunk over two Bulls, much to the delight of sideline reporter Klay Thompson and Golden State's bench. 

Paschall continues to be a key find for the Warriors from last summer's NBA Draft, playing consistent minutes usually not seen from a rookie. While a rookie wall should be looming, Paschall is doing his part to avoid it. 

Spellman finding his groove

Four months ago, the Warriors acquired Spellman as the second-year big man hoped to get his career on track. By the end of the night, he held true to that goal, finishing with 13 points and 11 rebounds in 24 minutes. 

Spellman's performance on the boards this season has been impressive. Entering Wednesday, he ranked second in the league in offensive rebounding percentage (13.8). In the win over the Bulls, he showed his effectiveness, highlighted by an impressive putback dunk in the first half.

Last week, Spellman said he wanted to carve out his own identity with the current iteration of the Warriors. With each game, he's getting closer to that goal. 

Ugly basketball

When two of the league's worst teams play one another, ugly basketball is bound to commence. In that regard, Wednesday lived up to that billing.

[RELATED: Reporter Klay sounds like a natural on GRIII dunk]

Through the first 12 minutes, both teams shot under 30 percent, while scoring a combined 42 points. The game mirrored a bad pickup game on Saturday morning, as the teams combined for 39 turnovers on the night. 

The Warriors entered Wednesday evening with all the ingredients for a game like this. A youthful group ranked last in defense, coupled with multiple stars out with injury, will have its share of these kinds of night. Fortunately for them, their grit came with a win.

How Warriors' frontcourt rotation will change when Kevon Looney returns

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AP

How Warriors' frontcourt rotation will change when Kevon Looney returns

Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.

The Warriors are about to have a surplus of big men for the first time this season. After playing most of the year with an incredibly thin and injury-depleted frontcourt, Golden State will be getting back Kevon Looney and Alen Smailagic soon. Those additions, along with Willie Cauley-Stein, Marquese Chriss and Omari Spellman, will finally give the Warriors the frontcourt depth they had hoped for before the season started.

Looney is the best defender and all-around player of the bunch. He is fundamentally sound and provides a calm effective presence in the paint. Smailagic is an unknown commodity at only 19 years of age, but the Warriors' front office has been high on him and is dying to see how he fares in actual games. But to find minutes for Looney, and perhaps Smailagic as well, the coaching staff will have to make some tough decisions when it comes to the playing time for the three currently healthy big men.

Let's break down how these returns will impact Cauley-Stein, Chriss and Spellman.

Willie Cauley-Stein

After missing all of training camp and the start of the season, it has been hard for Cauley-Stein to find consistency in his game. As the tallest and most experienced center on the team, there were high expectations for him to show his athleticism and pick-and-roll skills on the offensive end.

However, the ever-changing active roster has stunted Cauley-Stein's ability to form chemistry with whoever is playing point guard, and with the lack of team practices, it is clear that he is lost at times trying to fit into the flow of the game. He has shown flashes of his unique ability to speed down the floor in transition and play above the rim, even swatting more shots on defense than his career averages. 

The Warriors are doing everything in their power to make Cauley-Stein comfortable and effective in his role, starting him the last 13 games. It is likely the team will continue to get him on the court for a solid dose of minutes even with Looney's return as they hope to increase his productivity and even his potential trade value. But if he maintains his inconsistent play, keeping him in the lineup will be hard when taking minutes away from Chriss and Spellman.

Marquese Chriss

Playing on a non-guaranteed contract, Chriss is doing everything in his power to make sure he sticks around for the full season and maybe more. Despite being his fourth year in the NBA, Chriss is only 22 years old, and the Warriors are starting to see the young big man realize his immense potential.

The 6-foot-9 big man came into the league as a "stretch-four" who would play more on the perimeter and shoot 3s rather than play inside. With the Warriors, that has changed out of necessity as the team's frontcourt started the season devastated by injury. Playing mostly as a center, Chriss has improved greatly over the course of the first month of the season. Over the last five games, he is averaging 22 minutes of playing time, scoring 11 points per game on 49 percent shooting from the field.

While those are solid numbers, what has really caught the eye of the coaches are his 3.4 assists and two blocks per game over that span. Against the Thunder on Monday night, Chriss dished out a career-high seven assists, consistently staying in the paint and finding open outside shooters. Meanwhile, he has been the Warriors' best interior rim defender, something that the team is severely lacking.

Omari Spellman

Spellman has impressed as of late. In his last four games, Spellman is averaging about 26 minutes of action, scoring 11 points per game including an outstanding 53 percent shooting from deep. He has consistently shown great hustle and effort when he is on the court, and it is clear that as he plays himself into better shape, his game has improved.

The Warriors picked up Spellman's team option for next season, so the Dubs see potential in the 22-year-old. His size and ability to hit a 3-point shot should make him valuable on its own, but his growth on the defensive end has made him playable both as a power forward and as a center. Because of this, he has seen stints on the court playing alongside Chriss, which should help him retain more minutes in the rotation if he can be effective playing at the four-spot. 

[RELATED: Cauley-Stein explains what makes Looney so valuable to Dubs]

Once Looney returns, it is likely that the team will ease him back into game action, and keep him on a minutes restriction. This should allow Cauley-Stein to play a solid amount, and perhaps give Chriss and Spellman the opportunity to keep sharing the floor together in the second unit. Smailagic most likely will only find himself on the court during garbage time to begin with, barring any more injuries and/or foul trouble to the others.

But if and when Looney regains his health and conditioning to play a full allotment of minutes, coach Steve Kerr may have to make the tough call on who gets frontcourt action based on balancing future development while also trying to win now.

Why Warriors have gone big after years of Steve Kerr's small lineups

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USATSI

Why Warriors have gone big after years of Steve Kerr's small lineups

SAN FRANCISCO -- With the NBA-minimum eight players available for each of the past two games, Warriors coach Steve Kerr trotted out a few curious lineups, including one that resulted in positive discovery.

After frequently and successfully “going small” over the past five seasons, Kerr resorted to lineups categorized as “going big.”

The center rotation that initially featured the tag-team trio of Willie Cauley-Stein, Marquese Chriss and Omari Spellman has evolved into something more flexible, mostly because of Spellman. Though Cauley-Stein and Chriss almost exclusively are centers, Spellman now is spending more time at power forward, where his smooth shooting stroke stretches the floor.

Sometimes, it’s Cauley-Stein and Spellman. Other times, it’s Chriss and Spellman.

“We like the shooting component that Omari has at the four, combined with the rim runs and lob threats that Willie and Marquese are,” Kerr said Sunday after practice. “It’s a good complement that way. That’s the preferred combination.”

Cauley-Stein, at 7-feet, is the longest of the three. Chriss, at 6-9, probably is the sweetest passer. Spellman, at 6-8 and a robust 250 pounds, clearly is the purest scoring threat -- which is something the Warriors need in the worst way.

After going 7-of-11 from beyond the arc over the past two games, Spellman is shooting 38.7 percent beyond the arc this season, behind only point guard Ky Bowman (42.5 percent) and small forward Glenn Robinson III (39.2).

More to the point, Spellman is shooting 56.3 percent from deep since making some mechanical corrections with his shot.

“He’s in better shape now,” Kerr said of Spellman, who six months ago weighed more than 300 pounds. “When he was playing in pickup games before preseason, he was hitting a lot of 3s. You could tell he was a natural shooter. He’s got a really good touch. He and Aaron Miles have done a lot of work on the 3-point shot in particular.

“As he’s gotten in better shape and lost some weight, he’s also been working on releasing the shot on the way up. He had a habit earlier in the season ... of shooting the 3 at the apex of his jump or on the way down, which is a difficult thing to do.”

In the loss at Utah on Friday, the minutes distribution among the big men was, in order, Spellman 28:18 Cauley-Stein 28:03 and Chriss 22:01. The three combined for 30 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists and two blocks. Spellman scored 18 points, 7-of-9 from the field and 4-of-4 from deep.

Taking notes back in the Bay Area was center/forward Kevon Looney, who has not played since logging 10 minutes on opening night but is expected to return as soon as next weekend. Rookie big man Alen Smailagic, who has been sidelined since the second day of training camp, could be activated shortly afterward.

“I like to see that,” Looney said, breaking into a broad grin. “With us being down, Omari, Quese and Willie are getting a chance to show their game. Playing two bigs out there is always a lot of fun. We’re banging on the rebounds, and crashing the glass always feels better when you’ve got another big down there with you.”

This is not what the Warriors visualized when studying the roster over the summer. But a staggering spate of injuries dramatically have altered expectations and combinations.

“We literally had no choice,” Kerr said of the new rotation. “But it’s been healthy for us, because it’s given us a look at Omari at the four. And as we get Looney back, and Smiley, we’re going to be healthy at the five with a lot of bodies.”

In a season where so much has gone physically wrong, forcing the Warriors to scrap their initial plan, they have had mixed results in adjusting on the fly. Style of play has been the biggest change, though some of that was anticipated with the arrival of guard D’Angelo Russell.

It’s now conceivable that by mid-December, the Warriors will have at least five players that fall in the category of big men, allowing a potential sixth, Draymond Green, to actually spend all of his time at power forward -- which could help his ailing 3-point shot.

[RELATED: Warriors, resigned to their fate, smart to be looking ahead]

All of this should improve rebounding, which has been a weakness. It also should help with scoring, particularly if Looney generates as much offense as originally forecasted and if Smailagic can crack the rotation.

The key to going big is having a power forward that can threaten defenses. Spellman does that. It puts him on the floor, as it will others. It’s a new look for the Warriors, but added dimension is welcome in a season such as this.