SAN FRANCISCO -- In the minutes following Monday's 127-118 win over the Blazers at Chase Center, the Warriors' locker room looked more unusual than in years past.
Gone were the cramped quarters of Oracle Arena along with the generational stars that inhabited the space. Replacing the status quo is a crop of unproven young professionals.
The player of the game was finishing his graduation requirements six months ago, while its second-leading scorer has a 45-day limit on the roster. Of the nine active bodies, none played during any of Golden State's championship runs. In the last month, three of the team's All-Stars have suffered potentially long-term injuries. Under the current climate, wins are not expected. But after Monday's victory, the remains of Warriors are looking to establish their worth.
"I think there are chips on other people's shoulders just to prove," Warriors guard Ky Bowman said Monday evening. "Everybody's got something to prove in this league."
In their latest effort, Eric Paschall -- on his 23rd birthday -- scored a career-high 34 points, while adding 13 rebounds. Bowman -- one of Golden State's two two-way players -- finished with 19 points and eight assists. Along the way, the Warriors' defense -- much-maligned through the first month of the season -- held Blazers guard CJ McCollum to just 14 points on 6-of-16 shooting.
The team's performance comes as its health is in peril. In the last week, five players have missed games due to injury, including star guards Klay Thompson and Steph Curry, who both will be re-evaluated in February. With Curry, Thompson and D'Angelo Russell out, coach Steve Kerr named Bowman the team's starting point guard.
Despite being shorthanded, the nameless Warriors have gone toe to toe with their opponents.
In Saturday's loss to Charlotte, Paschall scored 12 of his 25 points in the first half, while Bowman finished with 16 points, adding seven rebounds and four assists in his first career start, helping the Warriors take a 71-68 lead into the fourth quarter before ultimately losing.
"We're just going out there, having fun and playing hard and letting the chips fall where they may. We've been in two games so that's just a testament to how good everybody in the NBA is," Warriors forward Omari Spellman said. "Yeah there are starters but the people coming off the bench are tough too so I'm happy E, Ky get to show people 'Nah bro, we nice.'"
Though Golden State has shown promise, its ability to close has been questionable.
On Saturday, despite owning a lead in the final two minutes, mistakes doomed the team. An inbounds turnover by Damion Lee was compounded by the Warriors allowing two offensive rebounds off late missed free throws by Charlotte with Willie Cauley-Stein -- who had eight rebounds on the night -- on the bench, providing yet another lesson for the undistinguished Warriors.
Two nights later, the Dubs momentarily changed course. After Blazers forward Mario Hezonja hit a 3-pointer to cut Golden State's lead to six, free throws from Jordan Poole and Lee put the game out of reach, sealing the Warriors' second win of the season.
"I was so proud of them the other night," Kerr said Monday. "I hated walking out of this building with a loss to Charlotte when we played well enough to win and I just felt like they deserved more and tonight they proved that so it's great validation that their effort and their work is being rewarded."
As the Warriors begin a three-game road trip, the key to success may come from some friendly advice from within.
"By not eating the poison. Just because you've got win - that's one win," Spellman said. "Just don't eat the poison. Keep coming with the same energy and intensity we've been playing with. The worst thing we can do right now is get to smelling ourselves after one dub.
"We're not surprising anybody anymore," he added. "They just watched you beat what they said was a top-3 team in the West you're not surprising nobody no more, you gotta go play."