Warriors

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in Christmas Day win over Rockets

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in Christmas Day win over Rockets

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- The sellout crowd arrived at Chase Center on Christmas Day seeking only one gift: A Warriors victory.

They got their wish.

The Warriors bent but never broke and earned every bit of a 116-104 triumph over the powerful Houston Rockets.

It was the third consecutive win for the Warriors (8-24), who played lock-down defense in the fourth quarter, holding the Rockets (21-10) to 17 points on 6-of-20 shooting from the field.

Here are three quick takeaways from a game in which the Warriors were heavy underdogs:

Scrap, pluck and perspiration

The Warriors knew they were outgunned, that the Rockets were coming in on a four-game win streak, that they were averaging 120.2 points per game (second in the NBA) and that they led the league in 3-point makes (15.8 per game).

Simply to have a chance to win, the Warriors would have to play solid defense and, moreover, win the hustle game. They did.

The Warriors battled from baseline to baseline. They were all over the glass, chasing loose balls, scrambling on defensive rotations. Their desire was both palpable and visible.

In a challenging season, they played as they must to give themselves a chance to win. Though they won’t always succeed, but they followed the blueprint perfectly.

Valor on defense

Coach Steve Kerr said on Monday that all the guys who generally have guarded James Harden – Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala – in recent years are not available.

In the absence of Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala chasing the league-leading scorer, the Warriors sent plenty of double-teams, usually helping Glenn Robinson III and forcing the ball of out Harden’s hands. On those occasions when he could launch before the second defender arrived, he was able to make then pay.

But the attention kept Harden from dominating the game, as he has so often this season. He scored 24 points (14.6 below his average), on 10-of-18 shooting from the field, including 6-of-10 from beyond the arc.

The Warriors did a tremendous job keeping him off the line, as Harden did not shoot a single free throw in the first half and finished only 0-of-1 from the line.

Russell Westbrook tried to make up for the free-throw shortage and more, scoring 30 points (on 11-of-32 shooting from the field) and making 8-of-8 from the line.

Career game for Damion Lee

To be consistently competitive, the Warriors have long needed scoring from somebody besides D’Angelo Russell and Alec Burks. Damion Lee came through on Wednesday.

As active as he has been at any time this season, the 6-5 guard poured in 22 points, on 5-of-9 shooting from the field, including 2-of-2 from deep and 10-of-10 from the line.

[RELATED: Watch Warriors' funny Christmas video]

As impressive as his scoring was, the stunning development was Lee’s work in the land of the giants. He snagged a team-high 15 rebounds.

Without Lee, who scored 17 points in the first half, the Warriors don’t stay close long enough to hang around and outlast the Rockets.

Warriors' Jordan Poole showing more progress after bad start to season

Warriors' Jordan Poole showing more progress after bad start to season

SAN FRANCISCO -- With four seconds left in the third quarter of the Warriors' 190-95 win over Magic on Saturday, Jordan Poole ran full speed to the right-wing with a bucket on his mind. 

Sprinting alongside teammate Omari Spellman, Poole received a pass from the big man, pump faked, took a dribble and drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer, pushing the Warriors lead to 11. 

Walking to the bench, Poole had both arms in the air, and was yelling "Yeahhhh" towards the crowd. Similar plays have been the norm for Poole over the last week as he gradually digs himself out a bad start to his rookie season. 

"He's starting to figure out where his spots are," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "Where his spots are and his comfort zone and how to impact a game." 

Remnants of Poole's improvement were on display early Saturday night. After Golden State went down 13-0 four and a half minutes into the contest, Poole scored 11 first-quarter points, helping Golden State take a 28-25 lead by the end of the period. Poole totaled 21 points for the game, including four 3-pointers, providing another example of his evolution. In his past three outings, Poole is averaging 16 points on 45 percent from the field. 

Such stretches are uncommon considering the start of Poole's career. During his first 29 games -- with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson out of the lineup -- he shot just 25 percent, prompting a demotion to the G League. While his shot was ineffective, it was his propensity to not give all-out effort that drew ire of the coaching staff. On his way down to Santa Cruz, Kerr gave him a player that he'd like Poole to use a blueprint for success: Pelicans guard JJ Redick. More specifically, the shooter's habit of constant movement on the defensive end, complimented by his shooting ability. 

Poole followed suit during his G League stint, averaging 26 points, 5.3 assists and 1.3 steals in three games. The performance has carried over back to the NBA, as he's making 42 percent of his 3-pointers over his last three games. But he showed his  growth six minutes into the third quarter Saturday, when he fought through two screens, moved his feet on Magic guard Evan Fournier before stripping the guard, causing a fast break on the other end, prompting praise from his coach and teammates along the way.  

"He's doing better on defense, handling the ball and making plays," Kerr said. "The game is so fast at this level. Everything happens much faster, so whether you are defending somebody or having to get over a screen or leave a rotation or if you have the ball and you are trying to make a pass, everything just happens quicker than you are used to. I think the time in Santa Cruz helped him gain more confidence and maybe the game has slowed down a bit ... He just looks more confident and comfortable."

"I think his approach has been better," teammate D'Angelo Russell added. "I think that's what's contributed to him successfully on the court. Not just worrying about his shots but his demeanor, his approach is business-like."

Poole's progression comes as the Warriors are in transition. As he works towards a long-term role, organizational cornerstones Curry and Thompson are working their way back from injuries, while Russell -- an All-Star guard -- is giving 20-year old daily lessons on how to be a pro.

[RELATED: Paschall regains form after tough stretch]

"I'm like a kid in the candy store, especially being able to have Steph, Klay and [Russell]," Poole said on Warriors Postgame Live. "I'm in awe every day. You wouldn't want to be in any other situation." 

As Poole celebrated his buzzer-beater, Curry sat on a makeshift stage, soaking in the rookie's latest step as a pro, leaving compliments along the way. 

"The way that he's fought through his early-season struggles and gone down to Santa Cruz, really able to work on his game, see the floor, get his rhythm and shoot the ball the way he's been doing the last few games," Curry said during NBC Sports Bay Area's broadcast. "That's what an NBA player is made of. It's not going to be pretty but you got to keep coming back to try and make it work."

Warriors' rookie Eric Paschall back to looking like a long-term keeper

Warriors' rookie Eric Paschall back to looking like a long-term keeper

SAN FRANCISCO -- No one in the Warriors' front office or on the coaching staff knows the extent of Eric Paschall’s NBA potential. Neither does he. In the fourth month of his career, he has provided ample evidence to engage debate.

After his first six weeks: Solid Rookie of the Year candidate.

After the next five weeks, during which endured assorted aches and pains in his joints: Uh, um, well, maybe he’s solid rotation player.

After the last two: He can start for any team and produce under pretty much any condition.

Paschall shed some light on his progress Saturday night after doing his part and more to lift the Warriors to a 109-95 win over the Orlando Magic. Making his second start since Dec. 11, he scored 20 points, grabbed nine rebounds and added two steals in 35 minutes.

He was a difference-maker, looking much more like the player we’d glimpsed in the first six weeks than during the five that followed.

There is, he acknowledged, a reason for that.

“I feel those injuries were kind of a blessing in disguise in terms of my body and getting the proper rest I needed,” he said of discomfort felt in both hips during various stages of December.

“Your rookie year is probably your longest year because right after college you’re going to pre-draft workouts, flying across the country for a workout, maybe have a back-to-back workout. Right after that, you go into training camp for summer league. Right after that, you go into training camp. So, you don’t really get a lot of time off. That was really good for me in terms of my body and having time to recover.”

This point, which can be lost in translation, is particularly applicable to Paschall because he played four years of college ball, 27 games as a freshman at Fordham and 110 at powerhouse Villanova. The Wildcats played deep into March.

Coming to the Warriors this season, when much of their roster was being rebuilt, Paschall dived into the opportunity to play. A lot. He averaged a team-high 33 minutes over his first 22 NBA games, 19 of which he scored in double figures. He didn’t hit the vaunted “rookie wall.” He was thrown up against it.

Paschall missed two games in mid-December due to soreness in his left hip. He missed two more games in late-December with what was described as a contusion on his right hip.

As he made several attempts to play through the discomfort, it was apparent he was not struggling. His production took a steep drop, as did his minutes. He scored 70 points in the first four games of December, 73 over the next 11, bleeding into January.

Paschall’s 20-point game Saturday was his first since he rang up 24 points on Dec. 2. His nine rebounds were the most since he pulled that same amount on that same night.

Citing Paschall’s solid play over the previous four games, it was an easy call for coach Steve Kerr to start the 6-6, 250-pound rookie at power forward Saturday for the ailing Draymond Green.

The reward was efficiency (8-of-14 shooting from the field, 2-of-5 from beyond the arc) and impact and indicated, again, that Paschall is better suited to power forward than small forward, where he also has spent some time.

“It’s just more floor spacing,” Kerr said. “He’s so quick off the dribble and he’s got that burst at the rim, so when he’s at the four, even with a great athlete like Aaron Gordon out there, he still has the space to go to the rim and create a play.

“At the three, it’s a little more difficult to do that because you have more big guys in the paint. It’s an easier position for Eric to play, and he was fantastic.”

[RELATED: Steph's powerful message to young Dubs]

After initially suggesting his game is no different at small forward than it is at power forward, Paschall agreed with Kerr’s assessment.

“Yeah, I understand why he says that, in terms of just being able to attack,” he said. “Now that I think about it, I would say spacing at the four is (beneficial).”

There is little debate about that. And no debate at all that Paschall has the physical tools and mental makeup to prosper in the NBA.