Warriors

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in scrappy 127-118 win over Blazers

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in scrappy 127-118 win over Blazers

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SAN FRANCISCO -- The Warriors are forging a new identity on offense, with the rhythmic, fluid style of recent seasons giving way to scrap and sweat.

And the fans at Chase Center are getting behind it.

The starless Warriors laid it down well enough to stun a very good Trail Blazers team Monday night with a 127-118 victory that rocked the new arena hard enough to be felt all around the Bay -- earning a standing ovation inside the final minute.

Trailing by three at the half (63-60), the Warriors (2-5) took the lead late in the third quarter and held on for their first home victory this season.

Here are three takeaways from a game in which the Warriors displayed plenty of resolve against the Blazers (3-4):

Paschall stays hot

There will come a time when Eric Paschall doesn’t look like a lottery pick, but neither he nor the Warriors are in a hurry to see it.

The 6-foot-6, 255-pound forward celebrated his 23rd birthday in style, with 19 points in the first half and 34 for the game, adding 13 rebounds along the way.

Paschall became the third rookie this season with a 17-point quarter (Miami’s Tyler Herro and Memphis’ Ja Morant) and the first Warriors rookie with back-to-back 25-point games since none other than Stephen Curry in 2010.

Paschall was efficient early, making his first five shots and going 6 of 7 from the field in the opening quarter, playing all 12 minutes. He finished 11 of 19 from the field, including 4 of 6 from deep and 10 of 10 from the free-throw line.

Not bad for someone selected in the second round of the June draft.

Triples from the sky

When Paschall drained his first three 3-pointers, maybe it opened up the rims.

The Warriors shot 38.5 percent (10 of 26) from beyond the arc, with six different players finding at least one triple. In addition to Paschall’s shooting, fellow rookie Jordan Poole (16 points) dropped in a pair of threes.

Two of the three centers, Marquese Chriss and Omari Spellman, also drilled shots from beyond the arc.

Portland, considered one of the league’s top 3-point shooting teams, managed to shoot just 32.5 percent (13 of 40) from deep.

[RELATED: Steph jumped for Paschall's big quarter]

Defense continues to be a work in progress

The Warriors entered the season knowing they would face defensive challenges the likes of which they have not experienced for the better part of the decade. There was little sign of improvement.

There is not much rim protection, and the Blazers took advantage, scoring 62 points in the paint. Hassan Whiteside used his 7-foot-1 frame to score 22 points on 10-of-14 shooting, nearly all of it within 10 feet of the basket.

Faced with trying to contain Portland guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, both elite scorers, the Warriors weren’t much better on the perimeter. Guards Ky Bowman, Jordan Poole and Damion Lee often seemed unaware that Dame is equally adept at driving to the cup or shooting from beyond 30 feet.

Lillard finished with 39 points on 15-of-26 shooting, including 5 of 13 from deep.

There were positive signs in the fourth quarter, when the Warriors sensed victory, but the work in progress continues.

Michael Jordan's 'I'm back' decision changed Steve Kerr's life forever

Michael Jordan's 'I'm back' decision changed Steve Kerr's life forever

Editor’s note: Sports Uncovered, the newest podcast from NBC Sports, will shine a fresh light on the most unforgettable moments in sports. The first episode, “I’m Back,” tells never-before-heard stories about the two-word fax from Michael Jordan that changed the course of NBA history.

Some people are blessed with a telescopic view of the planet and their place in it. Steve Kerr is among them.

That’s why his predominant opinion of Michael Jordan is appreciation.

No doubt Kerr could harbor bitterness in the aftermath of that Chicago Bulls practice when MJ – in one of his many moments of deranged competitiveness – punched his teammate in the eye. Kerr could have clung to that memory, letting it fester for decades and influence any comment he makes about Jordan.

If Kerr were not the man he is, he might be as sour about his face meeting Jordan’s fist as MJ is about not receiving a postgame handshake from Isiah Thomas.

To retain such resentment, however, Kerr would have to obscure, if not completely disregard, all that has come his way since being a member of those iconic Bulls teams led by Jordan.

Besides, a man with mountaintop perspective doesn’t allow one brutal moment to eclipse his five-year Chicago experience, which yielded his first three championship rings and filled his life with cherished memories.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

“It completely changed the rest of my life,” Kerr told NBC Sports. “Playing with Michael Jordan changed the entire course of my career."

“I was able to play on these championship teams, made a name for myself, was able to get into TV, broadcasting, management, coaching and the reason people hired for me these jobs later on is because I played next to Michael Jordan. . .. I owe him everything.”

There is a sprinkle of exaggeration in those last four words. Kerr’s drive, his insight and his temperament, deserve a considerable share of credit.

Which does not dilute Kerr’s greater point, expressed in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago, which is producing a documentary focusing on Jordan’s March 1995 return to the NBA. This was Steve seeing what has transpired over the last 25 years and, moreover, knowing its origin.

Kerr’s vocation is basketball. He went from a 20-year playing career (college and NBA) that launched him into a front-office position in Phoenix, an analyst position with TNT and coaching position with the Warriors.

These opportunities have afforded Kerr’s family a very comfortable living, providing the benefit of a secure financial bubble without blinding him to some of the grim realities of the world beyond his nose. He meets with politicians. He addresses gun violence and voting rights and homelessness and racism and sexism. Kerr has and continues to passionately devote himself to these and other issues germane to civilized society.

Would Kerr’s megaphone attract anything more than passing notice if he’d spent the heart of his NBA career as the ninth man on the Hawks or the Warriors? No way. Kerr’s platform is substantial, and its base was constructed during his time with the Bulls and Jordan.

Being the head coach of the Warriors – a suddenly wildly successful franchise previously most often identified ineptitude – has been a factor in his access. It opened doors in the loftiest hallways in America. Some of his profile can be attributed to his commitment to certain principles and willingness to speak his mind on topics avoided by most others in his profession.

Most of it, though, is directly related to his time as one of the most revered and celebrated sports teams in the history of global sports. He was a Jordanaire. A member of the Bulls. The Michael Jordan Bulls.

[RELATED: Steve Kerr gets emotional in 'Last Dance' recalling dad's 1984 murder]

And even though MJ lorded over proceedings with an iron fist he rarely bothered gloving, Kerr did more than survive. He prospered. And his grip on reality, with its high highs and low lows, provides a strong sense of perspective.

There is no way to know the direction Kerr’s life might have taken if his prime years weren’t with those Bulls. Guess at your own peril.

It’s easy, however, to see the life he has now. Even with residual agony of multiple back surgeries, Kerr is mindful enough to see his good fortune better than anyone.

Michael Jordan secretly practiced with Warriors, targeted Latrell Sprewell

Michael Jordan secretly practiced with Warriors, targeted Latrell Sprewell

Editor’s note: Sports Uncovered, the newest podcast from NBC Sports, will shine a fresh light on the most unforgettable moments in sports. The first episode, “I’m Back,” tells never-before-heard stories about the two-word fax from Michael Jordan that changed the course of NBA history.

It was only two days in the Bay. A couple practices with the Warriors that, really, materialized from the thin air in the stratosphere of Michael Jordan’s aura.

There was some golf. Some catching up with friends. Some laughs. No, a lot of laughs.

There was a purpose, too. MJ had ulterior motives. When did he not? This was 1994 and he had been away from the NBA for nearly two years, devoting most of that time to playing minor-league baseball. He wondered if at age 31 he could recover the supernatural skills that had allowed him to conquer every challenge the league had to offer.

Jordan had connections with the Warriors. He was close with Rod Higgins, a former Bulls teammate who in 1994 was an assistant coach under Don Nelson. Jordan also was friends with Chris Mullin, a teammate on the Dream Team in 1992.

Jordan did not know the Warriors’ newest baller, 24 years old but already an All-Star. That made him a target. MJ figured the first onramp of his journey back to the NBA should be Latrell Sprewell.

“One morning when Michael was visiting, he calls me,” Higgins recalls. “I was on my way to practice, and he called and said, ‘Do you think it’s alright if I practice with you guys?’  And I said, ‘I don’t think so, but let me call Nellie.’”

Higgins phoned Nelson, who has a rich appreciation of history and a richer fondness for greatness. Nellie’s response: “Hell, yeah.”

Eric Housen, then the Warriors’ equipment manager and now director of team operations, outfitted Jordan with a jersey, shorts and wristbands. MJ borrowed shoes from Mullin. After everyone was dressed, the Warriors and their temporary teammate took the floor for a closed-door scrimmage at Oracle Arena, near the Oakland Coliseum Arena.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

“We had Tim Hardaway and Latrell Sprewell at that point in time and they might have been popping off a little bit,” Mullin recalls.

Hardaway, a point guard with hubris beyond measure, was 28 and a three-time All-Star. At 6-5 and wiry strong, Sprewell had a Jordanesque physique and nearly as much athleticism. As a shooting guard, he was the matchup, if you will, for Jordan.

“MJ really wanted to play against Hardaway and Sprewell because Sprewell was kind of like the new ‘it’ so to speak in terms of the ‘2’ guards,” Higgins says.

Among Jordan’s teammates were center Rony Seikaly and Mullin, who was rehabbing a knee injury sustained in the preseason.  The others were reserves.

“And then Sprewell and Hardaway played with other players, which I don’t know how those groups fared out,” Higgins says. “But once Michael got warmed up, you could tell his objective was to basically kick Spree and Tim’s behind and talk trash to them.”

“He just took over our practice,” Hardaway says.

Jordan is a challenge hound. Always has been. If he sees an obstacle, real or imagined, clearing it becomes an obsession. He wanted to see what young Sprewell had. MJ also wanted to know where he stood in comparison to the greatness displayed 16 months earlier, as an eight-time member of the All-NBA first team.

“What I remember is him walking on the court after not playing, probably played 36 holes of golf the day before, and dominated,” Mullin says.

“How graceful he was  ... shooting step-back jump shots, faking, dunking on people,” Hardaway recalls. “He made that team, that wasn’t playing a lot, show the coach that they should be playing.

“So, we knew he was coming back. I knew, at that particular time, he was coming back.”

Jordan’s team won. Of course. As an assistant coach, Higgins hoped Hardaway and Sprewell, with friction diminishing their fabulous talent, would learn the importance of cohesion and commitment to the team.
It didn’t quite work out that way. After a 7-1 start, the Warriors went into an epic tailspin, losing 22 of their next 25 games. In early February, a couple months after Jordan’s cameo, Nelson resigned. The Warriors finished at 26-56.

[RELATED: Is Warriors landing Giannis worth losing Klay Thompson?]

In February 1996, Hardaway was traded to Miami. Sprewell made two more All-Star teams but was suspended after attacking coach P.J. Carlesimo in 1997 and traded in January 1999.

As for Jordan, we know what he did a few months after working out with the Warriors.

He announced his return by fax: “I’m back.” And he led the Bulls to championships in 1996, ’97 and ’98.