By Ben Ross
Special to S.F. Examiner
CHASE CENTER — For the second straight game, the Warriors were without All-Stars Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and D’Angelo Russell.
But they did have Eric Paschall.
The second-round draft pick out of Villanova exploded for a career-high 34 points and 13 rebounds, even hearing “MVP” chants from the home crowd on his 23rd birthday, as the undermanned Warriors surged to an improbable 127-118 win over the Trail Blazers, their first regular season victory at Chase Center.
“That was a little crazy, I’m not going to lie,” Paschall said of the chants. “No, honestly, for a rookie to be hearing ‘MVP,’ that’s a ‘wow’ moment. I was more focused on the game because I was like, ‘Alright, we have a chance to win right now.’ But to hear that, I just thank Dub Nation for believing in me.”
Added Warriors head coach Steve Kerr: “I loved it. I thought it was great. I’m sure he heard it. He was the MVP of the game, I know that. Pretty good birthday for him.”
Paschall became the first Warriors rookie to record at least 34 points and 13 rebounds in a single game since Chris Webber in 1994. He’s also the first Golden State rookie to notch back-to-back 25-point games since Stephen Curry in 2010.
“It’s great to see people seeing what I can do and giving praise for it,” Paschall said. “I feel like I’ve been underrated my whole life. This opportunity is amazing. There are not a lot of times where a rookie gets to play 40 minutes against the Trail Blazers and Dame (Lillard) and CJ (McCollum).”
Paschall knocked down the first three 3-pointers of his career in the opening seven minutes. The 6-foot-6 forward would go on to score 17 points in the first quarter on 6-of-7 shooting, becoming the first Warriors rookie to score 17 points in a quarter since Reggie Williams in 2010.
“I feel like you’ve got to feel like you’re the best player out there to play this game,” Paschall explained. “It’s a dog-eat-dog world in the NBA. If you’re not the aggressor, you’re going to get eaten alive. There are some real killers out there.”
Paschall hit his fourth and final 3-pointer with 5:10 remaining in the fourth quarter, part of a key 12-0 run to put Golden State ahead 111-99. The Trail Blazers made a late charge to cut the lead to 117-111 with 1:05 left, but the Warriors made their free throws down the stretch to secure the victory and improve to 5-2. Portland fell to 3-4.
“It’s a fun group to coach because they’re young and hungry, and they were fighting like crazy out there the whole game,” Kerr said. “That’s a good team they just beat. It was a great night for us.”
Paschall shot 11-of-19 from the field, making four of his six 3-point attempts and all eight free throws, but it was the 13 rebounds that really stood out to him.
“You know who’s going to be real proud of that is my dad,” Paschall smiled. “You have no idea. My dad gets on me so much: ‘Rebound the ball! Rebound the ball!’ Through college and high school. So I know tonight he’s going to see that and be like, ‘You should get 13 a night then.’”
Added Kerr: “We really liked Eric because of his strength and his power. He was undersized, but these days, undersized guys at that four position — as long as they’re really strong and they’ve got that wingspan — we’ve seen it here for the last seven or eight years with Draymond Green. So we felt like Eric had a chance to have a similar impact as a second-round pick.”
Fellow rookie Ky Bowman was nearly as good for Golden State. The undrafted point guard from Boston College started his second straight game with Russell again nursing a sprained right ankle, and finished with a career-high 19 points and eight assists on 9-of-14 shooting. Last game against Charlotte, Bowman — on a two-way contract — finished with 16 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and two steals.
Damion Lee, Jordan Poole, Alec Burks and Willie Cauley-Stein also reached double figures for the Warriors on Monday. Lee and Poole each scored 16 points, while Burke added 13 and Cauley-Stein chipped in 10.
Damian Lillard led Portland with 39 points on 15-of-26 shooting, including 5-for-13 from 3-point range. Hassan Whiteside played through a left knee bonebruise to record a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds, shooting 10-of-14 from the field.
CJ McCollum and Anfernee Simons added 14 points each, while Mario Hezonja scored 11.
As a team, the Warriors shot 49% from the field, making 10-of-26 3-pointers and 33-of-36 free throws (92%). Golden State dished out 28 assists, compared to just 10 turnovers. The Warriors outrebounded Portland 47-44.
With the win, Golden State avoided their first 0-5 home start since 1997. Golden State now heads on a three-game road trip beginning Wednesday night in Houston.