CHASE CENTER — In what’s become a regular sight at the Golden State Warriors’ new $1.4 billion home, the fans streamed for the exits in a daze on Saturday night.
Starting three rookies for the first time in the Steve Kerr era, Golden State had a chance something they hadn’t yet done since moving to San Francisco: Win at the Chase Center. A a key substitution with under a minute left — trading size for scoring, something Steve Kerr will have to do throughout this season — scuttled that chance.
Lacking depth, size and almost all of their veterans, the Warriors surrendered a game-long lead over the Charlotte Hornets in the final five seconds, falling 93-87 in the lowest-scoring game yet from a defense that came into the game as the worst in the NBA.
“That’s a tough one,” coach Steve Kerr said after the game. “Our guys played fantastic basketball, fought like crazy, and then their coach decided to screw things up. I take responsibility for that one … They just did a hell of a job and we were right there.”
The Warriors trailed by one, 88-87, with just under 15 seconds left when Kerr decided to take out center Willie Cauley-Stein for rookie shooter Jordan Poole.
“I wanted to get an extra shooter on the floor,” Kerr explained. “If Willie had been in there, I think he would’ve had the ball, so that’s the one that’s going to haunt me tonight and keep me from sleeping.”
Terry Rozier, a usually-solid free throw shooter, missed two free throws, but Cody Martin got the rebound and was fouled, giving Charlotte another chance to put the Warriors away.
Martin made one of his two free throws, making it 89-87, still giving Golden State a chance to close out a win, but, unable to come up with a rebound after Martin’s back-end miss, the Warriors fouled Rozier with five seconds left, and he sank both free throws, sending Golden State fans home in a silent daze.
Eric Paschall — one of three Warriors rookies to get the start Saturday with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and D’Angelo Russell all out with injuries — scored a season-high 25 points in the defeat, tying Charlotte’s Dwayne Bacon for the game-high.
“I felt like early I was aggressive,” Paschall said. “I felt like I had a mismatch so I just took advantage of it. It just allowed me to play my game, so I just got to thank my teammates for that.”
Paschall’s 25-point night marks the second time in the last three games that he’s scored 20 or more and the fourth time this season he’s reached the double-digit mark.
”Obviously, as a rookie, 25 means a lot, but for me, I’d rather have 12, 10 and a win,” Paschall said.
The other two rookies to start — Poole and Ky Bowman — combined for 21 points, with Bowman scoring 16.
Paschall had a strong dunk midway through the first quarter, outmuscling P.J. Washington in the paint before he dunked the ball in front of Washington to put the Warriors up 14-10 at the time. He matched his career-high 20 points with a jumper and-one late in the third quarter, getting the foul off from Washington in the right corner just inside the line, giving the Warriors a 69-60 lead after the free throw at the time.
“Eric is just so confident,” Kerr said. “He’s powerful, confident, and he’s got an interesting game. He’s very confident already and he’s doing a hell of a job.”
The Hornets stormed back in the final minutes of the third quarter, going on an 8-3 run to bring the score within three at 71-68. Bowman hit a 21-foot jumper just before the buzzer to give the Warriors a small cushion entering the fourth.
Golden State and Charlotte traded threes late in the fourth quarter, with Glenn Robinson III making his fourth 3-pointer of the night to tie the game at 80 with 3:47 left. Marvin Williams responded with a three of his own on the following possession, but Bowman answered back with a triple to tie the game again, this time at 83. Washington fired a three on the following possession to put Charlotte up 86-83, but Damion Lee drilled one in response two possessions later to tie the game at 86.
Paschall gave the Warriors an 87-86 lead with a free throw with 1:16 left, before Rozier’s jumper on the following possession.
Despite the loss, the Warriors made significant strides in the right direction on Saturday, despite falling to 1-5. The loss to the Hornets marks the first time the Warriors held an opponent under 100 points this season, and they held Charlotte to just 42% from the floor, and just 5-for-29 (17%) from beyond the arc.
“It’s what we expect every night,” Kerr explained. “I thought we made really, really good improvement with our defense and the guys are starting to figure some things out. A really positive step, but you gotta get some wins too.”