In Warriors' latest loss, Toscano-Anderson shows he's more than a feel-good story
As Ky Bowman helped him to his feet, Warriors forward Juan Toscano-Anderson shook his head slightly and chuckled.
It was late in the third quarter of Sunday night's 115-101 loss to the Pelicans at Chase Center, and Toscano-Anderson had just drained a sky hook over Pelicans guard Josh Hart while falling to the floor. This was the type of circus shot that had no business going in.
But if Toscano-Anderson has proven anything in his brief NBA career, it's that he has a knack for overcoming long odds. Less than five years ago, after a disappointing stint at Marquette, he had zero professional offers - not even from the G League or low-level overseas teams. Now, Toscano-Anderson is making his case for a spot in the Warriors' long-term plans.
His high basketball IQ, hustle and sound shot selection could make him an intriguing option as a role player on a 2020-21 Golden State team that will try to return to contention with a healthy Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry. In the Warriors' sixth consecutive loss Sunday and 21st in 24 games, Toscano-Anderson showed he's more than a feel-good story, coming off the bench to post 16 points, eight rebounds, three assists and a plus-6 in 28 minutes.
On the occasions he matched up with Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson, Toscano-Anderson hardly looked overwhelmed. Early in the fourth quarter, when Williamson dribbled to his right and spun to his left, Toscano-Anderson poked the ball away to nearly force a turnover.
It was a subtle play, but it underscored why Warriors head coach Steve Kerr wanted to find Toscano-Anderson a 15-man roster spot for months. This is someone who recognizes that, to maintain his status as the only player of Mexican descent in the NBA, he must limit his mistakes and play with unyielding effort.
With two months left in the season, Toscano-Anderson should have plenty more opportunities to solidify a place on next season's bench. With a playoff berth well out of reach, the Warriors are in talent-acquisition mode, giving little-known players extended run as Golden State works to put together the 2020-21 roster.
Though Toscano-Anderson's workhorse display was perhaps the biggest takeaway from yet another defeat Sunday, a handful of his unheralded teammates also showed that they deserve long-term consideration. Guard Damion Lee, who opened the season on a two-way contract, had 22 points on 9-for-15 shooting (4-for-8 from 3-point range). Guard Ky Bowman was a do-everything force, chipping in 15 points, six rebounds and seven assists off the bench.
Guard Jordan Poole, who spent much of the season mired in a shooting slump, scored 19 points on only 14 shots. Filling in at starting power forward with Draymond Green sidelined by a right pelvic contusion, rookie Eric Paschall had 13 points and five assists.
Such inspired performances could only carry the Warriors for so long, however, before the Pelicans' talent advantage took over. After going up 12 points early in the third quarter, Golden State gave up a 26-8 run to dig a 72-66 hole.
It never recovered as New Orleans, led by a steady drumbeat of highlights from Williamson (28 points, seven rebounds), pulled away for a double-digit victory. But as the Warriors sit last in the NBA standings, they're judging success on individual progress - not wins and losses.
By that measure, Sunday's loss brought plenty of reasons for optimism. Toscano-Anderson and several others are looking like budget steals.
Connor Letourneau is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @Con_Chron
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