Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — Eric Paschall was tired before he hit a season-high in minutes played Friday.
A new child can have that affect on a person.
It's been a hectic week for Paschall. On Jan. 3, his first son was born, which was later than he expected. On Dec. 30, Paschall went away from the team to prepare for the birth; his son was due on New Year's Eve. He waited, and waited, and waited some more.
"I had to be in the hospital for five days waiting for him to come out," Paschall said. "So he was a little stubborn."
On Monday, the baby boy finally came. After spending Tuesday with his family, Paschall boarded a plane for Denver on Wednesday afternoon. He landed just before 3 p.m. and pretty much went straight to the arena for the game.
"I've been tired all week," Paschall said. "This little kid has kept me up all week."
Cue every parent nodding in agreement.
Paschall became a new parent on Monday, and four days later he almost led the Jazz to an improbable victory over the Raptors.
Paschall scored a season-high 29 points in his 36 minutes, went 10 of 21 from the field, and added three rebounds and two assists.
It was easy to think of some of the other classic recent-father stretches players have had, especially when the Jazz played against Fred VanVleet. In 2019, VanVleet became a father in the middle of the Eastern Conference Finals. After his kid was born, he went on a run that eventually led to the Raptors winning an NBA championship.
So did Paschall feel any of that extra secret sauce on Friday?
"Obviously, I'm thinking about my son, but no extra superpowers," Paschall said with a grin.
Apparently, it was just Paschall that made himself effective.
"Just being aggressive," he said of his big night. "I have been in that position before. My rookie year a lot was going on, a lot of guys down, so it wasn't anything uncomfortable. I mean, it's my third year so nothing really surprised me. I was just going out there playing with confidence like I do and go out and play basketball — been doing it my whole life. So I wasn't nervous or anything. I was just out there playing."
That was the mindset of the entire team Friday; it was a big opportunity for them, no doubt. Eight rotation players were out and there were a lot of minutes to be filled from others.
Hassan Whiteside is a key part to Utah's rotation and Trent Forrest regularly sees a few minutes in game. Outside of that, the Jazz had to rely on players who seldom see the court — including one that had just one shootaround with the team, Danuel House Jr.
Add in the fact that a number of players didn't travel to Canada to avoid any potential quarantine time north of the border, and that there were no fans in the stands led to a pretty strange experience.
"Very crazy, very weird circumstances — different, you know, no fans; it was weird," Jared Butler said. "I think that's just the league and you always gotta stay ready, always got to be prepared and whatever happens; you've got to just kind of block some things out and be able to play."
Turns out, if you play in the NBA — no matter where you stand in a team's pecking order — you are still really good at basketball.
Paschall took control early and scored 17 points in the first quarter to serve as the team's No. 1 option; Elijah Hughes got hot and finished 9 of 15 for 26 points; Butler had some nice moments on his way to 17 points; and House jumped in and scored 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting in his debut.
"Quin (Snyder) did a really good job of just putting me in position and also allowing me to just play my game the way I'm capable of playing and instilling confidence," House said.
Across the board, players took advantage of the unique opportunity. The end-of-bench rotation even had a double-digit lead well into the third quarter.
"We are all NBA players," Paschall said. "I mean, it's our job to go out there and play basketball. So we just went out there, competed, and played free, man."
Snyder praised House for immediately being engaged and fighting through a dislocated finger; and he was happy that Hughes, after dealing with so many restrictions due to the continuing pandemic, got a chance to showcase what he's been working on.
"Due to a lot of different circumstances, he hasn't had an opportunity in a game of this nature," Snyder said. "And it was good to see him kind of rise to that occasion against a really physical, quick, athletic defensive team."
That opportunity probably won't happen again on Saturday in Indiana. Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell and Bojan Bogdanovic will meet the team there and are expected to play. Also, all the players that made the trip to Canada had negative PCR tests and are eligible to return. The likes of Jordan Clarkson, Rudy Gay and Royce O'Neale all could be back as well.
So maybe Paschall may get some needed rest. Or not.
"It's (my son's) fault why I'm a little tired right now," Paschall said.