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SALT LAKE CITY — By the time Eric Paschall drained a 3-pointer with 6.6 seconds left in the first half, giving him 16 points on the night, the thought was probably already cemented in many Jazz fans' minds: This guy should get more time.
Paschall, the 6-foot-6 bulky forward, was sensational in Utah's loss to Cleveland Wednesday, especially in the first half. He attacked the much taller Jarret Allen and Evan Mobley time and again, and finished over them every time. He was a perfect 7 of 7 from the field in the opening half, capping it off with the late corner 3-pointer.
With a COVID-19 outbreak spreading among the Jazz, Paschall has received heavy minutes in three games over the last week. In those contests, he's averaged 20 points on 58% shooting and has provided Utah with a much-needed spark.
"You see the impact, playing with energy," teammate Jordan Clarkson said. "You see some good stuff defensively, rebounding and making shots. And he plays super hard. I think he's been super great with what's been going on, and I'm happy for him."
It's been a roller coaster year when it comes to playing time for Paschall. He started the year in Utah's rotation and averaged 15 minutes per game in the first 14 games of the year. Since Rudy Gay returned from injury, however, Paschall has only seen a few minutes here and there. That is, until this last week.
As more and more players went out due to positive COVID-19 tests, Paschall has been thrust into a bigger role. He scored 29 points against Toronto Friday and then 13 points in Utah's loss to Detroit Monday. Then came his aggressive 16-point first half against Cleveland Thursday night.
His impact begs the question: Should he keep getting minutes when everyone gets healthy?
"I'm pleased with how Eric's playing and the energy that he's bringing to the game," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said when asked that question. "You can feel him when he's on the court — and that's a compliment to how hard he plays. So it's always good to see another guy (playing well)."
That doesn't exactly answer the question, but at the very least Paschall has given Snyder some things to think about.
Snyder went on down the list, naming all the things Paschall has done well. They included:
- Reads on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers
- How he's attack off the dribble
- Getting to and finishing at the rim
- Playing under control
He's earned the praise of his coaches and teammates, but does that mean a permanent spot going forward? Maybe; maybe not. The Jazz have had a fairly set rotation of centers and forward with Rudy Gobert, Hassan Whiteside, Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O'Neale and Rudy Gay; it's hard to break into that. The Jazz aren't about to go to an 11- or 12-man rotation, either.
If anything, Paschall has shown he can be a weapon against certain teams and certain lineups. Allen and Mobley are both good rim protectors; yet, Paschall was able to finish through them. He used hesitation moves and ball fakes to get them off balance and then went right into their chest.
"I'm trying to use my strength and quickness, ball handling, just throw them off balance and explode to the rim," Paschall said. "That's pretty much it."
Sounds simple enough, but it's something that is unique to Paschall among Jazz players. He's probably the best straight-line driver and finisher of any Utah big, and his strength allows him to play bigger than his size.
Will he be great against someone like Golden State's Draymond Green? Probably not. But against some of the backup bigs in spot minutes, he has shown he can give the Jazz a different look and be effective, too — more effective than Whiteside or Gay?
That's the big question.
"I think the most important thing is that he's playing well," Snyder said. "He's played well both when he's been 'at the four' or tonight, more at the five."