Patrick Baldwin Jr. didn’t know what to expect, but he could sense the game tilting in his direction.
The son of a coach knew the Warriors were already shorthanded to begin with, and that forward Jonathan Kuminga got himself in early foul trouble. Baldwin had appeared in just nine of Golden State’s 35 games before Wednesday night, but he felt another chance coming his way.
When Kuminga picked up his third foul with 6:58 in the second quarter, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr looked down his bench. Stephen Curry, Andrew Wiggins, Klay Thompson and JaMychal Green were each unavailable. Baldwin got the nod to head toward the scorer’s table.
Two 3-pointers ignited a 10-0 Warriors run, and five more points lifted the Warriors in the second half. Baldwin finished a team-high plus-13 in 13 minutes.
“I thought Patrick changed the game,” Kerr said after Golden State’s 112-107 win over Utah.
Baldwin’s best game so far in his NBA career came on a day that featured an extended commute, one of his new favorite foods and a G-League practice. When he sat at the Warriors’ interview room podium, the 28th overall pick was prompted to reflect on his whirlwind day when he likely hadn’t had a chance to before.
“It’s been a crazy last four hours,” Baldwin said. “You’ve just got to stay ready.”
Baldwin woke up around 9 a.m., he said. The rookie went through his 2 p.m. practice in Santa Cruz with the Warriors’ G-League affiliate, which ended at 3:30.
Around that time, the Warriors realized both Draymond Green and Donte DiVincenzo were questionable with injuries. On the second night of a back-to-back, Golden State was getting ready to host the Jazz.
So the Warriors summoned Baldwin and his fellow rookie, Ryan Rollins, up to San Francisco.
Baldwin “pounded” two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the ride up, he said, ironic for his “PBJ” nickname but revealing because he’d tried his first peanut butter sandwich for the first time last week (for a Warriors promotional project). Growing up, he ate mostly turkey sandwiches and bagels.
“I definitely missed out,” Baldwin said.
Stomachs full, Baldwin and Rollins arrived around 6 p.m., and hour before tipoff.
Then midway through the second quarter, after Kuminga picked up his third foul, Baldwin checked in. He stepped on two courts in two cities on the same day. This time, he had a future Hall of Famer in his ear.
“When you check into the game and Draymond’s telling you ‘You gotta fly,’ you’ve got to fly,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin flew. Two quick 3s injected life into the Warriors from an unexpected source. In the fourth quarter, his 3 on a pick-and-pop from the wing showed how his shooting stroke can bend defenses. He’s shooting over 40% from deep in limited action this year, and his length and height allow him to shoot over the top of defenders.
And his range wasn’t affected even after the helter-skelter day and afternoon practice down the 101.
Baldwin said he doesn’t really get tired when he’s hooping, but the second wind of NBA action probably helped him. Kerr praised his skill, basketball I.Q. and shooting ability. He finished 3-for-5 from deep and 4-for-7 overall.
“I think the biggest thing is the shooting,” Kerr said. “Because he can step out and knock down a shot, it changes the chess board. It opens up the court.”
Like many rookies, Baldwin is still raw. He only played just 11 games in his one season at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, so he needs reps more than anything now.
The plan is to send Baldwin back down to Santa Cruz for just that Thursday, then bring him back to the Bay for Friday.
More time for more PB&Js.