Entries in Kevon Looney (2)


For Warriors it was one game — but what a game

By Art Spander

OAKLAND, Calif. — One game. That’s all it was, as Alvin Gentry, the New Orleans Pelicans coach, reminded.

So they got routed. Didn’t the Sharks lose one playoff game, 7-0, to Vegas and win the next in double overtime? Didn’t the Giants lose one game, 15-6, to the Dodgers and then win the next?

It doesn’t matter if you get outscored by 24-2 in a stretch of the second quarter — well, it does, because that’s the reason the Warriors were able to crush the New Orleans Pelicans, 123-101, Saturday night in the opener of their NBA Western Conference semifinal.

But you get the idea. It you lose by 20 or lose by two, it’s just one. It’s basketball, not golf. Your differential isn’t carried over. The points aren’t cumulative. The series is best of seven. This was just one game.

But what a game, one in which the Warriors, still without Steph Curry — but almost certainly he’ll be back Tuesday night when the teams meet once again at the Oracle, the “Roarcle,” and more about that later — were the team we had come to know: Focused, defensive, explosive, awesome.

“They’re still the champions,” Garry St. Jean, the former coach and general manager who’s now a TV commentator, told me before tipoff when I wondered how Golden State might respond. Wise words.

They played like champions. Particularly in the second quarter. The Warriors and Pelicans were tied, 39-39, a minute into the period. Then zap, flash, or as John Madden used to say, “Boom.” In the next 10 minutes, give a few seconds or so, the Dubs built a 76-48 lead.

“Well,” said Gentry, a former Warriors assistant, ”that didn’t go as planned.”

It did for the Warriors, who as Gentry conceded “are so disciplined in what they do, if you turn the ball over they are going to make you pay.”

Collecting at the cash box were guys such as Klay Thompson (27 points), Kevin Durant (26 points) and Draymond Green (16 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists).

“They get out in the open court,” said Gentry, “and that’s what makes it tough.”

What helped make the Warriors was sub center Kevon Looney. He only had 3 points, but he was plus 34, meaning when he was on the court the Warriors outscored the Pelicans by 34.

“The stats sheet may not know it,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, “unless you look at the plus-minus. That’s a good number, 34. Loon’s had a great year. He’s a smart player, and he did a job on Davis.”

That’s Anthony Davis, the 7-footer called the “Brow” because his two eyebrows nearly touch. In the Pelicans’ sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers, Davis averaged 33 points. On Saturday night, he had 21 and was minus 27.

“I thought Looney was the key for us,” said Kerr, “but I thought the defense in general was great and that was the most important aspect of the game.

“The defense allowed us to get going in the second quarter and get out in transition and break things open.”

That's when the usual sellout crowd of 19,596, the Warriors’ 284th straight, broke loose. After a couple of months of indifferent play, of play without (at times) Thompson, Curry, Durant and Green, the team was a bit of a mystery and the fans were a bit disenchanted. But as the Dubs opened up, so did the spectators.

“They really show up for the playoffs,” said Thompson. “It’s why we play. At the end of the day we’re entertainers, and when you get a crowd like that, it really uplifts our whole team.”

In an interesting move, Kerr, who later explained he wanted to go small to match the Pelicans’ quickness, started Nick Young at forward along with Durant. Green was at center, Thompson and Andre Iguodala at guards. Not that it matters a great deal with Warrior players shifting on defense.

“It all starts with the defense,” said Green, who at times covered Davis, the big man, and at times the point guard Rajon Rondo.

“Starts and stops and deflections,” said Green. “We can push the tempo. Klay was shooting lights out. My job is to be the catalyst, to make sure everyone’s on the same page.”

They were for one game. One game that was one tremendous game.


Winning Warriors at home in road jerseys

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — Was watching the Warriors. You know, the basketball team that keeps trying all those little tricks, like wearing road uniforms at home to keep the opposition off balance and — certainly — to hope the fans buy another set of jerseys or T-shirts.

There were the Dubs on Saturday night in their slate, sleeved tops, and the Minnesota Timberwolves in white, as if Oracle Arena had been moved to Minneapolis. Had me fooled for a while.

Hey, that wasn’t Steph Curry throwing them up from the outside, was it? Not certain. Time to look at the scoreboard.

No fooling there. Another Warriors victory. Eleven in a row, this one by a score of 115-102. The Dubs are now 15-2. When do the playoffs start?

The idea that acquiring Kevin Durant as a free agent would make the visiting — sorry, dark jerseys, home team — virtually unbeatable is making a great deal of sense, as Durant, Curry, Klay Thompson and the rest are, well, virtually unbeatable. 

And Saturday they won without Draymond Green, out with a sore ankle. Maybe Dray, one of the NBA’s better defensive players — yes, a bit restrained with the accolades, as it’s still only November — would have kept Zach Levine from scoring 31 or Karl-Anthony Towns from getting 18, but that’s academic.

As it was, the Warriors’ Big Three indeed were a big three. Curry with 34 points, Durant with 28, Thompson with 29. And as Dubs coach Steve Kerr pointed out about the points, they came from inside as opposed to outside. Only 22 three-point attempts, 11 of those successful.

“We missed Dray,” said Thompson, “missed his defense and passing.”

And his exhorting and shouting. “The rest of us had to raise our voices to make up for it,” said Thompson. Most likely he was serious, but with the Warriors one never is quite sure how to take a comment.

They are a fun bunch, and for good reason. They’ve got the routine down, almost to perfection.

A quick start, a minor stumble, a halftime lead and then a victory, whatever the spread. But fans never get bored by wins. Neither do coaches or players.

Maybe the league ought to force the Warriors to sit out a starter every game until January. With Green missing, Kevon Looney, the team’s first-round draft pick in the championship year of 2015, started at what used to be known as power forward but is now called the No. 4.  

“Our spacing was very different,” said Kerr, if the results are not. Looney had six points and two rebounds. “I thought he played well,” said Kerr. Yes, just plug in another star and keep the machine running.

Then again, for the first time in 11 games, they failed to record 30 assists, getting only 25. Horrors!

Kerr is thinking about the future, the postseason, as are most of us. “We are interested in the process, and what we are doing,” he said when asked if any win, by one point or 20 points, was equally satisfying.

“We know, when games in the spring come, what it takes. We’ve been there the last two years and succeeded once and failed last year ultimately. We felt what the games are like in the playoffs, so you try to prepare for that in the regular season.

“You focus on the process. Try and win the game, but focus on the things that you know you have to get better at.”

Not much, one presumes, especially now that Durant is part of that process.

“The only thing we told him,” said Kerr about Durant, “was that he was going to guard Towns. We knew Looney could do a good job, and he would start on hm. But we told Kevin (Durant) he would have some minutes on Towns. I didn’t tell him anything else. He knows the game. I thought he was spectacular.”

No matter what color the jersey.