Friday, June 21 2024

Loon brushes off dust, saves Warriors in win over Blazers originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

With Draymond Green and Klay Thompson in street clothes and Stephen Curry’s shot being stubborn, the Warriors were fumbling all over themselves Thursday in Portland, creating an opening for the lowly Trail Blazers to find their third win in four weeks.

Trailing 85-82 with 7:28 remaining and facing the prospect of losing the traction gained by beating the Los Angeles Lakers two nights earlier, Warriors coach Steve Kerr turned to his bench and summoned the trustiest veteran who plays the least.

Kevon Looney, former starting center now relegated to the bench, got the call.

The response was an 18-7 closing run, with Looney at the core, that allowed to the Warriors to head for the airport with a 100-92 victory that hoisted them from 10th place to ninth place in the Western Conference Play-In Tournament.

“Loon just saved us like he has done dozens of times in his career here,” Kerr told reporters at Moda Center. “He’s kind of been on the outside of the rotation for the last six weeks or so, and he always stays ready. He just he came in and changed the game.”

Looney’s final 7:28 was a portrait of a man draining every ounce of energy, rolling in for a dunk 20 seconds after entering, grabbing an offensive rebound that led to him shooting two free throws, getting a steal that led to a Curry 3-pointer, following a Curry steal with a layup, blocking a shot that led to a layup by Brandin Podziemski.

That was enough to push the Warriors to their biggest lead of the night, going up nine (95-86) with 3:03 remaining.

Looney finished with nine points, a team-high 11 rebounds (four on the offensive glass), a season-high four blocks and two steals. The ninth-year center was a team-best plus-19 over 21 minutes.

“I feel good; I ain’t played 20 minutes in a while,” a grinning Looney said on NBC Sports Bay Area’s “Warriors Postgame Live.”

The last time Looney’s exceeded 20 minutes was about three months ago, on Jan. 12, when he started and played 26.5 minutes in a victory over the Bulls in Chicago. With rookie center Trayce Jackson-Davis getting more playing time and eventually moving into the starting lineup, Looney averaged 10.6 minutes in February, and 11.3 in March.

“He’s a pros pro,” Podziemski said of Looney. “He hasn’t been in rotation because of Trayce, but he does what he’s supposed to do. He’s been in the league for a while now.

Podziemski pointed out that Looney puts in practice time with other “low-minute” players, like Lester Quiñones and two-way players Usman Garuba, Jerome Robinson and Pat Spencer. It’s clear that Podziemski is taking note of Looney’s oft-praised professionalism.

“He doesn’t complain,” Podziemski said. “He just goes about his day.

“The thing I love about most about Loon is you know what you’re going to get from him every time he’s out there. He doesn’t need to take a shot to impact the game. He’s going to get his however many rebounds, he’s going to play the right way, he’s going to set solid screens. You know what you’re going to get from him. That’s what I see as a rookie and that’s what I want to become.”

Looney, 28, read the room before the game and knew he’d get minutes against the Blazers. What he could not have known is that those minutes would be so effective, so pivotal, perhaps sparing Golden State the indignity losing to a team that will go on vacation in four days.

“I knew with Draymond, Klay and GP being out everybody’s got to step up,” Looney said. “So, I made sure I stayed ready to try to make a difference. We know this was an important game. We knew it was going to be tough without our guys, but we got it done.”

They got it done because Curry found his shot in the fourth quarter, scoring eight of his team-high 22 points. Because Podziemski, urged on by Green, locked up Portland rookie Scoot Henderson down the stretch.

But nobody did more than Looney to help the Warriors overcome their sloppiness (16 turnovers, for 19 Portland points) and a decided disadvantage in second-chance points (28-15).

Looney was the Warriors’ closer, shrugging off dust and shining when the game was in the balance.

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Source: Yahoo Sports

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