Warriors Defend Kevon Looney After Gut Wrenching Loss

Kevon Looney

Getty/Katelyn Mulcahy Kevon Looney of the Golden State Warriors contests a call against the LA Clippers in Los Angeles.

To say the Denver Nuggets stole the game against the Warriors would be an understatement. Like the Golden State Warriors have done numerous times in the past, the Denver Nuggets came into Chase Center and somehow left the building coming out on top.

The Nuggets took their first lead of the game with 15 seconds left in the game, when Monte Morris won a 50/50 ball with Wiggins and raced to the rim for an uncontested layup. Then with the Warriors up two, Nikola Jokic threw a dime to Morris, who drilled a three as time expired to hand the Warriors their 17th loss of the season.

The comeback by the Nuggets would not have happened without the chess moves of coach Mike Malone. Whether it should or should not be part of the game, Malone employed the Hack-a-Loon strategy, and at least for one game, it worked to perfection for Denver.

A career 62% free throw shooter, Looney missed his first pair with just under three minutes left in the game with the Warriors up eight. By the time, the ploy was executed, Looney had converted on just two of six free throws, and the Nuggets had cut the margin to three with one minute left to play.

After the game, head coach Steve Kerr addressed questions on his move to leave Looney in the game, since the Nuggets were using the intentional foul method.

“Yeah, to guard Jokic, he stepped up and knocked two after the first time. So, we kept him out there, that’s one that could go either way. If you take him out, and Jokic goes down and scores, you can kick yourself for that decision too. There were a few tonight that you can see both sides and make one decision or the other, and as it sometimes happens in this business it doesn’t always work out.”

Kerr isn’t wrong. With the lack of size due to the multitude of injuries to their bigs, the Warriors only real option to guard Jokic was Looney. Jokic still ended up with 35 points, 17 rebounds, and eight assists. Could you imagine what would have happened if Kerr opted to go with undersized forwards Juan Toscano-Anderson and Jonathan Kuminga against the defending MVP?

During the waning seconds, Looney could be seen sulking and taking the loss pretty hard on himself. However, his head coach and team made sure to have it on record that they have his back.

“It’s never one play, it’s always a series of plays,” Kerr says as he deflects blame from Looney. “Loon is going to feel bad because he’s a great competitor and an amazing teammate, but stuff happens.”

Indeed, stuff happens. Any athlete, amateur or professional, could point to different experiences they’ve had competing, where they felt at fault for struggles or losses. Having the ability to overcome this and not have it destroy one’s confidence is part of the process of success.

Steph Curry Weighs In

Stephen Curry sounded like a man who has had endless battles with Looney, and did not make too much of a deal about his teammates struggles from the line.

“We trust him in what he does and he’s provided us with so much this year. Can’t harp on one game, he knows that. Obviously, he’s a competitor, he takes it pretty hard when you don’t play the way you want to. That’s what I respect most, the accountability, the way he responds. It’s a tough way to go into the break, but I like the way we all played, like the way he fought, and just gotta take the positives, fix up a couple days.”

After suffering through numerous nagging injuries early in his career, Looney has been a staple in the middle of the Warriors starting lineup. He has only missed one game this entire season, and probably has been carrying that with a badge of honor.

Positives From a Tough Loss

Kerr shuffled the lineup and replaced Kuminga with Gary Payton II, and Payton II thrived. Leading the team with a +13 while on the court, he also had six steals during the evening. Kerr mentioned that he was tinkering with the rotations, in hopes of energizing the recent lackluster defense. With Draymond Green out, it has been tough for Kerr to find any sort of resemblance to their once elite team defense.

Klay Thompson played a season high 31 minutes. Despite not shooting the ball too well, Thompson looks on pace to get back closer to the player he was years ago, before the injuries. It seems to be going pretty well, if the sharpshooter is getting the green light to gradually increase his minutes as he gets more games under his belt.

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Martin Hittelman
Martin Hittelman
5 months ago

Looney is not a good defensive player. Whomever he guards has an easy road to the basket. His offense is a little better this year and his rebounding is better. He does not compete against real centers. Put Payton on the center and let him block their shots.

6 months ago

without looney the dubs wouldn’t have been in position to get to the last shot to decide the game

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