Looney proves he’s one of the best centers in the NBA in Game 7 win

SACRAMENTO — Down two points before halftime, Sunday’s third quarter at the Golden 1 Center opened with a defensive rebound from Kevon Looney. On the other side of the field, Steph Curry gave the Warriors a one-point lead with a 3-point back.

The Sacramento Kings’ only lead the rest of the way was one minute and 17 seconds into the second period when two Kevin Huerter free throws put them up 61-59. The Warriors dominated the final 22-plus minutes en route to a 20-point Game 7 win over the Kings off the back of Curry and Looney.

One of them has already proven himself to be an all-time great and only added to his legacy with a historic 50-point performance. The other continues to quietly dust off its contestants, smiling at everyone else who gets the headlines and accolades.

“I think Loon is one of the best centers in the league,” Steve Kerr said after the Warriors win. “I really know that. People don’t recognize him because he doesn’t dunk and three-shot and all that. But this guy is an absolute winner and he’s a machine.

“We wouldn’t be here without him.”

Looney averaged a career-high this season, his eighth as a pro with the Warriors. His 7.0 points per game also ranked eighth on his own team. He played in all 82 regular season games and finished with 68 dunks, with none reaching high points on social media platforms.

He took a 3-pointer in a blowout 24-point win, and it didn’t cross the net.

And none of that matters. He is a combination of old school with his hard work, chasing rebounds and thriving in all the little things that matter to rack up wins. He’s also a new-school combination, standing as a 6-foot-9 center who trains bigger players and works as a playmaker off the post and off pick-and-rolls.

The conclusion of Sunday’s first round, which was an all-seven heavyweight bout, tipped in the third quarter. Looney scored two points in the period, Curry scored 14. Both could have been equally important as the Warriors outscored the Kings 35-23 and held a 10-point lead going into fourth.

In the first two quarters, Looney had eight rebounds. He went down with 10 alone in the third quarter, including seven on the offensive glass. The Kings attempted five more shots than the Warriors in the first half, and the Warriors, thanks in large part to Looney, took 10 more than the Kings in the third quarter.

“It all started with Kevon,” Draymond Green said. “…Where it started with Loon was dominating the glass. Once we dominated the glass, it allowed us to show how good our defense had been. Once we did that, that allowed us to define our offense, get good offensive possessions and we connected the game together.

“Kevon Looney was huge.”

The Warriors had a 14-rebound advantage in the third quarter, snatching 23 to just nine by the Kings. Golden State also grabbed 13 offensive rebounds in third, tying the most by any team in a quarterback, regular season or playoffs, in the last 20 years. As a team, the Warriors had 33 rebounds in the second half.

The Kings had 21.

Looney himself had 13 boards in the second half. His counterpart, Kings All-Star center Domantas Sabonis, had three.

“That’s what makes it fun,” Looney said. “If you’re doing all the hard work, pushing and shoving and getting nudged, doing everything to get extra possessions for your team and see them take a shot and change their momentum – that’s just a great feeling.

“I know it helps us win. I live for those moments.”

Going into the series, there was a lot of talk about the Kings size advantage, especially with Sabonis on their side. Green would have a chance at 7 feet but not every game. No one predicted the Warriors would have an advantage downstairs.

In reality, Looney has completely outplayed someone who is likely destined for an All-NBA team.

Over the seven-game series, Looney had 29 more rebounds than Sabonis in 32 minutes less. Sabonis averaged 11.0 rebounds, 77 overall. Looney averaged 15.1 rebounds, racking up a total of 106. Remember, Sabonis was the NBA’s regular season rebound leader, averaging 12.3 per game – three more than the 9 average. ,3 from Looney.

Before Game 5 in Sacramento, Sabonis was honored for his rebounding title and raised his award much to the delight of Kings fans. What happened next was the Warriors outlasted the Kings and Looney was a plus-8 with 22 rebounds. Sabonis was a minus-1 with 10 rebounds.

It all came down to Game 7. Looney saved his best for last, giving the Warriors a double-double of 11 points and 21 rebounds. He was a plus-22 after snatching 11 defensive and 10 offensive rebounds. Sabonis, who scored 22 points to go with eight rebounds, was a minus-22.

RELATED: Curry saves Warriors with incredible performance against Kings

As much faces the Warriors. A continuation of a dynasty or an offseason of question marks. Their superstar was a superstar. Their Venus Flytrap frustrated the Kings one last time, one rebound at a time.

Looney became the third Warrior with 20 or more rebounds three or more times in a single playoff series, joining Wilt Chamberlain and Nate Thurmond. He is the first player since Dwight Howard in 2008 to accomplish the feat. The first two names are Hall of Famers, and Howard has good reason to one day wear an orange jacket as well.

Overcoming too many trials and tribulations to count, Looney is more than just a good story. He’s an elite center, who has established himself as an essential contributor to the Warriors, being all they are as winners and, ultimately, champions.

There is only one Steph Curry. Fortunately for the Warriors, there is only one Kevon Looney.

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