In Game 3 of the NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors looked outmatched against the Celtics in multiple ways — coach Steve Kerr’s crew looked slower, smaller, and less athletic than their younger opponent, leaving many to decide the series was unofficially over.
It appeared Kerr didn’t have many moves to make to help his squad strategically, but he did have the awareness to correct a “mistake” from that blowout loss.
Namely, Kerr played center Kevon Looney more minutes after Looney sat the entire fourth quarter in that Game 3 defeat.
“I didn’t play him enough in Game 3,” Kerr conceded. “That was my mistake.”
Looney received 17 minutes in Game 3 and not even a second in the fourth quarter. He played 28 minutes in Game 4, including 7 minutes, 24 seconds of a fourth quarter that resuscitated the Warriors’ title chances after the 107-97 victory.The Athletic/Anthony Slater
Considering that Looney is the Warriors’ only center on the roster, the adjustment made perfect sense. His rebounding, along with that of forward Andrew Wiggins, helped the Warriors overcome the size disparity against the Celtics.
In fact, Looney is rebounding at a league-best clip, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic.
Looney’s 157 total rebounds are the third most in the playoffs, and his 56 offensive rebounds are six more than anybody else despite his lighter usage on certain nights. Boston’s Al Horford leads all playoff rebounders with 191. But he’s played 743 minutes. Looney’s 157 rebounds have come in 410 minutes. He’s gobbling them at a league-best rate.The Athletic/Anthony Slater
Looney had 11 rebounds in Game 4, including three on the offensive glass, and he was a team-best plus-21 in the plus/minus rating. Together with superstar Stephen Curry’s monster game and a team-wide effort, Looney was a major difference-maker in the Warriors’ monumental win on Friday, which tied the NBA Finals at two games each as the series heads back to Golden State.
The Warriors’ only true center has played in every single game in the 2021-22 campaign, playoffs included, after an injury-impacted career up until this season. On Friday, on the NBA’s largest stage, Looney again proved how vital he is to Golden State’s championship aspirations.
With two days off until Game 5 on Monday at Chase Center, Looney will be rested and ready when Kerr calls his name. It’s a safe bet Kerr will do so early and often, and most certainly in fourth quarter.