Warriors

Looney proves to be the perfect pro as Warriors' surprise star vs Rockets

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USATSI

Looney proves to be the perfect pro as Warriors' surprise star vs Rockets

HOUSTON -- Though each member of the Warriors’ big-man platoon adds something to the brew that has kept them atop the NBA for the better part of four seasons, it’s easy to forget, or even ignore, Kevon Looney.

He doesn’t soar above the rim, like Jordan Bell or JaVale McGee.

He doesn’t go to All-Star games like Kevin Durant or Draymond Green.

He doesn’t offer menace or metronomic production like David West.

No, Looney is about as unadorned as an NBA player can be on a championship-level squad. He’s a reliable primer-gray pickup of a player, accent on “reliable.”

Consider Thursday night in Houston, where Warriors coach Steve Kerr, to mild surprise, turned to Looney in the second quarter and liked what he saw.

“He was inactive the other night and I don’t know how many minutes he’s played over the last month,” Kerr said after a 124-114 victory over the Rockets.

“But he does his work every single day and knows the game plan and is one of the smartest players on our team,” the coach added. “And comes in, in a big setting, and just preforms beautifully.”

The timing was impeccable. Durant was unavailable. McGee was available but unused. Bell, the sensational youngster who pushed McGee to the deep end of the bench, was limited to six first-quarter minutes because he too often looked the part of the rookie he is. West opens the second and fourth quarters and almost never goes beyond that. Green was busy compiling a triple-double.

So Looney it was.

Kerr was rewarded with seven points (on 3-of-4 shooting and a free throw), a career-high-tying eight rebounds, a blocked shot and some audacious and cagey defense against skilled Houston guards who sized up Looney and presumed him exploitable when the Warriors switched on defense.

They were wrong, spectacularly so. Looney maintained defensive position, wasn’t flummoxed by quickness and, in the fourth quarter, with the game still in the balance, cleverly coaxed an offensive foul on Chris Paul.

“I was surprised,” Looney said. “I usually don’t get any calls. So when he tried to hook me, I tried to get my hands out of there so I didn’t get called for a foul and get yelled it. It went my way this time.

“It’s tough out there being on an island. But when guys are behind you talking -- I know we’ve got people like Draymond (Green) and Andre (Iguodala) behind me -- there’s a lot more confidence.”

Green was not surprised that Looney, who is 6-foot-9 but has a 7-4 wingspan, held up so well on defense.

“He’s shown all year that he can guard anyone,” Green said. “He can guard guards with his length. He can move really well laterally and, most importantly, he’s really smart.”

How effective was Looney? He was part the closing lineup, playing the final 6:30 of the game. He was plus-7 in his 15 minutes.

And this was coming after he had not played a minute in either of the last two games. Looney averaged seven minutes in December and this was just the second time in six weeks he exceeded 13 minutes.

There are reasons for that. Looney’s career seemed in jeopardy only three months ago. The Warriors, uncertain about the future of someone who has undergone surgery on both hips, declined to pick up the option for next season.

At 21, the youngest member of the Warriors, Looney responded by getting in the best shape of his life.

“He’s a pro,” Green said. “He’s earned minutes throughout the course of this year. For his option not to get picked up, for him to stay the course and play the way he’s played. Whether it’s here or somewhere else, he’s earned himself a job. To be inactive a few games ago and then come out in this game and play the way he played was huge and I’m extremely proud of him.”

Even if Looney doesn’t leave the bench Saturday when the Warriors face the Clippers in Los Angeles, he’ll always know he was on the floor when the Warriors, without Kevin Durant, finished off their primary competition in the Western Conference.

“There was really good execution down the stretch, great defense,” Kerr said. “I went in the locker room and praised everybody. I could have gone around the room individually and told every single guy ‘great game,’ but I singled out Looney. I thought it was an amazing example of what being a professional is about.”

LeBron joins 30,000-point club with buzzer-beater vs Spurs

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USATSI

LeBron joins 30,000-point club with buzzer-beater vs Spurs

SAN ANTONIO — LeBron James has joined the NBA's 30,000-point club.

James became the seventh player with 30,000 career points when he hit a jumper with one second left in the first quarter of the Cleveland Cavaliers' game against the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night.

James was recognized by the arena before the second quarter and got a standing ovation from Spurs fans. James patted his heard and said "thank you so much."

James needed seven points Tuesday to get there. He missed his first two midrange jumpers before making two driving layups and a 20-footer. He hit the milestone jumper over Danny Green from 19 feet out.

The 33-year-old James joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387 points), Karl Malone (36,928), Kobe Bryant (33,643), Michael Jordan (32,292), Wilt Chamberlain (31,419) and Dirk Nowitzki (30,808) on the list.

At 33 years and 24 days, James is the youngest to reach the mark. Bryant was 34 years and 104 days when he got there.

The 14-time All-Star has averaged 27.1 points since breaking into the league as an 18-year-old in 2003.

Gameday: Warriors will face shorthanded Knicks

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AP

Gameday: Warriors will face shorthanded Knicks

Striving for consistency in their performances at Oracle Arena, the Warriors open a three-game homestand Tuesday as heavy favorites to beat the New York Knicks.

After three seasons of utter dominance at home -- including a record 54 consecutive wins -- the Warriors (37-10) have more losses at Oracle (six) than elsewhere (four). A variety of factors, with ennui and a lack of urgency at the top, have conspired to make them merely good at home.

The Knicks (21-26, 6-17 on the road), particularly with star forward Kristaps Porzingis out of the lineup, are the kind of relatively toothless squad capable of testing the resolve of the Warriors. The Warriors last home game was a 125-106 loss to a Clippers team without Blake Griffin and three other regular starters.

BETTING LINE

Warriors by 16.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Kevin Durant vs. Tim Hardaway Jr.: With Porzingis out, the scoring burden falls to the son of former Warriors great Tim Hardaway. Junior, who was born in Alameda, is New York’s No. 2 scorer (18.4 points per game) and is capable of big nights; he hung 38 points on the Raptors earlier this season. Even if Hardaway has a big night, it’s not likely to offset Durant, who is playing fine defense and may be the most complete scorer in the league.

INJURY REPORT

Warriors: F Jordan Bell (L ankle sprain) is listed as out.

Knicks: F Kyle O’Quinn (L calf contusion) and F Kristaps Porzingis (L knee irritation) are listed as out.

LAST 10

Warriors: 8-2. Knicks: 3-7.

GAME OFFICIALS

James Williams (crew chief), Brent Barnaky, Brett Nansel

SERIES HISTORY

This is the first meeting between the teams this season. The Warriors swept the two-game series last season, have won eight of the last nine and 23 of the last 29.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

THE INTENSITY LEVEL: The Warriors often start sluggishly at home and sometimes find themselves in a hold. Though they usually dig out, it’s a habit they are trying to break. It starts with defense. If they come out locker room like a pack of wolves, they are able to run the Porzingis-less Knicks off the floor. If not, they are capable of keeping the Knicks in the game.

THE TURNOVER GAME: The Warriors are prone to commit a lot of turnovers; only the Lakers and 76ers commit more. But the Knicks, who play at a slower pace, actually commit a higher percentage of turnovers and rank 26th in that category. The number of points off turnovers could be high, and might be significant enough to affect the outcome.

THE BENCHES: The Warriors haven’t had a plethora of 3-point shooting off the bench but they do have a bench that uses solid defense and offensive spurts to extend leads. The Knicks, however, have a special scorer in Michael Beasley. If he gets hot, as Lou Williams did two weeks ago, Beasley can carry a subpar roster.