‘MVP’ Looney fuels classic Warriors barrage in 3rd
2: 25 AM ET
SAN FRANCISCO — The Golden State Warriors have a history of big third quarters. Nobody knows why.
Maybe Warriors head coach Steve Kerr gives the best halftime speech around. Maybe it takes them 24 minutes to fully assess how their opponent is approaching the game. Maybe they need those 24 minutes to wake up. Whatever the reason, they get up after halftime and roll.
That was surely the case on Friday night, when the Warriors came back from a 19-point deficit to beat the Dallas Mavericks 126-117 in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals. The Warriors now hold a 2-0 lead in the series.
The Mavericks owned the first two quarters. They hit 15 3-pointers in the first half, setting a new franchise record for 3s made in a playoff half. Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson became the second pair of starting guards to each score 20 points in the first half of a playoff game in the past 25 seasons. Kerr stated that if they showed more poise in the second half, then the game would be ours.” “But I thought that we were so scattered during the first half. Perhaps emotionally more than anything. Dallas just came out and punched us. We felt confident that if we [got poised], they wouldn’t make 15 3s in the second half. “
Entering Friday’s game, the Warriors were plus-11 in the third quarter this postseason. In Game 2, they were plus-12.
Golden State scored more points in the paint in the third (18) than the Mavericks had total points (13). Dallas’ 13 points in the third are its fewest in a quarter this postseason, and the Warriors limited them to just two 3-pointers that quarter.
“You didn’t want to overreact, but also we got a lot better on the ball, just trying to keep bodies on Luka,” Stephen Curry said. “Close to the shooters we know are hot and rebound the ball so that it’s our best offense. “
The Warriors won the second half together. Otto Porter Jr. To give the Warriors their first lead, they hit a 3 pointer in the fourth. Jordan Poole attacked the rim time and time again to help swing the momentum. Curry scored 10 of his 32 in the fourth, including the dagger shot that sealed the deal for Golden State.
But it was Kevon Looney who stole the show. Looney attempted free throws, which he admitted was nerve-racking. At one point, “MVP” chants were heard. “
On defense, Looney held the Mavericks to 1-of-11 shooting from the field as the primary defender, including holding Doncic to 0-of-3. He also grabbed 12 rebounds.
Looney is accustomed to being switched onto guards like Doncic. During the Warriors’ dynastic runs, he was switched onto James Harden when Golden State faced Houston multiple times during the postseason.
” I take the same approach,” Looney stated. “I’m just slightly more battle-tested. This was my first time playing on such a large stage. I don’t know if my teammates had the greatest faith in me, however they put me out there and it was a great experience.
” I’m just a bit smarter and more physically fit now. So I can guard those guys a bit better. Luka and Brunson, [Spencer] Dinwiddie are all different types of players, different types of iso players. It was tough to watch those guys. I thought I did a great job tonight. It’s going be a long series so I have to keep going because these guys will keep coming. “
Looney’s defense — and particularly his rebounding — has been a point of emphasis for the Warriors all season. In Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals, he grabbed 22 rebounds. But against the Mavericks his offense was the star. Looney scored a career-high 21 points in Game 2. Not only was this the first time he scored 20 points since his freshman year at UCLA in 2015, but he became the first Warriors center to have a 20 and 10 playoff game since the 1970s.
Looney didn’t work in the dunker spot too much during the regular season, but it’s something he’s comfortable with. The Warriors were able to rely upon Looney’s drop-off passes against the Mavericks because they lack a true shot-blocker or rim protector. And with so much defensive attention being paid to Curry, Poole and Klay Thompson, the paint has remained open for Looney.
“Playing center for the Warriors, it’s a different type of job from other teams,” Looney said. “A lot of the scoring, and stuff, we don’t really need us doing. It involves a lot screen setting, playmaking, and doing different things. It’s cool to have a game like this. “
Eleven of Looney’s points came in the third quarter, as the Warriors made their ferocious push.
At one point in the second quarter, the Warriors trailed by 19, making Friday their third-largest playoff comeback in the past 25 years.
Golden State finally took its first lead 18 seconds into the fourth quarter, when Porter hit a 3-pointer from the right corner. The Warriors outscored the Mavericks 68-45 in the second half.
“It’s just the supreme confidence in what we do,” Curry said. Curry said, “You don’t know what they are talking to you in the huddle. You don’t feel what’s going on in their minds.” It’s only that you have forced your will. It’s the experience and the chemistry that matter most.
” We have that attitude and that feeling that we are never alone. We have been outmatched in every game of this playoff run, and that’s only one game. The belief turns into action in the game and you can feel the momentum. It’s not about what you do. When you have the chance to stick the dagger or come up with three stops in succession, that is when you feel the good energy moving our way. “
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.