NBA playoffs: How Kevon Looney embraced challenge of defending James Harden

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HOUSTON – The moments left Warriors forward Kevon Looney feeling all alone. He could not receive any help. So all he could do was rely on his confidence, instincts and preparation.

Is that enough to stop Houston guard James Harden? Not really. In the Warriors’ 119-106 Game 1 victory over the Rockets on Monday, Harden posted 41 points on 14-of-24 shooting. Yet, Looney showed what he has provided throughout his third NBA season to stop Harden’s big night from becoming even bigger: steady effort, disciplined play and strong awareness of player tendencies.

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“I’ve been out there before. I was expecting it and wanted to take on the challenge,” Looney said. “That wasn’t the first time they tried to iso me. He’s probably the best iso player. It’s a little different and a little tougher. But you know he’s going to make shots. You know you can’t stop him. So you want to make him work and don’t foul.”

And in that respect, the Warriors considered Looney’s defense on Harden to be successful. Looney avoided picking up any fouls. He often disrupted Harden’s driving lanes. He often inhibited Harden from launching a 3-pointer. And most importantly, Looney’s defense contributed to the Warriors’ team-wide success in ensuring no one else on the Rockets carried Harden’s heavy burden.

“Looney’s out there for a reason,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He’s an excellent one-on one defender. He’s got great length. It’s not easy scoring on him whether at the rim or on the perimeter.”

Looney’s qualities prevented Harden from increasing his 41-point output into something even more devastating.

On one possession, Looney’s tight defense forced Harden to pass to Chris Paul for a contested jump …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Sports


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