Kevon Looney rose to occasion despite Rockets hunting him
The Houston Rockets have made a point to give their isolation star, James Harden, the easiest possible target to face in a one-on-one battle.
In a Hamptons Five starting lineup, Stephen Curry is the usual matchup, but when he is off the floor, they will target Kevon Looney, a long-limbed forward/center who isn’t as adept in the perimeter as the likes of Kevin Durant or Draymond Green.
Yet the Rockets’ effort to expose the Warriors’ defense has actually fallen flat, as head coach Steve Kerr has managed to stay a step ahead of his counterpart Mike D’Antoni.
“Looney’s out there for a reason,” Kerr said, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic. “He’s an excellent one-on-one defender.”
The numbers agree with Kerr, as he faced 21 isolations between Harden and Chris Paul, had no fouls in 25 minutes of play and a stellar 95.7 defensive rating when on the floor.
“We won the game last night, so it’s not like we’re going to sit here and change everything,” Kerr said on Tuesday. “We have to look at everything and determine if we need to make some adjustments, which we probably will. But we’ve always been very comfortable with him guarding one-on-one.”
A detail sometimes lost in the buzz, is that this roster was constructed with defense as the first thing in mind, with the offensive benefits becoming rather secondary. Looney showed plenty of defensive potential coming out of UCLA and has improved every season, now flourishing at the biggest stage by making the Rockets question the effectiveness of their game plan.