Golden State Warriors center Kevon Looney (5) shoots against the Dallas Mavericks during the first half of Game 2 of the NBA basketball playoffs Western Conference finals in San Francisco, Friday, May 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)

SAN FRANCISCO — A team with championship DNA — no matter the circumstance, no matter the deficit — is never out of a game. It knows how to win and can find a way to do so even when victory seems unlikely.

A squad with this title-winning makeup requires more than superstars. It needs contributions from role players who provide the grit and determination to fight through the most challenging situations. During the Golden State Warriors’ championship runs, unsung heroes answered the call when its franchise faces struggled to get to the phone. In 2015, it was Leandro Barbosa and Marreese Speights. In 2017 and 2018, it was Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala.

In 2022, it appears to be Kevon Looney and Andrew Wiggins.

Golden State roared back from a 19-point deficit to stun the Dallas Mavericks 126-117 at Chase Center on Friday night and take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals. Stephen Curry made six 3-pointers on the way to 32 points, 10 coming in the final five minutes, and Jordan Poole, the third “Splash Brother” who’s been special all season, scored 23 points off the bench, 12 of them in the fourth quarter.

But on a night when Draymond Green was in foul trouble and Klay Thompson had another quiet first half, Looney and Wiggins stepped up once again with playoff performances that are aiding the Warriors’ pursuit of their sixth NBA Finals appearance — and fourth championship — in eight seasons.

“Loon was just brilliant, again. He’s had a fantastic playoff run,” head coach Steve Kerr said. “He’s incredibly underrated by everybody. You know, he switches onto guards and he rebounds. He sets screens. And in a series like this, it’s so spread out (that) he’s able to score some buckets in the paint as well.”

Looney finished with a career-high 21 points and 12 rebounds, making timely layups in the third quarter when Golden State outscored the Mavericks 25-13 to cut Dallas’ lead to two. Looney also shot 10-for-14 from the floor in what was the biggest game of his professional career. Late in the game, the seven-year veteran was serenaded with “M-V-P!” chants before completing a 3-point play with a free throw.

“That was nerve-racking,” Looney joked. “I haven’t shot a free throw in a game in like three weeks. I tried to focus on making the free throw. It was a cool moment for me.”

Looney’s 20/10 game was the first by a Warriors center in the playoffs since 1977 when Robert Parish did it. Chase Center fans chanted “Looooon!” every time he checked into the game, and with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, he battled relentlessly to grab a defensive rebound which led to a Poole 3-pointer for a 97-92 Warriors lead and a Dallas timeout. Upon walking to the bench, Kerr embraced Looney at halfcourt as the two shared a moment.

“Steve has always been a guy that goes to bat for me and he always had my back in my career when things weren’t going my way,” Looney said.

Surgeries on both hips limited Looney’s rookie season to just five regular-season games. The former UCLA Bruin won rings with the Warriors in 2017 and 2018, but he didn’t play in the 2017 playoffs before appearing in all 21 postseason contests the following season. Now he’s become a vital part of Golden State’s success, not just in this series but throughout these playoffs. His 22-rebound effort in Game 6 of the West semifinals helped close out a tough Memphis Grizzlies team.

Wiggins also was instrumental in the clinching victory against Memphis with 18 points and 11 rebounds, but the biggest revelation of the once-maligned former No. 1 overall pick has been his commitment to defense, namely the way he’s embraced the responsibility of guarding the opponent’s top perimeter threat.

On Friday, there was no stopping Luka Doncic, who scored a game-high 42 points, but Wiggins did all he could to make things tough on the Mavericks star, often picking up Doncic in the backcourt. Wiggins finished a plus-16 to go with 16 points, five rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block.

“He's finding a new way to impact the defensive end obviously, and then being in the right place, right time, finishing around the rim,” Curry said of Wiggins, who was acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves in February of 2020. “It's amazing to see him just take the experience of being around these last seven years and being ready for his opportunity in different series. You could tell he's got composure, he's got experience and just the know-how.”


May 20, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins (22) shoots the basketball against Dallas Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber (42) and guard Luka Doncic (77) during the first half in game two of the 2022 western conference finals at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Wiggins, a first-time All-Star who had struggled since the midseason break, couldn’t find his shot early on Friday, missing a couple of easy looks in the paint. But he had 12 points in the first half and closed out the third quarter by cashing in a 28-footer and then finding Looney for an easy two right before the buzzer.

The solid outing comes on the heels of a Game 1 performance in which Wiggins logged 19 points, five boards, three assists, one steal and one block while playing stellar defense on Doncic to limit him to 21 points. Doncic doubled his scoring output Friday on 12-for-23 shooting, including 5-of-10 on 3-pointers, but the Warriors know Wiggins has his hands full in guarding one of the league’s best players.

“I think everybody is very comfortable in what they are asked to do,” Curry said. “Even Wiggs, like where he has a tough challenge of chasing Luka pretty much everywhere, every time he's out there on the floor, every minute he's out there. He understands he's going to get scored on because Luka is nice like that. But over the course of 48, we figure out how to wear him down a little bit and how he can go back at him on the offensive end.”

Every Golden State player is playing his part. And if Wiggins and Looney continue to perform at this level, the Warriors could find themselves atop the basketball world yet again next month.

Featured Podcast

See all