Kevon Looney battles through pain but Warriors come up short

ATLANTA – Kevon Looney hobbled down the long hallway past the Atlanta Hawks’ locker room Friday night, stopping only to sign basketballs for two enthusiastic boys, before he took a seat in the visitor’s interview room.

“I’m a little sore,” Looney admitted after the Warriors’ taxing 127-119 loss. “But I’m overall pretty good.”

Back pain had landed Looney on the team’s injury list heading into Friday’s matchup against the Hawks. But this was another must-win road game for Golden State, which was already undermanned.

With Draymond Green serving a one-game suspension for racking up 16 technical fouls this season, Looney felt the onus to set the tone defensively against the Hawks. So Mr. Reliable battled through, back pain and all, to extend his regular-season game streak to 182.

“Loon brings it every night,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He’s gonna battle, he’s gonna be out there… making the little plays and he was fantastic.”

Looney set screens, blocked four shots and corralled 16 boards in a regular-season career-high 18-point showing against the Hawks, but his efforts alone weren’t enough to overcome the rest of the team’s reccuring issues.

With only 11 games remaining in the regular season, it’s clear that the run that the team and fans have been waiting for may not come. The Warriors are just trying to avoid the play-in tournament at this point. Their dream of securing home-court advantage isn’t quite out of reach, but their inability to win on the road makes that goal feel impossible at times.

The Western Conference playoff picture is tight, and Looney has been keeping tabs.

“These road losses are not going to help us, I know that much,” he said.

Despite losing two straight, the good news is that the Warriors are tied with the Dallas Mavericks for fifth place in the West and can still avoid the play-in tournament all together. It helps that the Minnesota Timberwolves lost in double overtime to the Chicago Bulls and the Houston Rockets stunned the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday.

The bad news is Golden State plays six of its last 11 remaining games on the road, where the Warriors have struggled all season. And the stakes seem to be getting higher as each day goes by.

The Warriors’ game in Dallas on Wednesday carries extra weight — the tie-breaker is on the line. Before that, they’re scheduled to play Saturday in Memphis, where they were blown out not even two weeks ago, before heading to Houston on Monday.

The Warriors know what they need to do to win on the road. The keys of the game are written in dry-erase markers on boards in every locker room they set up shop in for the night, yet on the road, they rarely find themselves on one accord for a full 48 minutes.

“It is the same soundbite,” Stephen Curry said. “It’s kind of a combination of limiting turnovers, not fouling as much and rebounding the basketball and doing it all at the same time.”

It’s easier said than done for this team, that much is clear. Golden State’s ten consecutive road losses speak volumes.

Despite their 7-28 away record, the Warriors have a champagne flute half-full viewpoint on this season. Kerr sees promise in the team’s signs of progress in their last two games and has lauded the team’s effort and energy.

“These guys are fighting,” Kerr said. “I believe in them, I believe something good is going to happen with this group.”

But that silver lining doesn’t wash away the bad taste the recent results have left in their mouths.

“As long as we’re playing the right way, that’s good, but we still want to win,” Looney said. “It don’t feel no better even though we did play hard and we were right there. Losing always still sucks.

“But we’re building better habits. We’re in these games on the road, we’re playing decent playoff teams, so it’s not easy to win but we still got to figure it out, we’ve got to be able to push through, we’ve got to be able to win on the road to complete the goal that we want.”

As Reported by Marin Independent Journal