SAN FRANCISCO – How do you become an elite rebounder when two of your teammates are among the best shooters in the NBA?
Kevon Looney shows how in these playoffs and now the NBA Finals.
“I kind of boiled it down to a science,” Looney said ahead of Monday’s Game 5 against the Celtics.
Through years of close observation when Steph Curry and Klay Thompson shoot, Looney learned how to position his body, use his strengths and anticipate how the ball might bounce off him.
“It’s about getting used to where Steph is going to shoot from, where Klay is going to shoot from and how their misses are going to come off (from the edge),” Looney said. “It definitely comes from experience, just playing with them for so long, knowing where they like to go.”
How Curry and Thompson shoot will likely determine whether the Warriors win their fourth NBA championship. How Looney rebounds their misses — and those of the Celtics and other Warriors — is also a big factor in the equation.
Looney is coming off an 11-rebound effort in the Warriors’ Game 4 win Friday at Boston, where the series tied at 2-2.
He had 18 rebounds in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals when the Warriors knocked out the Dallas Mavericks at Chase Center.
And there were 22 rebounds when the Warriors knocked out the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 6 of the conference semifinals.
Looney’s career rise has been a hot topic, and he’s been arguably the best supporting actor in this playoff cast, where Curry remains the headliner and Thompson the returning sentimental hero.
Looney’s 6-foot-9 frame has shown a propensity to anticipate where their shots and others might deviate from the mark.
“They’re some of the greatest shooters of all time, so they won’t have a lot of misses,” Looney said. “So it’s just about knowing where their misses are going to go, knowing when Steph is going to drive and pull a step back.
“You just learn by watching them and playing with them. You have a good idea of how things are going to go. It helps me with offensive rebounds and knowing when to attack.
How does it feel to know when Curry is accurate, like his 43-point barrage in Friday’s Game 4 win at Boston?
“I know Steph is going to make it so I don’t have to go (to the boards) a while,” Looney added. “A lot of times he gives you a hint, because he turns around just before he goes in. Usually when he does that, he goes in.”
Looney has played every game on the schedule, a total of 102 which leads all NBA players this season.
Kerr wouldn’t say whether Looney will start or come off the bench for more strenuous work Monday night.
“Part of this series for us, and part of the whole playoffs, frankly, has been trying to figure out the rotations,” Kerr said. “We didn’t have our whole team together until Game 1 of the Denver series, and then Gary (Payton) got injured. André (Iguodala) was injured. So, it’s like in almost every series, we had to look a bit for combinations and substitute models.
The Celtics are looking to go 8-0 after a loss in this playoff.
Looney expects another physical battle in the paint.
“It’s physical out there,” Looney said. “I usually strike first. But often in this series, I was hit first. They do a good job. Sometimes I have the ball and the guards come in and take it out. It was really physical.
“…We’re both great teams, and I think we’ve both shown that all year, that every time you lose or get punched in the mouth, we always come back and impose our will. . We must protect the courts of origin, and we know what they are built and made of. We know they’re not going to bed.
You know what else Looney knows? Where the ball might go when it’s not bouncing the Warriors way through the net in case Curry or Thompson, you know, miss.