The Golden State Warriors are going back to the Western Conference Finals. And it’s thanks to the play of Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney.
Beating the Memphis Grizzlies 110-96 in Game 6 on Friday, the Warriors took over in the fourth quarter, showcasing their championship-contending play with clutch shots, key rebounds and staunch defensive stands. The win knocked Memphis out of the playoffs as Golden State won the series 4-2.
The Warriors advance to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2019 and now await the winner of Game 7 between the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns on Sunday.
In Game 6, Golden State’s stars truly shined. Klay Thompson led all scorers with 30 points and his Splash Brother running mate Stephen Curry dropped 29 points as well. Draymond Green was also his usual all-around self, finishing the game with a 14 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists.
But while the Warriors’ superstars were sensational, Golden State could not have gotten the victory without the play of Wiggins and Looney. Both players stepped up in a big way for the Warriors and showed how instrumental they are to Golden State’s championship aspirations.
All-Star starter Andrew Wiggins
It seems like forever ago but Wiggins was selected as an All-Star starter this season. It was his first All-Star appearance and while K-Pop fans were a big reason why Wiggins got voted in, his performance in Game 6 was a good reminder that he definitely has a worthy argument for receiving the accolade.
Acting as the perfect offensive complement for Thompson and Curry, Wiggins scored 18 points on 7-of-16 shooting and 3-for-5 from three. He also hauled in 11 rebounds, got a steal and blocked three shots in 41 minutes of play. Wiggins finished the game as a plus-20, the highest plus-minus on the Warriors.
Mike Brown: Andrew Wiggins came to him and said he wanted to pick up Tyus Jones full court for the whole game because he was “locked in”. Brown said pick-and-choose your spots.
Wiggins’ defense on Jones was huge as his offense (18P/11R)
— Evan Barnes〽️ (@evan_b) May 14, 2022
Wiggins’ play in the fourth was especially key to Golden State’s late game take over.
In one short stretch of the final quarter, Wiggins hit a three, got a steal and then threw down a dunk. Right after that, he made a defensive stop on Dillion Brooks, which led to a three from Curry. It was a 7-0 run that took just 46 seconds and Wiggins was the catalyst for it.
When Wiggins is making a difference like that, it’s easy to see why the Warriors are viewed once again as legitimate championship contenders.
To a lesser extent, the same thing can be of Kevon Looney.
The 26-year-old big man was exactly that for Golden State in Game 6. He used his big frame and lengthy wingspan to clog up the paint and keep Memphis off the boards. Thanks to Looney, Golden State absolutely dominated Memphis in the rebounding battle, 82-53.
Looney finished the game with a Dennis Rodman-like 22 rebounds. He amazingly finished with a double-double in just rebounds, grabbing 11 offensive boards and 11 defensive ones.
Looney is now the first Warriors player with 20-plus rebounds in a game since Draymond Green did it in 2015. He is also the first Warriors player with 20-plus rebounds in a playoff game since Andrew Bogut in 2013.
Similar to Wiggins, Looney’s play in the fourth was crucial to Golden State’s late game surge as The Athletic’s Anthony Slater broke down:
Kevon Looney’s 19th rebound of the night was a putback. His 20th rebound of the night got an extra possession. His 21st rebound of the night led to that Klay Thompson 3. Biggest game of Looney’s career.
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) May 14, 2022
For Looney, he was extra motivated because of how the Warriors rebounded in their blowout Game 5 loss.
“Last game we got bullied on the boards, so I took that personal.” pic.twitter.com/kIIUiSNrLr
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) May 14, 2022
“I just wanted to go out there and play physical,” Looney said about his performance. “Last game we got bullied on the boards, so I took that personal and wanted to go out there and do my job and set a tone from the beginning of the game. I was able to get into a zone with the rebounding and make some big plays.”
If Looney is able to consistently play at this level and be a rebounding menace, the Warriors will be a very tough matchup for the Suns or Mavericks in the next round.
And if the Warriors are to advance to the NBA Finals, it likely will be because the complementary powers of Wiggins and Looney helped get them there.