Hopping on one leg down the baseline, Warriors center Kevon Looney grimaced as he reached for his left ankle.
Clearly laboring, Looney — who started the game as Golden State’s only active center — tried to walk off the injury. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was forced to pull the six-year veteran, however, as he limped directly to the locker room.
Devoid of a true big man, Golden State (11-10) fell to the visiting Boston Celtics (11-8), 111-107 Tuesday night at Chase Center. As the loss stings for the Warriors in the immediate, Looney’s injury inserts question marks surrounding a suddenly thin Golden State roster.
“I don’t expect [Looney] to play the next couple of games,” Kerr said after the game.” It was a significant enough sprain where it looks like he’ll be out for a little bit… I feel bad for him.”
Troubles at the center position began for the Warriors in their blowout win over the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night after rookie center James Wiseman exited the game with a left wrist injury.
On Monday, the Warriors announced that Wiseman — who the team selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft — would miss up to 10 days after an MRI revealed a sprain to the aforementioned wrist.
Also without backup center Marquese Chriss, who suffered a severe ankle injury in December that included a fractured Fibula, the Warriors were left with one true center remaining on the roster; Looney.
“Some guys you just put on the floor and good things happen,” Kerr said of Looney. “He’s always setting the screen at the right time, he’s recognizing what the offense is doing and he’s making the rotation or boxing out.”
Through 20 games this season, Looney averaged just 3.7 points and 1.7 assists per game. But while playing 14. 7 minutes per game, Looney’s impact came in the form of rebounding as he snagged nearly five boards per game, including 1.5 on the offensive glass.
In 13 minutes, Looney contributed 4 points, 3 boards and 3 assists, helping the Warriors build an 11-point advantage. But after rolling the left ankle, Looney’s impact was eliminated.
After Looney’s exit, which came with under two minutes to play in the second quarter, the Warriors were out-rebounded 30-12, leading to 16 second-chance points for the Celtics. Overall, Boston out-rebounded the Warriors 51-36.
“We got beat on the boards by 15,” Warriors small forward Juan Toscano-Anderson said. “Looney is a veteran here. He’s a big so I know he could have helped us a lot.”
In addition, Boston was able to pound the interior of Golden State’s defense as the Warriors were left without any rim protection. Opting to play forwards Draymond Green and Eric Paschall at the center position, sub 6-foot-7 shot blockers were no match for the Celtics’ bigs.
Allowing Boston to score 40 points in the paint, it took a 38-point night from Warriors guard Stephen Curry as well as massive contributions from bench players Kent Bazemore and Juan Toscano-Anderson to keep Golden State competitive.
Curry finished the night with seven three-pointers and seven assists while Bazemore and Toscano-Anderson chipped in with 10 and 16 points, respectively.
“A lot of energy [from Toscano-Anderson],” Curry said. “It was great to see his presence felt. He did that earlier in the season… He’s proven that he’s an NBA Player. He does it in a very unique way by just hustling, being physical, knocking down open shots when he has them.”
After three quarters, the Warriors only trailed by one point, setting up a fourth quarter that featured four lead changes. Unfortunately for Golden State, however, Boston was able to break the game open with a 10-0 run midway through the period.
While dropping its 10th game of the young season may hurt for Golden State Tuesday, what’s worse is that they may have to play small for at least a week. The other option is to acquire an additional big via trade or free agency.
To make matters worse, the Warriors are currently $27.2 million over the 2020-21 NBA salary cap, producing a $100.2 million luxury tax tab.
According to Kerr, how the team will approach this new hurdle isn’t clear, especially just hours removed from the game. Nonetheless, it will be an ongoing conversation as to how Golden State will evaluate the center position moving forward.
“The biggest thing right now is that we have to get together as a staff and figure out without Looney and without James [Wiseman] who are we going to start?” Kerr said. “It’s a big blow.”