On Wednesday night, Golden State Warriors center DeMarcus Cousin referred to the 2018-19 NBA regular season as a “soap opera,” similar to the ones he used to watch with his grandmother when he was younger.
“She had this show she used to watch. I’m sure y’all heard of it: As the World Turns,” said Cousins. “I used to watch it with her and every episode it was something.”
Over the last two weeks, that “something” has been Golden State’s 4-6 skid, which included a 115-111 loss to the last place Suns at Oracle on Sunday night.
On Wednesday, Cousin helped add a new wrinkle to the Warriors’ soap opera. In his best game yet with Golden State — and without injured All-Star Kevin Durant — Cousins helped avoid a season sweep against the Houston Rockets with a season-high 27 points in a 106-104 win in Houston.
“He did a phenomenal job,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “Just getting down on the block and controlling the game down there. It’s a good win for us.”
Without Durant, who rolled his ankle in a loss to the last-place Phoenix Suns, the Warriors entered Wednesday’s game as a four-point underdog.
Missing just over 27 points per game, Golden State was tasked with replacing Durant’s production. The Warriors had to do so against a Rockets team that has averaged 116 points per game at home, that beat them in Oakland in overtime, beat them again in Oracle without James Harden, took Golden State to seven games in last year’s Western Conference Finals and is poised again this year to be a postseason thorn in the Warriors’ side.
Cousins would open the game either scoring or assisting on nine of Golden State’s first 12 points, even knocking down a left wing three just four minutes after tip off.
“He was getting wide open looks from his passing ability,” said guard Klay Thompson, who finished with a team-high 30 points on the night. “He adds a whole new dimension to our team.”
Finishing the half with seven points, six assists and five rebounds, Cousins did a little bit of everything. What didn’t show up on the stat sheet, however was the big man’s defensive presence.
Taking on a Rockets offense that routinely and methodically uses the pick and roll to create mismatches, Cousins displayed discipline, something he wasn’t quite able to do in his last meeting with Houston in February.
“I think we, individually, did a better job of dealing with space,” Cousins said. “We sometimes get in situations in the game where we’re on top of each other and in each other’s way.”
Another aspect of the game that Cousins seemed to benefit from immensely was how Kerr staggered him and Draymond Green, similar to what Kerr does with Durant and Stephen Curry to distribute scoring.
In this case, Cousins was able to play the role of facilitator. It also let him expand his minutes on the floor. Averaging just under 26 minutes per night, Cousins saw 31-and-a-half minutes on Wednesday, the second-most he’s seen all season. This, coming one game after Kerr didn’t let Cousins finish the game against Phoenix, much to Cousins’ consternation.
“I think Steve [Kerr] trusted me down the stretch a little more tonight,” Cousins said. “I’m grateful for that and I’m just trying to gain his trust and learn how to finish out those situations.”
While Golden State controlled much of the game thanks, in part, to a season-best 27 point, eight rebound and seven assist night from Cousins, Houston made things interesting by surging back from a 10-point deficit in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter.
“We’ve got 15 games left to continue to figure it out, how to use everyone and the combinations and whatnot,” Kerr said. “Overall it’s a good night for us.”