Barber: Warriors’ DeMarcus Cousins enjoying the ride in NBA Finals
He’s a four-time NBA All-Star and a United States Olympian, the scorer of 12,006 points and grabber of 6,131 rebounds as a pro. And yet before this season, DeMarcus Cousins had never stepped foot on a court in the postseason. He was the greatest player in NBA history with zero playoff experience.
Thus, the two-time defending-champion Warriors adopted an unofficial theme for the 2018-19 season: Win One for Boogie. But with several key players questionable with injuries heading into Game 3 of the NBA Finals, Golden State is tinkering with its approach. The theme now is: Win One With Boogie.
It doesn’t have quite the ring, but it might be better suited for winning a ring.
As Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson take turns supporting one another’s limp and backup center Kevon Looney takes care of his aching chest and Andre Iguodala assesses the beating his 35-year-old body has been taking (though he’s only about 26 when converted to Canadian, apparently), Cousins has emerged as more than a curiosity for the Warriors and Raptors. He is suddenly an important weapon for the former, and a serious concern for the latter.
“He was great,” coach Steve Kerr said of Cousins on Sunday night, after the Warriors’ dramatic 109-104 victory at Toronto in Game 2. “We came in thinking, all right, he can maybe play 20 minutes, and he gave us almost 28. There was only one time in the game when he needed a rest, which was mid-fourth and we gave him a couple minutes and then got him back in the game. But he was fantastic and we needed everything he gave out there — his rebounding, his toughness, his physical presence, getting the ball in the paint, and just playing big, like he does. We needed all of that.”
I see no lie in any of it.
Kerr liked the way his center played in Game 1, too, and so did most of Cousins’ teammates. I thought his performance in that one was mixed. He was pretty good down in the post in his first action in 6½ weeks (following the quad strain he suffered against the Clippers on Apr. 15), zipping those nice passes that have helped to define his ability. But man, he was slow getting up and down the court against the peppy Raptors.
Jordan Bell started at center in that game. It was the first time Cousins had come off the bench since Apr. 5, 2013, his third year in the NBA.
“I told Steve coming into this, whatever he needed from me, I was OK with,” Cousins said. “If it’s coming off the bench, if it’s starting, if it’s playing eight minutes or 40, I’m cool with whatever.”
He started Sunday, a measure of Kerr’s concern after the loss in Game 1. Cousins was also part of the bumbling five-man crew that began the second quarter and was outscored 7-2 by the Toronto reserves in 3 minutes, 19 seconds. It wasn’t like he had gotten a lot faster in Game 2. But the Warriors started making smarter use of him.
They did a better job of limiting the Raptors’ running game in the second half, forcing the Eastern Conference champions to run more half-court sets. And Cousins is highly valuable in the half court. He finished the game with 11 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and a couple blocked shots. Yes, the Raptors exploited him at times — Cousins committed five fouls in his 27 minutes. But he gave back as good as he got.