Fined, ejected and then retrieved from the locker room, former University of Kentucky star DeMarcus Cousins capped a tumultuous day with his dominant performance on the court.
Cousins returned from a brief ejection in the fourth quarter and finished with a season-high 55 points, ending a wild night for the hot-tempered big man and sending the Sacramento Kings past the Portland Trail Blazers 126-121 on Tuesday.
Hours after he was fined by the Kings for his profanity-laced tirade against a newspaper columnist last week, Cousins pulled down 13 rebounds and rallied Sacramento in the fourth quarter.
“Kind of a crazy game,” Kings Coach Dave Joerger said. “Certainly Cousins had a nice game. OK, that’s an understatement. But I was very impressed. That any of us who would get thrown out in what we think is a questionable deal, then to come back and step out and make the free throw was very impressive.”
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Cousins hit two huge three-pointers and scored 17 in the fourth, falling one point shy of his career high of 56. The win avenged an earlier overtime loss this season in Portland and snapped Sacramento’s seven-game losing streak to the Blazers.
Cousins made 17 of 28 shots, connecting on five 3s, and 16 of 17 free throws. He also had three blocks and five of Sacramento’s 10 turnovers.
“No, we didn’t stop him,” Portland guard CJ McCollum said. “We tried to make it difficult for him, but he’s a skilled player. He’s got a lot of ways to score. He hit some 3s tonight, got to the free throw line, played bully ball. He did a little bit of everything.”
It appeared Cousins’ night was over before the game even ended.
In the final minute, the All-Star center put the Kings back in front when he drove the lane for a layup and was fouled by Mason Plumlee. But then Cousins initially was given a second technical foul and ejected for spitting his mouthpiece in the direction of Portland’s bench after making the shot.
He ran into the tunnel toward the locker room, but the officials huddled and changed the call. Lead official Brian Forte conferred with the others and determined Cousins “did not throw the mouthpiece and that it came out of his mouth.”
In a most unusual scene, Cousins then returned to the court and made the free throw for a three-point play, giving the Kings a 122-119 lead with 35 seconds left.
“When I was going to the locker room I was thinking what I was going to break up first,” Cousins said. “But when I heard I had to come back to shoot free throws, I had to calm myself down.”
Immediately after the game, Cousins called the temporary ejection “ridiculous” and claimed he gets mistreated by officials “on a nightly basis.”
“It’s obvious what’s being done out here,” he said. “I hope the world can see now what’s going on.”
But after watching the replay, he toned down his comments.
“I can see why people could be mad,” he said. “I was just talking to the bench and it came out. No intent. I would never spit on anybody. I’m not like that.”
Blazers Coach Terry Stotts had a little different version.
“From my vantage point, I thought that he taunted our bench and as he was taunting, the mouthpiece flew out,” Stotts said. “The referee asked me if it was his mouthpiece and I said that it was. Then he asked me if he threw it, then I said no he didn’t, and that’s why he came back. Whether it was intentionally spitting it out or not, I don’t know the intention.”