Ex-Cats

After team talk, DeMarcus Cousins backs up his words in Kings’ win over Raptors

Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) drove to the hoop against the Toronto Raptors during the fourth quarter Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015.
Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) drove to the hoop against the Toronto Raptors during the fourth quarter Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015. The Canadian Press via AP

DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay and Rajon Rondo got together Saturday night to discuss their team.

“It’s funny — one of the main points I made was we’ve got to find ways to impact the game even though we may not be having a great scoring night or whatever the case may be,” Cousins said. “And it’s funny and it seems like I was the first victim of it. I don’t want to be a hypocrite with what I was saying, so I had to find other ways to try to impact the game.”

Cousins did not have one of his more dominant games. He tallied 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists. But he also blocked four shots and had two steals in the Kings’ 104-94 win over the Toronto Raptors on Sunday at Air Canada Centre.

The Kings usually have needed Cousins at his best to pull out a win. Entering Sunday, the former University of Kentucky star was averaging 29.6 points in Sacramento’s wins and 20.8 in losses.

But the Kings opened Sunday’s game on a 17-2 run and led by as many as 22 points in their first win while leading wire-to-wire this season. Sacramento (11-16) has won four of its last five games.

The Kings were a team-best plus-33 on Sunday with Cousins on the floor.

“For a guy who doesn’t get good numbers (Sunday), he’s a plus-33,” Karl said. “When he’s on the court, we won by 33 points. That’s a stat that I like.”

Stats don’t tell the whole story for Cousins.

Cousins entered the game averaging 25.2 points and 10.7 rebounds, All-Star numbers. But he’s also missed seven games due to injuries and played through pain most of the season.

“I’m lost right now,” Cousins said. “It’s uncomfortable most nights, but I’m still trying to find a way to fight through it and still impact the game. My game has changed a lot this season; my role has changed a lot, so I’m just trying to find my way.”

Cousins’ lowest shooting percentage of his career is 43 percent, his rookie season. He entered Sunday’s game at 42.2 percent.

“I’m not a big stat guy,” Karl said. “If we win with him shooting 35 percent, I’m happy, and if we lose with him shooting 55 percent, I’m sad.”

Cousins shot 5-for-13 Sunday.

Karl said some dip in Cousins’ shooting was to be expected as he expands his shooting range.

“He’s experimenting with the outside shot a little bit, and that’s going to bring his percentage down a little bit,” Karl said. “But I still think he will be a three-point shooter; he will be a proven three-point shooter by the end of this year.”

Cousins entered Sunday with 73 three-point attempts, more than he’d taken in his first five seasons combined (69). He made his only three-point try Sunday.

Cousins had made 22 threes, or 30.1 percent on the season.

Subtract the three-pointers, and Cousins was shooting 45.2 percent (129 of 285), just below his career average of 46 percent.

“I can’t really worry about it right now,” Cousins said. “If I worried about it, then I’d be considered uncoachable. So I’m trying to be a coachable player, do what’s best for the team, what the coaches think is best for the team, so I’m just playing my part. I'll take the heat.”

It helped Sunday that Rondo had 19 points and 13 assists. Gay had 19 points and nine rebounds. So Cousins doing the little things was enough.

Gay said the talk Saturday was nothing new.

“This is our first experience where right after the conversation somebody had to do it,” Gay said. “But being the best players on the team, we have to play through adversity. I think that’s something that will get us to the next level if we learn to do that, each and every one of us.

Rondo praised Cousins’ leadership after the game, especially his defense. The Raptors (17-12) shot just 37.2 percent with Cousins as the “anchor” of the defense.

“He didn’t shoot exceptionally great, but I told him it’s the intangibles that make our team great,” Rondo said. “He doesn’t have to score 30 every night.”

Sunday, Cousins just had to remember what he said to Rondo and Gay a night earlier.

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