Sacramento Kings at Orlando Magic game preview
The Sacramento Kings (2-3) go as their sometimes moody All-Star center goes.
In the span of a week, DeMarcus Cousins has picked up the first of what will surely be many technical fouls, has gotten fined for throwing his mouthpiece halfway into the stands at Sacramento's Golden 1 Center and walking into the bleachers to retrieve it and, probably most damaging to his team, picked up six fouls in the fourth quarter of Sacramento's overtime loss to the Miami Heat on Tuesday, sitting out the final five minutes of the 108-96 loss.
Cousins can produce. Even in defeat and without the overtime, Cousins scored 30 points, putting shot blocker Hassan Whiteside on his heels and in foul trouble on his way to 18 free throw attempts. He is averaging 26.8 points per game and 9.6 rebounds per game.
For all of Cousins' gaudy statistics, his emotions still get the best of him at times. And the Sacramento Kings suffer for their star player's still inconsistent demeanor.
For the Kings to take the next step after their first 30-win season since 2008 last year, Cousins is going to have to carry the load on his broad shoulders.
It is why incidents like the Saturday's mouthpiece toss and Tuesday's fouling out in all of 12 minutes seem to hurt his team even more these days.
Cousins is too important to be on the sideline.
The Kings are 4.6 points per 100 possessions better with Cousins on the floor than their opponents, according to NBA.com's stats database. They score a team-best 109.9 points per 100 possessions with Cousins on the floor. Their season average is 100.9.
His over aggression and physicality can sometimes cost him -- he committed three offensive fouls in the fourth quarter including the dubious push off with 30 seconds that left him out for the overtime.
But Cousins is the offensive player everyone has to prepare for and focus on.
"He's a very good player," Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic said Wednesday. "Probably the best big man we have in the NBA right now. He's very dominant. Playing really great for the past few seasons. Obviously a big load down there. We'll have to do our best to limit him as best we can."
Vucevic will draw the primary responsibility on Cousins when the Magic (1-3) take on the Kings at the Amway Center in Orlando on Thursday. Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo will surely get their turns too.
The Magic's front court combination has not quite delivered results for them. The team's summer transformation was supposed to bring with it a stronger interior defense. So far, the Magic are giving up 106.6 points per 100 possessions, sixth worst in the NBA.
Orlando scraped out its first win of the season Tuesday night against the Philadelphia 76ers, leading for less than 25 seconds in a 103-101 win after Ibaka hit a pair of free throws with one second left.
The Magic now face a tougher task dealing with Cousins.
The question as always when the Kings roll into town is which Cousins will they and their opponents get? Is it the one that is a focused, dominant low post scorer that sucks up energy and frees up shooters? Or is it the one that loses his cool and costs his team in important moments?
The Kings go as their All Star DeMarcus Cousins goes so far this season.