MILWAUKEE Keith Smart's pregame message was clear when asked about DeMarcus Cousins' latest suspension by the NBA.
Yes, it hurts Cousins, but it hurts his team, too.
That was evident by the end of the Kings' 98-85 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night at Bradley Center. After winning three games in a row, the Kings have lost back-to-back games by double digits.
Cousins leads the Kings in scoring, rebounding and steals. Wednesday, they especially missed the third-year center's rebounding.
Despite the absences of starting power forward Larry Sanders (illness) and starting center Ekpe Udoh (sprained left wrist), the Bucks outrebounded the Kings 60-50.
Milwaukee (11-9) also grabbed 24 offensive rebounds, the most against the Kings (7-14) this season.
Cousins has been suspended by the league for three games this season, and the Kings have lost all three.
Wednesday's suspension came after Cousins swung backward and landed a closed fist to the groin of Dallas guard O.J. Mayo on Monday.
"(The NBA is) making the message very, very, clear," Smart said. "That there's nothing you can do that won't be seen by our eyes. It's going to be there."
Because of the suspension, Cousins was not at the game and was unavailable for comment.
Cousins said Tuesday that he was trying to knock Mayo's hand off him and accidentally hit him in the groin.
"In slow motion, it looks like I did (hit Mayo in the groin) on purpose," Cousins said. "But you look in real speed, you see what happened. Of course it's gonna get thrown out there that I did it on purpose."
Last month, Cousins was suspended for two games after leaving the locker room to confront San Antonio television analyst Sean Elliott after being told Elliott had been critical of him during his broadcast. The league called Cousins' response to Elliott "hostile."
Smart said all of the Kings' opponents know Cousins is a player they should try to irritate to get a negative reaction.
"DeMarcus has to be a bigger man and move away from anything that may happen because what it does is it hurts our team," Smart said. "It hurts him big time, but it hurts our team. A perimeter guy, we might be able to fill in, but with the skills that he has, it really sets us back."
Cousins has six technical fouls, second most in the NBA.
"He has to grow out of this and move beyond because it does do things to our team, and we have to keep in focus what's important for the team," Smart said. "It's not any issue with one player but how it affects our overall team."
Cousins had been a positive on the court lately. In his last four games, he averaged 21.5 points and 11.3 rebounds while shooting 49.2 percent.
The NBA notified Cousins on Tuesday night it was investigating the incident and handed down the suspension about three hours before tipoff.
Without Cousins, the Kings moved power forward Jason Thompson to center and started Travis Outlaw in Thompson's place.
The Kings also were short-handed on the bench because guard Marcus Thornton left the team to be with his mother, who is ill.
The good news for the Kings was that guard Tyreke Evans returned after missing three games because of a sore left knee. He came off the bench and scored a team-high 17 points. But he was rusty, making 6 of 15 shots and committing five turnovers.
"I hesitated on a few layups that I thought I should have made," Evans said. "But I felt like I was playing in fast motion. I just haven't been out there in a while."
Even without Cousins and Thornton, the Kings trailed by just six after three quarters. But they hurt themselves by taking bad shots and not passing enough (37.2 percent shooting and 14 assists, one above their season low) to go with 17 turnovers.
Led by guards Brandon Jennings (19 points) and Monta Ellis (17 points, eight rebounds, 11 assists), the Bucks pulled away in the fourth quarter and opened an 18-point lead.
"It was tough," Evans said of not having Cousins. "We needed him this game. He would have helped a lot. J.T. (Thompson) had 15 rebounds, but they had a lot of second-chance points, and we needed him (Cousins) down there."