DeMarcus Cousins had earned his first ejection of the season. At least that’s what everyone in Golden 1 Center thought.
But for one night, Cousins couldn’t be too upset with the officiating.
In a bizarre sequence, Cousins was called for his second technical foul of the game, had that call changed, and returned to complete a three-point play as part of a season-high 55 point showing as the Kings knocked off the Portland Trail Blazers, 126-121, Tuesday night.
Cousins has had his problems with referees throughout his career. He came into Tuesday leading the NBA with nine technical fouls and was called for a 10th in the second quarter.
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With 35.2 seconds to play, Cousins broke a 119-119 tie with a layup and was fouled. While he jawed at the Portland bench, his mouthpiece flew out and the officials believed he threw it and called Cousins for a second technical foul.
Cousins furiously sprinted off the court, thinking his night was over. But after a huddle by the officials, the call was changed and Cousins was called back from the locker room.
“I don’t really know what happened,” Cousins said. “I was caught up in the moment of what I was going to tear up in the locker room and they called me back.”
Cousins returned to the court, made his free throw and the Kings were able to hold off Portland.
The change enraged Portland’s bench as Cousins ran back onto the court to a cheering crowd.
“From my vantage point, I thought he taunted our bench and as he was taunting our bench the mouth piece flew out,” Portland coach Terry 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 (Cousins) came back.”
Much of the fuss was because many believed Cousins spit his mouthpiece at the Portland bench. Cousins said he did not intentionally spit it at the Blazers.
“I saw the replay, so I saw why people could be mad,” Cousins said. “I was talking to the bench and it came out.”
Official Brian Forte said he called the technical foul because he thought Cousins threw the mouthpiece into the stands.
“I conferred with my partners and they confirmed that he did not throw the mouthpiece and that it came out of his mouth and that’s how it ended up there,” Forte said.
Stotts was certain Cousins was taunting the Blazers. That act could have been call for a technical foul. But the focus of everyone was the mouthpiece.
“Whether it was intentionally spitting it out or not, I don’t know the intention,” Stotts said. “But as he was taunting our bench the mouthpiece flew out.”
By time the mouthpiece became an issue, Cousins had already had his way with the Blazers. He finished with 55 points on 17-of-28 shooting while missing just one of his 17 free throws. He scored 17 points in the fourth quarter.
Cousins’ dominance with the help of strong play off the bench from Ty Lawson (16 points, eight assists), and Arron Afflalo and Anthony Tolliver (11 points each) helped the (11-17) overcome a 12-point first-half deficit.
“Our guys stuck together, it was a good team win,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “Different guys stayed ready.”
C.J. McCollum led Portland (13-17) with 36 points. Damian Lillard had 24 points and 15 assists. Mason Plumlee had a career-high 27 points and 13 rebounds.