There’s often talk of how DeMarcus Cousins is fueled by the figurative chip on his shoulder. How the haters drive him to be great, and even in Sacramento, he has plenty of those.
But anyone who knows Cousins beyond seeing him on the court knows it’s love that he craves from friends and family. That love can lead him to be emotional and that can be problematic, but he feeds off of it. When Kings fans showed him their love with a standing ovation Thursday, that was all the inspiration he needed.
The former Kings All-Star had one of the best performances of his career in carrying the New Orleans Pelicans to a 114-106 victory over Sacramento at Golden 1 Center.
Cousins rallied the Pelicans from 19 down in the first half to finish with 41 points, 23 rebounds and six assists. It was the first 40-20 game of his career and Cousins became the first player since the Kings’ Chris Webber to have at least 40 points, 20 rebounds and five assists in a game. Webber had 51 points, 26 rebounds and five assists Jan. 5, 2001.
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Cousins said he fed off the energy from the crowd, one that had a lot of fans wearing his Kings’ No. 15 jersey.
“It was a special night,” Cousins said. “The fans were beautiful, they were into the game, they let it be well known they hated every shot I made but now I see how other players feel when I used to be on this side, on the other side of the fence. I can remember games where the crowd was the reason we won it. It’s well known the Kings have incredible fans. They showed up tonight as well.”
It was Cousins’ first game in Sacramento since being traded in February, a move that caught him off-guard during the All-Star Game, a night when Kings executives opted to avoid an awkward trip back to Sacramento on the chartered flight with him.
Cousins scored 37 points in his first game against the Kings in New Orleans on March 31, but this was different.
Cousins said his “anticipation was through the roof” before tipoff.
“The atmosphere, we knew was going to be up because Boogie was coming back,” said Kings guard De’Aaron Fox. “It was a great game.”
So how does a player known to be emotional handle all of that?
“My whole focus in the first half was not getting caught up into everything circling around the game,” Cousins said. “Just trying to stay poised, stay focused on the game and just win and that’s what I did.”
The Kings came out with a 40-point first quarter and 70-point first half.
“This was just as big a game for them as it was for us,” Cousins said. “We knew they would be juiced; we knew they would come out swinging that’s exactly what they did.”
By the second half, the Pelicans began to assert themselves. Playing without All-Star Anthony Davis, Cousins, Jrue Holiday (20 points, seven assists) and Jameer Nelson (18 points, six assists) took over.
At the end of the night, Cousins was able to smile and reflect on the overwhelming amount of cheers he heard that drowned out the boos. Cheers that drove him to beat his former team.
“I loved it,” Cousins said. “I’ve got nothing but love for this city.”