There have been times this season when the Kings’ offense has appeared to be DeMarcus Cousins sharing the floor with four spectators.
Cousins, of course, can still plow through defenders to score. But those points are hard to come by, and the Kings are much easier to defend because everyone knows what’s coming.
But on Wednesday night in a game suited for Cousins to go for a career high, he showed of his passing skills in dissecting the Dallas Mavericks’ defense in a 120-89 blowout at American Airlines Center.
The win ended a three-game losing streak as the Kings completed a 2-3 trip.
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Cousins was dominant with 24 points, 14 rebounds and matched his season-high with seven assists. Cousins could have piled up a ton of points against Dallas, which has been stripped down due to injuries and was without center Andrew Bogut, a player who prides himself on being a Cousins’ irritant.
But Cousins didn’t try to bully his way through the double teams when they came, he instead looked to get rid of the ball quickly, a process aided by having teammates who were moving around him.
It allowed Rudy Gay (19 points), Darren Collison (19 points), Garrett Temple (17 points) and Omri Casspi (10 points) to find their rhythm on offense, helping the Kings pile up a season-high 28 assists and shoot a season-best 56 percent. The Kings also had a season high with 68 points in the paint.
“It’s something coaches have brought to me,” Cousins said. “They’ve asked me to try to get guys more involved early on and not be as aggressive. It worked so it was a good thing. I think we’re a better team when we play that way.”
Coach Dave Joerger said the Kings always want to establish Cousins on offense to start games. And they did, but it just wasn’t with scoring.
Cousins had seven points, six rebounds and two assists in the first quarter and a blocked shot.
“He demands a lot of respect from the other team,” Joerger said. “They double-teamed him and he made the right play most of the night.”
Cousins entered the game third in the NBA, averaging 29.1 points. But if he can continue to be more of a facilitator, especially early to keep his teammates engaged, that would benefit the Kings’ long term.
Cousins has to be a willing passer, but the Kings also have to provide him with targets. And the best targets are ones that are moving.
“He’s a heck of a passer,” Joerger said. “So if we stand on the weak side and watch him work, it doesn’t help. If we can cut a little bit, it creates opportunities to score.”
Having Casspi, Matt Barnes, and Ben McLemore, who made his first start of the season in place of Arron Afflalo, gives the Kings players who are better suited to cut to the rim and take advantage of passes from Cousins or other players as the ball and players move with more regularity.
“It makes it so much easier,” Cousins said. “It’s hard for other teams to guard us when we’re moving that way and guys are cutting and creating space and passing lanes. It’s tough for teams to guard us.”
Joerger said starting McLemore was “no detriment” to Afflalo, who did not play Wednesday, rather about giving the fourth-year guard a chance. He hadn’t played in the previous three games on the trip.
Cousins hopes the win will provide some positive energy for Friday’s game against the New York Knicks at Golden 1 Center that was needed after three straight losses on the road.
“Nobody wants to fly that long with a loss under their belts,” Cousins said. “It’s a good way to go home, a good way to end this trip, and hopefully we can gain some momentum from this and start a new streak.”