DeMarcus Cousins sounded truly puzzled when asked after Tuesday night’s Kings win over Detroit if he could explain a recent dip in his rebounding numbers.
“I’m trying to figure that out myself,” Cousins said. “I don’t know if it’s my effort, or whatever it may be, but I’ve definitely been aware of that and I’ve been trying to figure it out. I’m trying to put more effort into grabbing more boards, but I really don’t have the answer to that right now.”
As he spoke, Cousins’ numbers were actually trending back upward: His 13 rebounds Tuesday marked his third consecutive game in double digits. Before that, though, he’d gone seven games without having at least 10 rebounds, the longest such stretch of his career.
After the Kings practiced Thursday, coach Dave Joerger offered an explanation for the lull that had nothing to do with Cousins’ effort.
“When you play that five, he’s going to be (defending) every pick and roll,” Joerger said. “So now he’s engaging the ball instead of being an offside defender and having to try to stay in front of the ball, and you become a secondary rebounder instead of a primary rebounder.”
One caveat: While Cousins is still averaging 10.1 rebounds a game, good for 13th in the NBA, he hasn’t received a ton of help on the boards.
The Kings rank second-to-last in the NBA in rebounds per game, ahead of only Dallas. While Cousins has recorded 18 games with double-digit rebounds this season, the rest of the Kings’ roster has combined for 11.
Lest that seem an arbitrary statistic, when the Kings have outrebounded their opponent this season they are 8-5. But becoming a more efficient rebounding team is no quick fix, Joerger said.
“It’s not like, ‘Oh, we’ve got to box out more,’ it’s a lot more complicated than that,” Joerger said. “We’ve struggled to keep the ball in front of us (on defense). And if we struggle to keep the ball in front of us then we’re in rotation. So it’s not as simple as, ‘Box out.’ But we, in general, need to do a better job of boxing out as well.”
The Kings did a better job Tuesday night, outrebounding the Pistons 46-35. That included 12 offensive rebounds against a Detroit team that came in allowing just over eight per game – fewest in the league – and that led to 16 second-chance points.
Along with Cousins’ 13, the Kings received 10 rebounds from Omri Casspi, who after sitting out the previous three games set a season high while playing 17 minutes with Matt Barnes inactive (rest).
“I felt like we defended well, especially in the beginning of the fourth, and made them take some tough shots,” Casspi said. “Those tough shots create long rebounds. So I felt like I had good opportunities.”
While the Kings have alternated between bigger and smaller lineups this season, Casspi said the key to better rebounding may be a simple one.
“Sometimes it’s just, go and get the ball,” he said.
Casspi and the second unit helped spur the Kings’ comeback from an 18-point deficit Tuesday. Afterward, though, players acknowledged the danger of falling behind early in games – especially against teams like their next two opponents, Cleveland on Friday and Oklahoma City on Sunday.
“The Detroit game was the most disappointing thing I’ve seen all season,” Joerger said. “I thought for two or three quarters that was awful. Am I happy we came back and won? Yeah, but we’ve got to get it together for 48 minutes.
“We’ve got to try to get out to quicker starts in each half and we’ve got to put groups together that play with the fire and the energy. … Whatever group is out there has to play with energy, and we do that for a more consistent time, we’ll do better and get better results.”