When DeMarcus Cousins aggressively grabs a rebound, he makes a distinctive sound with the ball.
It sounds as if Cousins is slapping the ball, and the impact can be heard throughout the arena.
Early in Monday night’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Kings’ All-Star was collecting rebounds and producing that thud, which was noticeably absent as he battled Achilles’ and back issues early in the season.
So is Cousins again dominating the glass as he has done when at his best?
“Does it look like it?” Cousins replied when asked if he was feeling better. “I think slowly. I’ll probably be walking out here a little ugly, but I think I’m coming back a little bit, slowly but surely.”
Cousins could walk out of Chesapeake Energy Arena with a smile after the Kings defeated the Thunder 116-104 Monday night. The Kings never had won in Oklahoma City, a 14-game span dating to 2008.
Cousins had 33 points and a season-high 19 rebounds as the Kings won their second straight. They also moved coach George Karl into sole possession of fifth place on the all-time win list with 1,156, passing Phil Jackson.
Karl often worries his players depend on Cousins to grab the rebounds. The Kings outrebounded the Thunder 48-39.
“We’ve got to be more fundamental there, more serious about it,” Karl said. “And Cuz, when he gives you that performance, sometimes you become over-reliant on it. But I think playing two bigs gave us confidence we were going to rebound.”
Besides Cousins, Karl used Kosta Koufos and Willie Cauley-Stein against Oklahoma City’s trio of Steven Adams, Serge Ibaka and Enes Kanter.
We’ve got to be more fundamental there, more serious about it. And Cuz, when he gives you that performance, sometimes you become over-reliant on it. But I think playing two bigs gave us confidence we were going to rebound.
Kings coach George Karl on the team’s rebounding
For all the talk of playing small, Karl likes using two bigs, which allows Rudy Gay to play more small forward and gives the Kings a big frontcourt.
“I think defensively it makes us better, point blank,” Karl said. “It’s simple. Willie and Kosta are really good transition defenders, which is our weakness.”
Cousins has struggled against the Thunder. Adams is one of the NBA’s most physical interior defenders. Kanter can be an explosive scorer, and Ibaka’s athleticism allows him to cover a lot of space and block shots.
Cousins shot 11 for 27, but his ability to rebound and occupy the Thunder’s big men was important.
In a 98-95 loss in Oklahoma City on Dec. 6, Cousins shot 5 of 20 and had 13 points and 10 rebounds. On Monday, Cousins said he didn’t know if he was feeling better and couldn’t explain the Kings’ success inside.
“I guess the ball just rolled my way tonight,” Cousins said. “Their bigs usually do a great job against me.”
As for Karl, celebrating a move up the all-time win list will have to wait.
I think that’s going to be in the summertime. This business is too hard, too much focus on the next game.
Karl on passing Phil Jackson for fifth place in all-time NBA coaching victories
“I think that’s going to be in the summertime,” Karl said. “This business is too hard, too much focus on the next game.”