In Game 1, DeMarcus Cousins was thrown out onto the floor for 8 frantic minutes. The big man hadn’t played in 45 days, his shot was off and he clearly didn’t know how to play off the bench, having started 99.4% of his games since the 2011-2012 season.
Despite this, the minutes he played were not terrible. Yes, he finished -9 in a game that his Golden State Warriors lost by nine points, but he made the effort to run out to shooters from behind the arc, had one or two pretty passes – some of which led to a basket – and even managed a handful of points. Can you really say you expected more of him? Coming off an injury? His first experience in the NBA Playoffs, let alone the Finals? Really?
In Game 2, head coach Steve Kerr went full Lil Nas-X, starting Cousins and riding him until he couldn’t any more. From the first play of the game, he closed up in Marc Gasol’s space, hustling and doing annoying Boogie things to frustrate the Spaniard – which stopped him gaining any momentum.
While Gasol managed a solid 20 points and 7 rebounds in the first game, he scored just 6 in Game 2. Cousins didn’t defend him during all those minutes, but that early peskiness on the defensive end – yes, you read that correctly – helped establish a good mindset for the Warriors on that end of the court.
Cousins didn’t call for the ball much and allowed the offense to flow through Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry for the majority of the game. However, his ability to see space better than most when passing, and the benefit of his big body providing a wall for the Splash Brothers to get open looks, meant his contributions were vital in claiming the win.
Cousins will have more starts in this series and we may even see more opportunities for him to receive the ball in the post, but even with good performances, he’s not going to win the Finals MVP.
However, if the Warriors do in fact win their third straight championship, he will have, at the very least, earned his ring.
Feature photo – Getty Images / Double Clutch illustration – Matthew Wellington