There was less than 40 seconds remaining in regulation during last night’s exciting Suns-Kings overtime scorcher, when DeMarcus Cousins set a screen on Marcus Morris that sent him flailing. It’s unclear whether it was an offensive foul (we don’t think it was), but it was Boogie’s sixth infraction of the game and he was now gone in the most crucial moment. Except, in a move that flipped the script so far in a career plagued by on-court outbursts, it was Cousins who controlled his passions, and he even prevented coach Mike Malone from picking up what would have been a costly technical foul at that juncture of the game.
Here’s the screen in question, and while it’s been a point of emphasis for referee’s over the last two years, we’ve seen Kevin Garnett — one of the reasons refs were asked to watch it more closely — move a lot more on one of those hand-off screens without the sound of a whistle. It seems Cousins’ reputation, combined with Morris’ Tony-worthy tumble, equals a sixth foul on Boogie:
Aside from a natural surprise at the call, Cousins didn’t argue with the ref and immediately walked to his bench, emotions firmly in check despite a tie game inside of a minute to play in regulation.
We don’t know if this is something he’s learned, but Cousins just put his hands on his head, opened his mouth in the universal sign of “WHAT?!” while strolling to the bench.
Except, Cousins’ coach wasn’t nearly as acquiescent after the call. We could see Mike Malone’s spittle from our television screen — actually, we were watching from our phone on the train from the city — as he screamed at the ref. But Cousins jumped into action because a technical foul gives the Suns a free throw and possibly the lead with just 34 seconds left; if any one knows what awful things can transpire when you vent at the ref late in a close game, it’s Boogie:
How did Boogie calm Malone down? Per the Sacramento Bee:
“I said, ‘Coach, don’t worry about it, we can still win the game.’”
Malone told the Bee, “He was just saying, ‘Coach we need you to finish this game, coach us, tell us what we need to do? Don’t worry about the referees.’ I appreciate DeMarcus, and I love that kid.”
And Cousins was right, too, despite it taking Sacramento two overtime sessions to get it done without their star. Darren Collison scored a couple buckets in the first OT session to even an early, seven-point Suns lead. Then, in the second five-minute session, Ben McLemore connected on a tough runner and a corner three-pointer to keep the Kings close, and Rudy Gay — who had a tough, 5-for-22 shooting night — hit a tricky turnaround on the left baseline to give the Kings a 113-112 lead with 1:23 left. Collison added another free throw and the Kings got the stops down the stretch to earn the win, 114-112.
But it was Boogie’s grace under fire that made us so proud. We love seeing a player make this sort of progress. It’s not just his game which has improved, but his whole persona.
And Cousins isn’t even satisfied, despite the fact that with 24 points and 18 rebounds in regulation last night, he’s now connected on at least 20 and 10 in four of his first six games, while averaging 24.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 1.0 steals in just 29.8 minutes per game!
“As a team, we’re still not satisfied,” Cousins said after the game. “We’ve still got another level we can go to, and we have a lot to improve on.”
Even more surprising than Cousins’ mature handling of a tricky call, the Kings are 5-1 and sporting some insane offensive and defensive efficiency numbers when the purple-clad No. 15 is on the court. Per Zach Lowe of Grantland:
I know he fouled out last night, but two weeks in, is DeMarcus Cousins the MVP frontrunner? pic.twitter.com/LvkjAlHvcU
— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) November 8, 2014
(Yes, I know, talking MVP six games in is silly. But Cousins has been as good as anyone in the league so far. Great story if it sustains)
— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) November 8, 2014
We’re not gonna lie, it got a little dusty watching all this happen on the train last night. We hope DeMarcus Cousins leads the Kings to the playoffs and becomes a surprising MVP candidate. There aren’t many players who deserve it more after putting up with so much enmity from analysts, fans, refs and everyone else who’s reveled in his tempestuous shenanigans on the hardwood. Boogie is starting to figure it out, and we can’t wait to see what happens when he finally puts it all together.
(video via Basketball Galaxy)
Are the Kings this year’s Suns?
Follow Spencer on Twitter at @SpencerTyrel.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.