DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings put the rest of the league on notice Sunday night with their 98-92 victory against the Los Angeles Clippers. The big man delivered one of the best performances of the young season in the win, signaling his breakout as a two-way force in his fifth year as a pro.
The Clippers, despite having one of the best frontcourts in basketball, simply didn't have any answers for Cousins throughout the night. We've long wondered what the athletic 7-footer's game would look like if he put everything together, and on Sunday, we got the full clinic.
Cousins lit up L.A. on the offensive end for 34 points on 15-of-23 shooting, crashed the boards for 17 rebounds and added three blocked shots on defense. He was completely unstoppable with the ball around the basket, using a combination of drives and post moves to leave the defense on its heels.
How many guys nearing seven feet can do what Cousins just did to DeAndre Jordan there? The amount of athleticism and skill involved in coordinating a body that large through traffic to make that expert finish at the rim is unbelievable. The first time I saw this replay, I laughed, not because Cousins makes anyone look particularly stupid, but because it's absurd how easy he makes this look.
It was classic Cousins domination on offense, something we've admittedly seen before against other opponents. What we haven't quite seen, however, was the defensive show that Cousins put on against Jordan, Blake Griffin and Co. That's where the big man is showing the most progress in his game, and it's having a huge impact for Sacramento.
Griffin struggled throughout the night, finishing with 17 points on 6-of-20 shooting, and Jordan lasted just 25 minutes due to foul trouble. Cousins individually had as many rebounds as the duo combined. Spencer Hawes ended up getting significant minutes as Doc Rivers tried to figure out ways to limit the damage.
None of the adjustments really worked, though, and Cousins just kept pounding away. Starting with a pivotal run in the third quarter, it became clear who was the best player on the court and which team was benefiting from that. While we've seen big numbers from Cousins before, now we know with greater confidence that he's also capable of being an impact player defensively.
Cousins has never made an NBA All-Star team, but after what we saw Sunday, it's getting harder to imagine that drought continues. He's proving to be one of the best two-way big men in the league early this season, not just a talented 20-10 guy. That could make it even harder to reach the playoffs in a tight Western Conference this season.
3 other things we learned
Klay can really play
Pardon the corny headline, but Warriors guard Klay Thompson was the star of the team's five-point win against Portland on Sunday. The 24-year-old hit a number of key shots down the stretch, finishing with a game-high 29 points on 11-of-22 shooting, then sealed the victory with a steal in the final minute. He's now scored a total of 70 points over the past two games, and it's getting increasingly hard to question that huge contract extension he received a few days ago. Three games is only three games, but the Warriors have to like what they're seeing out of Thompson so far.
There has to be a better way to count five seconds
The Hornets lost a tough game to the New York Knicks, 96-93, on Sunday, and not just because they managed to score 13 points in the final period. Charlotte probably has some reason to be frustrated after getting losing a key possession on a bogus five-second call less than 40 seconds before the final buzzer:
Marvin Williams is supposed to get five seconds in order to inbound the ball before a violation is called, but the referee appears to blow his whistle after the pass is made. Even though this didn't completely cost Charlotte the game -- Kemba Walker missed a possible game-tying shot before the buzzer -- you'd figure the NBA could find a way to avoid these situations with their lengthy replay delays and the like.
The Heat can still win games in the East
Miami is no longer the team to beat in the Eastern Conference, but a five-point win against the Raptors on Sunday was the team's third straight to open the season. Chris Bosh is putting up big numbers so far -- 25.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and four assists per game -- and looks pretty comfortable as the top option after years of adjusting to filling a secondary role. The Heat are one injury away from falling apart, like many other teams, but right now, they look like one of the better clubs in the Eastern Conference.
Play of the Night
When you've got a reputation for being an elite three-point shooter, defenders tend to play you pretty closely near the arc. Thompson took advantage of that late in the fourth quarter Sunday against the Trail Blazers by getting past his man to absolutely posterize Robin Lopez. We don't always see this kind of explosiveness from the fourth-year guard, but it's definitely part of why he's considered one of the top up-and-coming players at his position. That is just an awesome, clutch dunk.
5 fun things
Sacramento Kings 98, Los Angeles Clippers 92 (Sactown Royalty recap | Clips Nation recap)
Miami Heat 107, Toronto Raptors 102 (Hot Hot Hoops recap | Raptors HQ recap)
New York Knicks 96, Charlotte Hornets 93 (Posting and Toasting recap | At the Hive recap)
Golden State Warriors 95, 90 (Golden State of Mind recap | Blazer's Edge recap)