HOUSTON -- DeMarcus Cousins let out a loud roar moments after hitting a wing jumper over Clint Capela late in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's win over the Rockets.
The basket, which clinched a season-high 27 points, pushed Golden State's lead to 13, but, more importantly, signified the latest step in Cousins' journey with the Warriors.
Since his return more than two months ago from a torn Achilles, Cousins has enjoyed impressive scoring performances, dealt with criticism of his defense and the question of if he'll ever regain his All-Star powers. But with Kevin Durant out with ankle injury, the four-time All-Star provided a positive sign towards his progress and what could be if he's at full strength.
"He just played one of the most complete games since he's been here," said Klay Thompson, who scored 30 points in the 106-104 victory. "He adds a whole new dimension to our team. You saw what he can do with us tonight."
With the Rockets playing a switch-heavy defense, Cousins routinely found himself in the post with a guard defending. Beating the obvious mismatch, Cousins feasted, scoring 27 points, adding eight rebounds and seven assists.
More importantly, against a pick and roll heavy Rockets offense, Cousins was disciplined when switched onto James Harden and Chris Paul. During the first quarter, he routinely contested shots without fouling and even drew a charge on Harden.
"The rhythm was good for me tonight," Cousins said. "I got my feet underneath me and it was a smooth game for me so I can't complain."
Performances like Wednesday's have been hard to come by in recent games. Entering the matchup against Houston, he averaged 12.0 points on just 41 percent from the field, hitting just one 3-pointer. Worse, concerns over his defense began to emerge, despite the teammates and coaches publically defending the former All-Star.
"I mean it's cool but we've been in this business long enough to know how it goes," Cousins said of the criticism. "I've been around this team long enough to know how things go around here. You're always looking for something to write a story about. I mean I could care less, y'all gotta do y'all job and I gotta do mine. Y'all looking for a story. It is what it is."
Cousins has had a bit of an adjustment dealing with the intense news cycle that follows the back-to-back champs. During the first 15 years of his basketball life, including high school and college, Cousins never played in media market higher than 20th.
"It's something every day," Cousins said. "My grandmother, when I was younger, she had this show she used to watch, I'm sure y'all have heard of it: 'As the World Turns.' She called it her 'stories,' I used to watch it with her and every episode it was something. That's what this has turned into."
Does he like the extra attention?
"No, I don't," Cousins deadpanned. "I play basketball. I don't look for drama or stories or anything like that. I just want to go play basketball."
As for his on-court integration with the Warriors, while rapidly improving, there's still work to be done. Throughout the Warriors' four-year run to the Finals, the team has never had a threat as talented as Cousins in the frontcourt - a skilled center who can play back to the basket. With an offense that relies on ball movement, Golden State has to adjust to him as much as he has to adjust to his teammates. With his midseason return being another factor, there's still a ways to go.
"I think it's coming," Cousins said. "We've had stretches where its kind of flowing for everyone but this is a team that's been together for a while so they play a certain type of way and they're used to playing a certain type of way. So for me to just come in, I'm not expecting it for this team to adjust to me, I have to adjust to them and I'll have my opportunities. All I have to do is take advantage of those opportunities."
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"I think we have to remind ourselves that it's still pretty early in the process," head coachSteve Kerr added. "We're all learning ... I have to learn how to use him better. I thought we used him better tonight."
For now, both the Warriors and Cousins can be happy with the latest step in the Boogie Experience. But with Oklahoma City next on the ledger and no clear date on Durant's return, both sides hope these performances can continue.
"This was a good win for us," Kerr said. "We have 15 games left now to continue to figure out how to use everybody, combinations and all that stuff. This was a good night."