DeMarcus Cousins

How the DeMarcus Cousins injury affects the Trail Blazers' chances in the Western Conference

How the DeMarcus Cousins injury affects the Trail Blazers' chances in the Western Conference

News broke today that newly acquired Lakers big man, DeMarcus Cousins, tore his ACL in a workout in Las Vegas.

Video of the injury has been acquired by TMZ:

This is just another in a string of terrible injuries Cousins has suffered in a short time span:

The league, and certainly LeBron James and the Lakers, will not be the same without Cousins in the mix. In a revamped West, any injury has a ripple effect across the Conference where just a few wins can mean the difference between home court advantage, the right match-up or a deep playoff run. 

The Blazers are scheduled to take on the Lakers 3 times this season. The first coming on Friday, December 6th at Moda Center. Another home game follows on Saturday, December 28th and finally a single road game at Staples Center on Friday, January 31st. Yes, they still have LeBron and Anthony Davis, but the loss of Cousins shouldn't be overlooked. Prior to the Cousins injury, the Lakers were sitting at about 4 to 1 to win the NBA Title making them one of the Top 3 teams along with the Clippers and Bucks. The Blazers come in at around 33 to 1 depending on where you pull the odds from. 

In the end, the Lakers odds in the West probably won't significantly change because of this. It makes three games on the Trail Blazers schedule just a little bit easier and with two games vs. LA being at home a chance to take the season series is certainly possible. It will make life for the Blazers front court in Hassan Whiteside, Zach Collins, and Pau Gasol a little bit more manageable in those games vs. LA, as they will already have their hands full with Davis.

All that said, the Trail Blazers are still projected at about a #7 seed, but we know how Damian Lillard and company like to prove people wrong.

You can check out the entire Trail Blazers schedule here. 

Warriors' DeMarcus Cousins is a big fan of 'underrated and underappreciated' Damian Lillard

usatsi_9760078.jpg
USA Today Images

Warriors' DeMarcus Cousins is a big fan of 'underrated and underappreciated' Damian Lillard

There’s not many players in the NBA who lack the national recognition and appreciation they deserve.

But if you look at the list of those players who deserve some love, Damian Lillard surely tops the list.

The Portland Trail Blazers guard has been snubbed from NBA All-Star selections and All-NBA nods, but despite the lack of respect he’s gotten around the league, it’s that chip on his shoulder that makes Lillard one of the elite guards in the NBA.

Golden State Warriors star DeMarcus Cousins has taken notice of what the under-the-radar guard has done in Portland. In a recent podcast with Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports, Cousins told Haynes he feels the Trail Blazers All-Star doesn’t get the credit he deserves.

“His talent is undeniable,” Cousins said. “His heart is undeniable. What he brings to the game is undeniable. Me, I’m a huge Damian Lillard fan. He knows that. He’s definitely one of the most underrated and under-appreciated players in this league in my opinion, and probably a lot of others as well.”

Cousins added that he felt Lillard is often overshadowed due to Portland being a small-market team.

“I feel like if you had Dame in New York, or... – and I’m not saying he should leave [Portland] so lets not even go there – but if you had that type of talent in LA or Chicago, or a big-time market, he’d be one of the greatest players of all time," Cousins said.

Despite Cousins’ comments suggesting Lillard could get more attention if he went to a larger market, Lillard has made it clear that he wants to stay in Portland and retire as a Trail Blazer.

This season, Lillard is averaging 26.2 points per game on 44.9 percent shooting and adding 4.6 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.1 steals in 35.5 minutes of play. Portland is now 47-27 with eight games remaining and will ride Lillard, who is now without his Big Three of Jusuf Nurkic and CJ McCollum, to its sixth-consecutive appearance in the NBA playoffs.

To hear more from Cousins, you can listen to the Posted Up podcast here.

Cousins set to return for Warriors. NBA life just isn't fair

Cousins set to return for Warriors. NBA life just isn't fair

**Watch the video above to hear more about what Blazers Outsiders Chris Burkhardt and Alex Haigh have to say about the return of DeMarcus Cousins.** 

Welp, sorry NBA fans, the season is over. Ok, it's not really over, but it might as well be. The number one team in the Western Conference, the Golden State Warriors (31-14) are about to get a whole lot better.  Why, you ask? Two words: DeMarcus Cousins.

The All-Star center has not played in a game after tearing his Achilles nearly a year ago while he was a member of the Pelicans. In fact, the was January 26th of last season that Cousins last stepped on a court, and had to be helped off of it. 

Now, the best team in the NBA gets to add one of the best centers in the entire league to its rotation. This ought to be fun. Cousins holds career averages of 21.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game, is a four-time All-Star, and a has been selected to the All-NBA Second-Team twice. So, yeah, the two-time defending champions really need him. 

All joking aside, this should be a great spectacle to watch. Cousins signed a one-year deal with the Warriors this off-season for the mid-level exception. For him, he just wanted a prove to the league he can still play post-injury and win a ring in the process. It is almost a certainty that the Warriors won't re-sign Cousins in the offseason. Steve Kerr has already said as much. The team just won't have the money to give him the contract he deserves, or rather, they won't have the money to give him the contract he hopes to earn over the next few months. 

Despite being one of the best players in the NBA the past few seasons, Cousins is still playing with a chip on his shoulder. The big man is playing to prove his doubters wrong. He is playing to prove that despite a devastating Achilles injury, he can still be a game changer. He is playing to prove he is still one of the best players in the world. He is playing for what could end up being the biggest payday of his career. 

So, sure, the Warriors are a favorite to win this thing, but there is still a reason to watch how this all plays out. Simply to see if Cousins can be the Cousins we all remember.

Alex Haigh and I talked about this on the latest episode of Blazers Outsiders. Be sure to watch the video above to hear what we had to say on the return of Cousins and the state of the NBA. 

 

 

The night Meyers Leonard tossed out a bucket of "How do you like me now?"

The night Meyers Leonard tossed out a bucket of "How do you like me now?"

The Trail Blazers laid another big egg Saturday night in Moda Center, losing to New Orleans 123-116 in a game that wasn't as close as the final score indicated. The Pels, a .500 team playing without Anthony Davis and on the second half of a back-to-back, dominated the Trail Blazers over the final three quarters.

The roller-coaster ride continues for the Blazers -- the most enigmatic Portland team in many years. Exactly who are these guys?

But the sub-plot of the game was a story of vindication. It was the night Meyers Leonard dumped a big bucket of "How do you like me now?" on his detractors. Leonard, booed in the previous game by some of the home fans, came up big -- hitting seven of his nine shots from the floor, including both his three-point attempts, on the way to 17 points in 15 minutes and 45 seconds. He also went head-to-head with New Orleans behemoth DeMarcus Cousins and gave about as much as he received.

[NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” 15-game Blazers package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest $34.99 – click to learn more and buy]

There had to be a tremendous amount of pressure on Leonard Saturday. After Thursday's loss in Moda Center -- when Portland center Jusuf Nurkic came to Leonard's defense after the game  -- Leonard  became the center of an age-old debate: Should home fans boo their own players? Forget if they have the right to do it -- they do. But should they? What does it mean to be a fan? How are you supposed to react when you are unhappy with a player on your team?

They booed him. They booed him lustily as he got a short shift on the floor and missed a couple of shots, including an airball on a three-point attempt. I've always felt the big thing about the dissatisfaction with Leonard is his penchant for shooting three-point field goals. I run into fans every day upset about this -- as if a man seven feet tall shouldn't shoot be shooting from distance. Never mind the fact that he makes them more frequently than does Damian Lillard during their careers.

The trend in the league is that just about every good offensive player is shooting them, including Cousins -- a player Leonard has had some success guarding. Cousins, the most talented big man in the league, could torture people in the low post, but these days he spends a lot of time on the perimeter hoisting shots from distance. He took seven threes Saturday night in 34 minutes. He's not a particularly good three-point shooter (.325 this season so far) -- not even close to being in Leonard's league -- but he's taken 154 of them in 23 games. Leonard is a respectable .374 in his career from three (Lillard is at .367) and is hitting a sparkling 50 percent this season from behind the line.

Meanwhile, Evan Turner gets consistent minutes for Portland and throws up a couple of three-pointers in every game. So far this season, he's shooting .195 from distance -- but has the freedom to keep playing and launching threes. Without being booed, I might add.

But whatever, Leonard was almost in a put-up-or-shut-up situation Saturday night. It was time for him to make a statement and he did. And in the second quarter, after some physical defense on Cousins and making a few shots -- he had the home crowd in the palm of his hand. The arena was on fire.

Such is the life of a professional athlete. And if the previous stages of his career are any indication, Leonard will probably now go back to several games sitting on the end of the bench watching the others play. His biggest hurdle over the last couple of seasons has been a lack of consistent playing time. Even now, with the team's offense seemingly dazed and confused, I wouldn't expect him to find a regular role.

But it's pretty obvious he can play. He has had enough quality performances to show that.

He just doesn't always play. And that's not his fault.

Terry Stotts has his hands full juggling a roster of players who merit court time

Terry Stotts has his hands full juggling a roster of players who merit court time

Interesting opening night for the Portland Trail Blazers Tuesday. It was far from pretty but there are no bad wins -- you take it and move on.

The Blazers are blessed with a lot of talent and it makes for some interesting rotations and substitution patterns for Coach Terry Stotts, particularly on a night when the starters aren't carrying the kind of load they usually handle. In Milwaukee on Saturday, he used only eight players in the first half and then Tuesday vs. New Orleans tried 11 in the first half. And he had a couple of real short bench stays that were interesting, too. Jusuf Nurkic had one 51-second trip to the bench in the third quarter and Evan Turner sat just 1:58 at one point of the fourth quarter.

Stotts has so many players who deserve playing time but then you also want to stay with the ones who are playing well. Then there's the issue of developing players. There is no doubt that Caleb Swanigan and Zach Collins need playing time if they're to develop -- but not at the expense of losing a game. Rookies can be a risk in close games -- at least a lot of coaches seem to think so.

Veteran players bring problems of their own. If they don't get the playing time they think they deserve they can often become locker-room problems. It's a difficult situation to navigate for a coach. Frankly, there is nobody on the Portland bench this season just happy to be on a team and drawing a paycheck. In the past, there has been a few of those.

All in all, handing out minutes can be a complicated situation with so many capable players.

Meyers Leonard played Tuesday, which was not surprising given his success defending DeMarcus Cousins in the past. Leonard got only 6:25 but during his time on the court Cousins had a couple of turnovers, missed two shots and appeared to be his usual frustrated self when confronted by Leonard. Meanwhile, Leonard made both his shots from the floor, including a three-pointer, had two rebounds and a steal. But he got no second-half time.

After the game, Stotts praised many members of his bench:

"I thought Ed Davis, and Caleb gave us a nice spark off the bench," he said. "As did Pat."

He was asked how he felt about Leonard's work against Cousins.

"I thought he was OK for the time that he was in there," Stotts said. "Look, Cousins had a great game. He did a lot of good things. He got to the basket, got to the free-throw line, but I thought Ed, Meyers, Nurk, they all had their turn on him and you can't look at 39 (points) and 13 (rebounds) and say anybody did a great job."

I suppose not. But when you give up only three of those 39 points, you can't get a lot of the blame -- particularly when you outscore him while you're on the court. But as I said, there are a lot of players to keep track of off that Portland bench and perhaps Leonard had nothing to do with Cousins' struggles while they were on the court at the same time. Or maybe he just got lost in the shuffle. Eleven Blazers played Tuesday night, including Shabazz Napier, who got just three and a half minutes.

That's a lot to of players to use in a close game.

Bench talent is a blessing, not a curse. At some point of the season, everybody on that bench is going to have a chance to make a significant contribution.

But for right now, juggling all that talent can be a real coaching challenge.

Trail Blazers don't show up in New Orleans in blowout loss

Trail Blazers don't show up in New Orleans in blowout loss

NEW ORLEANS – It was the fourth quarter, and the body language of Damian Lillard told the story for the Trail Blazers on Tuesday: Arms crossed, legs outstretched, eyes staring off in space.

Blowout losses, like the 100-77 beatdown New Orleans applied on the Blazers on Tuesday, can do that even to the best of leaders.

“Disappointed,’’ Lillard said thinking back to that moment. “I remember when I put my legs out, I thought ‘Maybe I should sit up so people don’t look at it’ but it was just how I felt at the moment … that we let it get away.’’

The Blazers’ late-season playoff push was derailed  with a no-show performance in New Orleans that was so poor that coach Terry Stotts sat his key players for the final 9:39 of the fourth quarter in order to rest them for Wednesday’s game at San Antonio.

The Blazers entered the game having won five of six and feeling like they were playing their best basketball of the season. But they turned in one of their worst performances of the season as only Lillard (29 points) and Shabazz Napier (10 points) finished in double figures.

The Blazers shot a season-low 30.3 percent for the game and scored a season-low 77 points. They also committed 16 turnovers.

The loss drops Portland (29-37) to 2.5 games behind Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot with 16 games remaining. New Orleans (27-40) moved to within five games of Denver.

With owner Paul Allen in attendance, the Blazers played one of their worst games of the season.

Allen Crabbe went 1-for-8, including 1-for-6 from three-point range. Jusuf Nurkic went 1-for-8 with four turnovers. Al-Farouq Aminu didn’t score. Maurice Harkless didn’t grab a rebound. And CJ McCollum went just 4-of-12 and didn’t make any of his three three-point attempts.

“We just didn’t make shots tonight, that’s pretty much it,” Crabbe said. “It just wasn’t our night.’’

Portland made one run in the second half, cutting a 20-point lead to 60-49 after Lillard scored 11 in a row, but after a timeout, New Orleans scored the next eight to essentially put the game away.

New Orleans took a 50-36 halftime lead, even though Pelicans’ star Anthony Davis left with about five minutes left in the second quarter to have his left ankle examined. His absence didn’t matter as Portland struggled with its shot (33 percent in first half) and with controlling the ball (nine turnovers). The 36 points was the second fewest first half points this season.

Davis came back to start the second half and finished with 15 points and 15 rebounds in 29 minutes on 5-of-15 shooting. DeMarcus Cousins finished with 22 points and nine rebounds, but he shot only 9-of-22 from the field and 4-of-10 from the free throw line.

New Orleans improved to 4-6 since Cousins was acquired in a trade with Sacramento.

The defining stretch of the first half came when Portland went scoreless from 6:20 in the second quarter until 1:55 when Lillard made a driving layin. That ended a 12-0 Pelicans run that extended a 31-28 lead to 43-28.

The Blazers shot 20 percent in the first quarter (4-of-20) and had both of their starting forwards – Maurice Harkless and Noah Vonleh – forced to the bench with two fouls. 

Up next: Blazers at San Antonio, 7 p.m. Wednesday (KGW/ESPN)

Podcast:

Blazers shoot around: Aminu to play key role in defending Davis

Blazers shoot around: Aminu to play key role in defending Davis

NEW ORLEANS – Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said he will consider using a twin-towers approach tonight against New Orleans, defending Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins with Jusuf Nurkic and Meyers Leonard, but he said he will more likely go with another strategy: Al-Farouq Aminu against Davis.

“I’m open to it (Nurkic and Leonard together), but Chief is my first option,’’ Stotts said. “Chief has guarded Anthony Davis in the past.’’

Stotts said he will not start Aminu – likely sticking with Noah Vonleh and Nurkic as his frontcourt – but the Blazers’ defensive ace will likely see the most time on the Pelicans’ star.

Aminu was hurt in the first meeting between the teams,  prompting Stotts to start Ed Davis alongside Mason Plumlee. Davis is out for the season after undergoing shoulder surgery and Plumlee was traded to Denver in February.

New Orleans is 3-6 since acquiring Cousins. One of the wins came while he was suspended for technical fouls, another he fouled out and the latest win – in overtime against Charlotte – he didn’t play for the final 9:25.

“It’s difficult to bring a guy into a team and learn things on the fly and get chemistry,’’ Stotts said. “ What has happened with us and Nurk, is the exception rather than the rule. Like I said, both are such talented players they are going to figure out what works and Alivin Gentry is such a terrific offensive coach. That part of it will come around but for the time being they are working on figuring it out.’’

Damian Lillard said the Blazers, who have won 5 of 6, need to capitalize on the mood of each team.

“We have to use that to our advantage: us playing the way we are and them trying to figure it out,’’ Lillard said. “We should come out and prepare for them to play well, because you never know, as good as they are to come out and explode on any given night.’’

Captain carry:  In the Blazers’ win Sunday in Phoenix, Stotts praised Lillard for shouldering the responsibility of carrying the team to victory.

“We willed us to that win,’’ Stotts said.

Lillard, who scored 28 of his 39 points in the first half, said he doesn’t feel any burden or responsibility to carry the team because he trusts his teammates. He went through each teammate – from Aminu to Maurice Harkless to Allen Crabbe to Shabazz Napier -- and remarked how everyone is contributing of late.

“So I don’t feel like I have to shoulder and carry the load,’’ Lillard said. “It’s more just leading and making sure we are sharp in our coverages, and making sure we communicating and managing the game more than anything else. Just trying to control it. Last game I felt like I did a good job of it.’’

Meyers mid-range:  One of the evolving aspects of the Blazers has been the mid-range game of Meyers Leonard, who has become effective with floaters and short jumpers of late.

Leonard said he found that coming off the bench into the game and then immediately taking a three was challenging. He said he finds he can get into a rhythm better by making a dunk or a short-range shot.

“I check in and get an open three and it’s not an easy shot to make,’’ Leonard said. “So I’m looking to play more in the mid-range because then the three’s become easier.’’

Stotts said it’s good for players to change their approach, and it reminds him of how Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki was constantly adapting.

“Meyers is reading the game, and the half-roll to mid-range is there for him,’’ Stotts said. “You have to change it up because the defense game plans for certain things. You can’t do the same thing all the time.’’

Shabazz shining: One of the subtle contributions recently has been the contribution of point guard Shabazz Napier off the bench, both offensively and defensively.

“I like the way he is running the team,’’ Stotts said. “I think he is really focused on getting guys shots, looking to the run the offense. Defensively he has always been a good defensive player for us.’’

Stotts said the major benefactor has been CJ McCollum, because it allows McCollum to play off the ball more.

Tonight's game: Blazers at New Orleans, 5 p.m. (CSN).

Meyers Leonard comes up big as Trail Blazers end streak with win over Kings

Meyers Leonard comes up big as Trail Blazers end streak with win over Kings

This time there were no fireworks, no feuding and no controversial calls, just one big exhale from the Trail Blazers.

The Blazers' six-game losing streak is over after Wednesday's 102-89 win over Sacramento when the rematch never reached the emotion or suspense of last week's explosive game in Sacramento. 

At the center of the pregame buildup was Meyers Leonard and his volatile matchup with DeMarcus Cousins, and the Blazers' big man didn't disappoint with perhaps his best outing of the season. Leonard had 16 points, five rebounds and a block in 24 minutes,  all while keeping Cousins mostly under wraps. Cousins, who scored 55 points in the Kings' win Dec. 20, finished with 28 points and eight rebounds, but most of the damage was done when Leonard was on the bench. 

Portland (14-20) won for the first time since Dec. 13 -- a home victory over Oklahoma City -- despite star Damian Lillard sitting out his second straight game with a sprained left ankle. The win moved the Blazers within one game of Sacramento (14-18) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. 

CJ McCollum, who handled point guard duties in Lillard's abscence, led the Blazers with 20 points and seven assists and Mason Plumlee had 12 points and 14 rebounds.  Sacramento, which played without scorers Rudy Gay and Arron Afflalo, shot just 39.2 percent from the field, including 9-for-28 (32.1 percent) from three-point range. 

The Blazers led 60-44 at halftime on the heels of Allen Crabbe's perfect 4-for-4 shooting, which included three three-pointers and two free throws. Sacramento had trouble finding offense in the first half, shooting 40.5 percent after settling mostly for outside jumpers. 

The Blazers led 75-63 heading into the fourth quarter and the Kings were within 80-72 with 9:53 left, but Shabazz Napier hit a three-pointer and Leonard had a big block at the rim of Kosta Koufos and the Kings never got closer than nine down the stretch. 

Next up: Blazers at San Antonio, 5:30 p.m. Friday (CSN).

Podcast:

 

Meyers Leonard says he will be focused and ready for matchup against Kings, Cousins

Meyers Leonard says he will be focused and ready for matchup against Kings, Cousins

Meyers Leonard on Tuesday tried to pour water on the simmering coals that is the complicated and volatile backstory of his matchup against Sacramento big man DeMarcus Cousins.

“I don’t have a history with him,’’ Leonard said before a long pause. “That’s what everybody makes it out to be, but it’s not a thing.’’

Later, after he was reminded that both have pushed each other during a game in a manner that drew technical fouls on each player …. and when reminded that Leonard once accused Cousins of dirty play for stepping under his jump shot, causing Leonard to sprain his ankle … and when reminded of last week’s infamous tirade by Cousins directed at Leonard on the Blazers’ bench …  Leonard changed his tune.

“It’s not a long history, I would say,’’ Leonard said. “Things have happened, clearly. I don’t know what it is about me that he doesn’t like, but honestly, there’s nothing I can do about that. It’s my job to go out there and compete and make it hard on him.’’

Leonard’s next test will come Wednesday at the Moda Center when the resurgent Kings (14-17) play their final game against the slumping Blazers (13-20), in a game that has a different tenor because of the direction both teams are headed and because of what happened in the last meeting eight days prior, a 126-121 Kings’ victory when Cousins had 55 points.

It was a wild night, not only because Cousins’ was unstoppable and the Blazers blew a 12-point lead, but also because Cousins’ tirade at Leonard – which included spitting his mouthpiece at the Blazers’ bench -- was momentarily ejected , then brought back from the locker room and into the game when a technical foul was rescinded by the officials.

Cousins’ return to the game was important, as he sealed the victory with a block of Damian Lillard with 30 seconds remaining.

After the game, Leonard said Cousins was “very vulgar” and “downright disrespectful” and “over-the-line” and should have been ejected. Meanwhile, Cousins mocked Leonard by pretending to not know his name.

Leonard on Tuesday said, from his vantage point, Cousins’ end-of-the-game antics and insults will have no bearing on tonight’s matchup.

“Dead honest?  No,’’ Leonard said “I’ve always approached him a little differently, because you have to, that’s all there is to it. I’ll be ready to go. Watching my film from last game, individually, not anything to do with team, in (isolation plays) he has … I feel like I do a pretty good job on him. I’ve guard him pretty well every time I’ve stepped on the floor in iso’s and 1-on-1 situations.’’

Leonard said he deduced Cousins scored only eight of his 55 points when guarded by Leonard one-on-one, and coach Terry Stotts on Tuesday acknowledged that Leonard has “had some moments” and “competed well” against Cousins.

Leonard gained some attention last season when he had two effective games against Cousins early in the season. In December, he played 30 minutes in Sacramento and had 16 points and 11 rebounds while offering the most resistance defensively during Cousins’ 36-point performance on 12-of-26 shooting.

The next month in Portland, Leonard played 24 minutes against Cousins and was effective on both ends of the court. He hit three three-pointers, and held the All-Star to 4-of-21 shooting in the Blazers’ win.

Leonard missed the final two matchups after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury.

In the second matchup, Cousins pushed Leonard in the back away from the play. Leonard immediately retaliated with a push to Cousins’ chest, and both were assessed technicals.

“He’s extremely talented individual, but I think he tries to physically outman you and really lay it to you, so when he hits you, you got to hit him back that’s all there is to it,’’ Leonard said. “You have to stand your ground and let him know you will be there all night. That’s what that was.’’

Leonard (7-foot-1, 255 pounds) has never been shy in identifying Cousins as one of his favorite matchups, and routinely says he gets up for the meeting. He said a key to defending the 6-foot-11, 270-pound Cousins is to meet him early with contact before Cousins can establish and seal position down low. By nature, that ignites some rough play, Stotts said. 

“Different players get up for different players,’’ Stotts said. “When two guys get going at it, physical, it can be combative. I think it’s the nature of the game, when you are put in those situations your competitive juices rise to the situation.’’

Where this rivalry or storyline goes next, nobody knows, but the stakes are much larger than they have ever been. Sacramento has won four in a row and has overtaken Portland for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Blazers, meanwhile, have lost a season-high six in a row and trail the Kings by two games.

For his part, Leonard says he will be zeroed in on the gameplan, not the history between he and Cousins.

“I’ll come into the game focused and ready to go,’’ Leonard said.

Note: Blazers' star Damian Lillard on Tuesday did not practice on his sprained left ankle and Stotts said the guard is doubtful to play against the Kings. Lillard missed the Blazers' game Monday against Toronto with the injury, which he suffered in the fourth quarter of the Dec. 23 game against San Antonio. 

Cousins scores 55 points and then beats the rap on a technical foul

Cousins scores 55 points and then beats the rap on a technical foul

SACRAMENTO – It was a game that was, at times, bewildering. At times crazy. At times riveting. But in the end, it was just another defeat for the Portland Trail Blazers, a 126-121 loss to the Sacramento Kings that was their third straight.

DeMarcus Cousins scored 55 points in a spectacular performance for the Kings, while alternately playing the role of hero and crazy man. Cousins won this game for Sacramento -- but could have easily lost it for the Kings, too.

There was 35 seconds to go in the game when he hit a layup to give his team a two-point edge. He was fouled on the play and supposed to go to the free-throw line to make it a three-point advantage. But first he took a detour toward the Trail Blazer bench to taunt his opponents. At that point official Brian Forte whistled Cousins for his second technical foul of the game -- and automatic ejection. Cousins immediately dashed full speed to his locker room where, he later admitted, he was just trying to figure out which objects to "tear up" in anger.

But Forte met with the other two officials and rescinded the technical.

"I called a technical foul because I thought DeMarcus threw his mouthpiece into the stands when it ended up underneath the Portland bench," Forte said. "I conferred with my partners and they confirmed that he did not throw the mouthpiece and that it came out of his mouth and that's how it ended up there."

It was a huge change in the course of the game. If Cousins had been banished, Stotts would have been able to choose who on the Kings' bench would have to shoot the ensuing free throw. Instead, Cousins knocked it down for a three-point lead.

Stotts said Forte asked him if Cousins threw the mouthpiece and Stotts said he didn't. "I thought he was getting the technical for taunting our bench, Stotts said.

Meyers Leonard, who was in the area of Cousins' venom toward the bench, said, "I can't tell you what he said. It was vile."

I'm not sure why Forte called the tech in the first place if he didn't see the mouthpiece being thrown. Or why the taunting wasn't enough reason to give him a "T." It appeared that Cousins spit the mouthpiece -- but whether it happened that way or not, it wasn't pretty.

Cousins was sensational when he was playing, though. He made 17 of 28 shots, including 5 of 8 from three-point distance and also added 13 rebounds. He was a monster. In more ways than one, I guess.

The Trail Blazers didn't blame the loss on the whole Cousins incident and shouldn't have. They had only themselves to blame.

Portland was outscored 33-22 in the final quarter while hitting only 7 of 24 shots and going 0-9 from three. After three scintillating quarters of points in the paint, outstanding passing and plenty of dunks, the Trail Blazers quit doing what worked for them and began settling for shots from distance and rushed mid-range attempts. It was a disastrous quarter for a team desperately in need of a win.

"Cousins had a terrific game," Stotts said. "Inside and outside. He was quite a force. I thought we had a good effort. I thought we competed.We just came up short."

There were some gaudy Portland numbers on the stat sheet. Damian Lillard finished with 24 points and a career-high 15 assists. CJ McCollum had 36 points and Mason Plumlee hit 10 of 13 shots en route to a career-high 27 points with 13 rebounds and 5 assists.

All for naught.

And the consolation prize for the Trail Blazers is another game Wednesday night against the Dallas Mavericks. Portland is finally at home after a string of eight out of nine on the road.