Entering Monday night, about five weeks into the 2017-18 NBA season, the most remarkable thing about the league’s leaderboard when it comes to ejections is the name that didn’t appear on it. Nine players had gotten an early gate this season, but DeMarcus Cousins — forever suspected of malicious intent by referees, and sometimes guilty as charged — wasn’t one of them.
With five minutes to go in the third quarter of Monday’s matchup between the New Orleans Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder, Cousins rebounded a missed put-back layup attempt by Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook. As Cousins looked up the floor for a teammate to pass to, the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player tried to quickly swipe at the ball and knock it loose.
The ball wasn’t what wound up getting knocked loose.
DeMarcus Cousins gets a flagrant 2 foul after elbowing Russell Westbrook in the head. Boogie was ejected for the foul pic.twitter.com/nqwRDWIPw1
— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) November 21, 2017
Cousins brought his right elbow down hard on Westbrook’s shoulder and neck, sending him to the floor in a heap. He stayed down, holding the side of his head; Cousins immediately called B.S., insisting that Westbrook wasn’t really hurt, but that he had flopped to oversell the contact. The referees went to the replay monitors, and after consulting with the Replay Center in Secaucus, N.J., they determined that Cousins’ above-the-shoulders contact merited a flagrant foul-2 for “unnecessary and excessive” contact, carrying with it an automatic ejection.
Westbrook got up, shook it off, and returned to action. Cousins finished with 18 points on 7-for-17 shooting to go with nine rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block in 26 minutes of work before hitting the showers on what, video evidence to the contrary, he probably feels was another in a long line of bum raps.
And, of course, just as you’d expect, the Pelicans responded to losing one of their two most important players by … wait, it says here “doubling down and taking the fight back to the Thunder?”
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) November 21, 2017
It’s like I always say: “When you lose one All-NBA big man, just start running everything through your other All-NBA big man.” Anthony Davis scored 16 of his game-high 36 points (9-for-19 shooting, 18-for-22 at the foul line) after Cousins’ ejection, including an end-of-the-shot-clock fadeaway 16-footer with 47 seconds left that wound up being the dagger, as the Pelicans outscored the Thunder 42-31 post-Boogie to come away with a big 114-107 win.
Davis added 15 rebounds, three assists and two blocks in 45 minutes of work for the Pelicans, who snapped a two-game skid to improve to 9-8 on the season. In the other locker room … well, yikes.
The Thunder were winning 25-6 in the first quarter and lost to the Pelicans after Cousins got ejected in the third quarter
— Hoops Reference (@HoopsReference) November 21, 2017
Oklahoma City’s ongoing issues with defensive deterioration over the course of the game continued on Monday, as the Thunder raced out to a big lead before allowing the Pelicans to put up buckets in bunches in each of the last three quarters, capped by Davis’ late-game barrage after Cousins’ exit. Just as worrisome: OKC’s continual struggles to consistently string together buckets late in close games.
The Thunder shot just 32.1 percent from the floor over the final 17 post-Boogie minutes, with nearly as many turnovers (seven) as made field goals (nine). Westbrook missed seven of his final eight shots, finishing 6-for-19 from the floor in what was something of a sour triple-double (22 points, 16 rebounds, 12 assists, three steals). Paul George led the way with 27 points (9-for-17 shooting) to go with five rebounds, five steals and four assists, while Carmelo Anthony added 19 (7-for-19 shooting) for the Thunder, who now sit at a disappointing 7-9, having blown double-digit leads in six of their nine losses.
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