DeMarcus Cousins had a stellar game on Friday night for the Nuggets, putting up a season-high 31 points on 14 shots in just 24 minutes of action. Cousins also contributed nine rebounds, four assists and three steals in the team’s 116-101 win over the Rockets. Cousins started in place of reigning MVP Nikola Jokic, who was out with a non-COVID illness, as Mike Singer of The Denver Post relays.
Cousins said he was released by the Bucks earlier in the season due to a calf strain, giving Denver the opportunity to pick him up. Coach Michael Malone says he’s never lost faith in Cousins, even if others have. “Most people had given up on him,” Malone said after Friday’s game. “All you need is somebody to believe in you.”
Malone said Cousins lost eight-to-10 pounds after arriving in Denver, per Singer. Malone also said Cousins’ strong recent play could help lessen the load on Jokic, who’s having another MVP-caliber season. “He keeps on playing like this … you don’t have to run Nikola into the ground,” said Malone, who suggested the Nuggets might have the best center tandem in the NBA.
“It’s very satisfying,” said Cousins when asked what it’s meant to him to take advantage of his latest stop. “It’s even a better feeling to have a coach that believes in you, an organization that believes in you.”
Here’s more from Denver:
- Advice from his basketball idol Kobe Bryant helped Will Barton become the Nuggets’ all-time leader in three-point field goals, according to Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports. “Kobe told me, ‘If you get a jump shot, you’re going to be deadly,'” Barton said. “Once he told me I had talent and all I had to do was work on my jumper, it further solidified what I already thought about myself.” The former second-round pick struggled with his shot early in his career, but transformed himself into a solid marksman over the past eight seasons with Denver, making 36% of his 3-pointers. Barton set the franchise mark with his 769th trey in the team’s win over the Rockets on Friday, breaking a record held by J.R. Smith.
- Aaron Gordon has developed impressive chemistry with Jokic, writes Singer in a separate article for The Denver Post. “Jok’s IQ is through the roof,” Gordon said. “He’s a basketball savant. Just genius. It’s great talking to him, understanding how he sees the game. How we can make it easier for him and where he needs us to be.” Gordon is taking advantage of Jokic’s elite passing by making smart cuts to the basket, leading to a career-best 51.7% from the field, including 60.6% on two-pointers. Gordon told Singer that he’s “seeing the game differently.” “Just angles,” he said. “Attacking angles. Making reads. I finally feel like I’m making better reads.”
- Jokic gave a typically self-effacing reply regarding his conversations with Gordon, Singer relays in the same piece. “I don’t know the right answer,” said Jokic. “I’m just trying to help him. … I’m just telling him what I know. If that helps him, or not, I don’t know. I’m just trying to tell him what I see.” Singer notes that a quarter of Jokic’s assists this season have gone to Gordon, the highest mark on the team.