Even if he doesn’t let the bad blood from a testy affair last month spill into this matchup, DeMarcus Cousins should have plenty of motivation facing the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night.
Besides his Sacramento Kings wanting to beat a title contender and post a rare three-game win streak, Cousins could help halt the double-double runs of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul along with claiming his first road win over the Clippers.
These teams met in Sacramento on Nov. 1, and Los Angeles overcame a 15-point deficit in the second half to win 110-101 for its 10th victory in 12 meetings since Cousins and Griffin were rookies.
“They didn’t beat us. We beat ourselves,” Cousins said after having 24 points and 10 rebounds.
The volatile center exchanged words with Paul in the first quarter, and the two had to be separated after it appeared Paul tried to push Cousins in the face while on the ground. Cousins would later get a technical foul after blocking a shot by Paul when he appeared to taunt the star point guard, and Los Angeles reserve Matt Barnes was called for a flagrant foul on Jason Thompson.
“It was a track meet and it was physical, too,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.
Cousins has averaged 25.7 points and 14.3 boards in three meetings with Los Angeles over the past nine-plus months, but those games were all in northern California. The Kings’ five-game road losing streak in this Pacific Division rivalry coincides with Cousins’ arrival in the NBA, as he’s averaged just 10.8 points on 35.0 percent shooting with 8.8 boards.
He’s been badly outplayed in those games by Griffin, who averaged 20.0 points and 12.4 rebounds while shooting 59.4 percent. Griffin, the Rookie of the Year in 2010-11 when Cousins finished third, enters this matchup with six consecutive double-doubles - his longest run since January 2012 - and has scored at least 20 in nine straight.
Paul is riding an NBA-record streak, opening a season with 13 consecutive games of at least 10 points and 10 assists to break Magic Johnson’s mark of 11. Paul had 26 and 10, respectively, in the win over Sacramento (4-7).
That game is part of the Kings’ 0-5 record against teams which currently have winning records. They’re coming off a home-and-home sweep of Phoenix as Cousins totaled 46 points and 24 rebounds.
“It’s going to take a group effort every night on both ends,” first-year coach Mike Malone said. “Guys are playing for each other on both ends of the floor, which I think is the beginning of us truly changing the culture here in Sacramento.”
The Kings have only four win streaks of three games or more since December 2009 and haven’t been to the playoffs since 2006.
Los Angeles (8-5) has championship aspirations following the first division title in franchise history and the addition of Rivers, though he’s still trying to get his new team to play better defense.
The Clippers are surrendering 105.1 points per game and let Oklahoma City shoot 51.9 percent in a 105-91 loss Thursday.
“I’m hoping for six or eight weeks from now our defense will allow us to stay in the game,” Rivers said.
It was Los Angeles’ most lopsided defeat of the season and the first time in seven games it failed to score 100 points.
“We’re still building,” said Paul, averaging a league-high 12.5 assists.
The Clippers are 5-0 when Paul has at least 20 points.