The usually scowling big man was back Friday night after being sidelined for nearly a year. He scored 14 points in his Warriors debut, a 112-94 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
“I felt like a kid on Christmas,” Cousins said. “This was probably one of the best days of my life being back on the floor playing the game that I love.”
His new teammates were glad to have him, too, even if he lasted just 15 minutes before fouling out.
They gave him a standing ovation when he got whistled for his sixth foul at 8:51 of the fourth. Cousins smiled and high-fived his way to the bench. Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant cracked up.
“Probably the fakest love I ever received in my life,” Cousins said.
Durant said: “Hopefully that’s the last time we give him a standing ovation when he fouls out.”
Curry led the Warriors with 28 points, Durant added 24 and Golden State won its seventh in a row and sixth straight on the road.
The Warriors shot just 9 of 37 on 3-pointers on a night when Curry made only three from long range. Fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson missed all four of his 3-point attempts.
The hours leading up to his first game since Jan. 26, 2018, were the worst for Cousins. He texted friends and talked to his brother and sister who reminded him that he’s been playing basketball for years.
Still, it wasn’t until the ball tipped that the butterflies went away.
“My teammates made it as smooth and easy as possible,” Cousins said. “It’s a great group of guys. Nothing but love in the room.”
Cousins shot 5 for 11 from the floor and finished with six rebounds and three assists.
After rupturing his left Achilles tendon in a game for New Orleans he missed the rest of last season, including nine playoff games for the Pelicans. The Warriors signed him last July.
With Cousins finally in the lineup, Golden State became the first team in 42 years to start five All-Stars from the previous season.
“We haven’t really practiced together,” Cousins said. “We can get a whole lot better. We’ve got a lot of potential.”
Cousins missed his first shot but came right back with a one-handed slam off Durant’s bounce pass for the Warriors’ first basket. Cousins was called for two fouls in the first three minutes and sat down.
“I’m just glad to know I can still dunk,” he said. “That felt good.”
Cousins picked up his third foul 32 seconds into the second quarter. Then he hit a 3-pointer for the Warriors’ first basket of the period, bringing loud cheers from their many fans at Staples Center.
Curry scored 14 of Golden State’s 29 points in the third, including their final eight for an 81-72 lead.
Cousins went out with a bang. He got his fifth foul just 30 seconds into the fourth and then made two consecutive 3-pointers — throwing up three fingers — that extended the Warriors’ lead to 87-72.
“He looked good. He looked strong and quick,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. “I was really impressed.”
Tobias Harris led the short-handed Clippers with 28 points in their season-worst fifth straight loss. Rookie guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander tied his career high with 24.
Los Angeles played without injured Lou Williams, and Danilo Gallinari left with lower back spasms.
“The change of the game was in the third quarter. Them scoring off our turnovers changed the momentum of the game for us,” Harris said.
The Warriors took their first double-digit lead in the first four minutes of the third when the Clippers missed their initial six shots. Golden State opened on a 14-2 run with five different players scoring, including a basket by Cousins before getting his fourth foul, to go up 66-53.
Draymond Green got two technical fouls in the second quarter, the second one for swinging from the basket after a high-flying dunk that sent the Warriors into halftime leading 52-51.
Warriors: They’re in LA for five days. “I unpacked my bag for the first time ever on a road trip,” said Kerr, who plans to catch up with friends from San Diego during the down time. … Durant got a technical in the third. … They’ve had 10 turnovers in each of their last four games. … Lead the season series 2-1. … G Shaun Livingston, drafted fourth overall by the Clippers in 2004, visited retiring Clippers play-by-play announcer Ralph Lawler before the game. … Golden State’s longest win streak of the season is eight games from Oct. 22 to Nov. 5.
Clippers: Had just 11 assists. … Gallinari scored one point in eight minutes and is day-to-day. Clippers coach Doc Rivers said Gallinari is unlikely to play the next couple of games. … Williams has a sore right hamstring. He’s the NBA’s leading bench scorer at 18.7 points per game. He missed four games last month with a sore left hamstring. … Rivers got a technical for the second straight game. … Patrick Beverley earned a technical while on the bench. … The teams’ last regular-season meeting is April 7. … Coolio performed at halftime. Emma Stone, Jennifer Garner (who sat with team owner Steve Ballmer), Ellen Pompeo and Billy Crystal attended.
ALL-STARS AT EVERY POSITION
With Cousins joining Curry, Thompson, Durant and Green in the lineup, the Warriors became the first team since the Celtics in 1975-76 to play five All-Stars from the previous season at the same time. Boston’s Jo Jo White, Charlie Scott, Dave Cowens, Paul Silas and John Havlicek started two games together that season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
HE SAID IT
“I said, `Good for him.’ He has a chance to rehabilitate his image as well. It’s a good spot for him. Then I thought, wow, that’s not right.” — Rivers on hearing the Warriors had signed Cousins.
Warriors: Play at the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday before heading East for the rest of a five-game trip.
Clippers: At the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday to begin a four-game trip.