As the bodies pile up for the Golden State Warriors, the defending champions have now lost one of their most capable cogs in Kevon Looney, putting DeMarcus Cousins at the forefront of the their three-peat fate for the rest of these NBA Finals.
Looney suffered a non-displaced first costal cartilage (collarbone) fracture that will sidelined him immediately, taking one of Steve Kerr’s most-trusted assets out of the equation.
Cousins, who was thrusted into a starting position only eight minutes after his miraculous return from a torn quad earlier this postseason, will now have an unimaginably immense role in the Warriors’ championship hopes — a far fetched reversal of fortune after many thought his season was over before it really got started.
The big man got only a short taste of the NBA playoffs, playing 22 minutes in his debut and another three in Game 2 of the first round before suffering the injury chasing after a loose ball. Only seven weeks after being helped to the Oracle Arena tunnel with his head hanging, Cousins is in line to not only play a part, but likely star in a championship effort, sitting only three wins away from a title.
Looney’s influence can’t be overstated though. There is a certain comfort with knowing he needs no plays run for him to make an impact, surviving off cleaning the glass and making easy baskets below the rim while providing a solid screen game, length on defense, and unparalleled unselfishness when it comes to looking for his shot — always looking for others first, yet unafraid to call his own number.
Cousins’ role now becomes more than an added bonus, but a necessity — as he can no longer afford the quick two fouls in the first minute and 58 seconds of regulation, as he had in Game 2. Boogie must be steady and present-minded, aware that he must be an integral part of the team’s inside scoring, as well as the last line of defense, patrolling the paint.
Besides watching his foul trouble, Cousins will need to be assertive on offense, remaining the same playmaker and unafraid of drawing contact, where he’s made most of his damage this postseason. Any contributions from the perimeter will be welcomed, keeping defenders honest — but the Warriors won’t want him making most of his damage from deep, as he only shot 27.4% from beyond the arc in 30 regular season games.
The Warriors have made it a point to boost their depth at center, now counting with Cousins; a trusty, but less mobile Andrew Bogut; a shaky Jordan Bell; and Damian Jones, who was once the Warriors’ starting center and has played only scrap minutes upon his return from a pectoral tear.
The impact of Cousins’ contributions will now be magnified, no longer a welcome stat line of 10 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, and two blocks — but an expected one, considering the stakes in the NBA Finals.
Golden State has surprisingly rolled the dice on acquisitions this season with Bogut and Cousins, and that duo — old- and new-school — will play large dividends down the stretch and be remembered as pillars of a championship effort should the Warriors walk away with the title by mid-June.