The Warriors’ NBA title hopes may now hinge on DeMarcus Cousins
The Golden State Warriors stayed alive by winning a thriller over the Toronto Raptors in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Monday night, but while the win was extraordinary and ensured the Warriors of at least one more game, it felt somewhat hollow.
With Kevin Durant going down with an Achilles injury in a truly devastating moment and Kevon Looney aggravating his chest injury, Golden State faces an uphill battle that it has never dealt with before in any of the five years of its dynasty.
The Warriors are incredibly short-handed and will need to essentially play perfect games in Games 6 and 7 in order to win this series, and with the way the Toronto Raptors have been playing thus far, it seems like a nearly impossible task.
But perhaps it won’t be so insurmountable if DeMarcus Cousins plays the way he did in Game 5.
When Durant exited and the Dubs were searching for answers, Cousins answered the bell, making big plays on both ends of the floor in the second quarter in helping the Warriors build a double-digit lead.
Of course, Golden State would end up losing that lead in the second half before ultimately holding on for a 106-105 lead, but Cousins’ contributions were palpable, as the big man finished with 14 points and six rebounds while making six of his eight field-goal attempts.
He also had what should have been a bucket on a putback dunk late in the fourth quarter erased due to an erroneous basket interference call.
Curry and Thompson did their thing late, ripping off a 9-0 run by themselves to give the Warriors a lead that they would not relinquish, but had it not been for Cousins’ performance, the Dubs would have been toast.
Now, heading into Game 6 at Oracle Arena, the Warriors will need Cousins more than ever, and the 28-year-old will need to buck the trend of being unable to have strong games in consecutive affairs if Golden State wants to have any shot of extending these finals to seven games.
Remember: it was DeMarcus Cousins who was the X-factor in the Dubs’ Game 2 win, as he posted 11 points, 10 boards and six assists. So, obviously, there is a whole lot of value in Cousins stepping up, moreso than any other player on the Warriors outside of Curry and Thompson.
Especially now with Looney’s status for Game 6 in question, Cousins may have to play big minutes, with Andrew Bogut representing the Warriors’ only other real option at center.
While the Warriors don’t need Cousins to drop 25 and 12 like he did so regularly prior to tearing his Achilles, they will need him to be significantly better than he was in Games 3 and 4, when he put forth a couple of miserable outings and didn’t even look like he belonged on the floor.
To be fair to Cousins, he is not only still making his way back from an Achilles tear, but he is also still in the process of recovering from a torn quad he suffered earlier in the playoffs. Cousins was not even supposed to return in this postseason, so the fact that he is back at all is a miracle and a testament to Cousins’ grit in and of itself.
But with a championship on the line, the Warriors need more from Cousins than him merely being available. They need him to have a big game, and in conjunction with that, they need Steph and Klay to be on point.
It’s a tall order, even for a team that has won three titles over the last four years, but it’s something that has to occur if Golden State wants to stymie Kawhi Leonard’s attempts at sealing this thing in Oakland and closing the doors on Oracle Arena forever.