The Utah Jazz play the Sacramento Kings tonight, and for reals, it's not going to be easy for either team. The Kings are better than their record, as are the Jazz. The Kings are at home. The Jazz are missing two starters in and Dante Exum. And, if that's not enough, they are playing against the guy who really goes nuts every time he plays Utah. I'm not just talking about scoring points, but I mean how he somehow wants to head-hunt each of our point guards and give them unnecessary hard fouls ( , , , and were all brutalized by fouls in recent history). Cousins has a rep of a bully. He plays bully ball. And more than anything else, he also has a rep as someone who produces on the court, yet picks up a lot of losses. Heck, he's picked up 10 against the Jazz alone. And let me tell you that this is by design. He'll get his points, get bent out of shape, and leave the arena with another loss.
It's simple really. It's what the Jazz used to do with a young Orlando Magic center named Shaquille O'Neal. They did the same thing against him when he was with the Los Angeles Lakers. They did it with for years before he teamed up with James Harden. And in recent events, this type of strategy used to work against Kobe Bryant. Let the star be the star. Let the star outshine his team. And have the team lose. Cousins is averaging 19.8 ppg, 11.4 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.5 spg, and 1.1 bpg against Utah. That's pretty good. Sadly, it hasn't been good enough to win a game by himself. The bigman is shooting only .458 FG%, which isn't efficient enough on its' own to balance the fact that he's taking 19.8 shots a game. He does get to the line, 7.8 times a game, but is shooting under 70%. The inefficiency of a star is a key point to the Jazz beating a team with a star by first baiting that star's ego.
There's a lot of evidence for this strategy in Jazz history. But if you just look at what happens in Cousins' games against Utah you see that it's true. In the six games where the Kings have won (and let's be real, the margin of victory has been 8.2 points, so that's significant) Cousins' Minutes per shot value (the lower the value the more of a chucker you are) are much lower than in the games where the team loses. Furthermore, his assists are up. When Cousins is baited like a bull to go for his shots and forget his team, well, his team loses.
In the past Cousins has brutalized guys like Enes Kanter. If you bully him back, don't back down, and get in his head it's an easy game. He's been thrown out of at least one, and fouled out of three more., but somehow had trouble with someone like
DeMarcus isn't a bad producer on the court. He's just not a great winner. Tonight the Jazz will have to do their best to deal with him with, , and as Rudy Gobert is still injured. In Sactown the Kings are 4-4 against the Jazz, and average 104.9 ppg to the Jazz' 104.0. It's a close match. It will be hard. But it will be slightly easier if Cousins forgets his teammates.
How likely is that to happen tonight? We'll see.