SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) Fined, ejected and then retrieved from the locker room, DeMarcus Cousins capped a tumultuous day with his dominant performance on the court.
Cousins returned from a brief ejection in the fourth quarter and finished with a season-high 55 points, ending a wild night for the hot-tempered big man and sending the Sacramento Kings past the Portland Trail Blazers 126-121 on Tuesday.
Hours after he was fined by the Kings for his profanity-laced tirade against a newspaper columnist last week, Cousins pulled down 13 rebounds and rallied Sacramento in the fourth quarter.
”Kind of a crazy game,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. ”Certainly Cousins had a nice game. OK, that’s an understatement. But I was very impressed. That any of us who would get thrown out in what we think is a questionable deal, then to come back and step out and make the free throw was very impressive.”
Cousins hit two huge 3-pointers and scored 17 in the fourth, falling one point shy of his career high of 56. The win avenged an earlier overtime loss this season in Portland and snapped Sacramento’s seven-game losing streak to the Blazers.
Cousins made 17 of 28 shots, connecting on five 3s, and 16 of 17 free throws. He also had three blocks and five of Sacramento’s 10 turnovers.
”No, we didn’t stop him,” Portland guard CJ McCollum said. ”We tried to make it difficult for him, but he’s a skilled player. He’s got a lot of ways to score. He hit some 3s tonight, got to the free throw line, played bully ball. He did a little bit of everything.”
It appeared Cousins’ night was over before the game even ended.
In the final minute, the All-Star center put the Kings back in front when he drove the lane for a layup and was fouled by Mason Plumlee. But then Cousins initially was given a second technical foul and ejected for spitting his mouthpiece in the direction of Portland’s bench after making the shot.
He ran into the tunnel toward the locker room, but the officials huddled and changed the call. Lead official Brian Forte conferred with the others and determined Cousins ”did not throw the mouthpiece and that it came out of his mouth.”
In a most unusual scene, Cousins then returned to the court and made the free throw for a three-point play, giving the Kings a 122-119 lead with 35 seconds left.
”When I was going to the locker room I was thinking what I was going to break up first,” Cousins said. ”But when I heard I had to come back to shoot free throws, I had to calm myself down.”
Immediately after the game, Cousins called the temporary ejection ”ridiculous” and claimed he gets mistreated by officials ”on a nightly basis.”
”It’s obvious what’s being done out here,” he said. ”I hope the world can see now what’s going on.”
But after watching the replay, he toned down his comments.
”I can see why people could be mad,” he said. ”I was just talking to the bench and it came out. No intent. I would never spit on anybody. I’m not like that.”
Blazers coach Terry Stotts had a little different version.
”From my vantage point, I thought that he taunted our bench and as he was taunting, the mouthpiece flew out,” Stotts said. ”The referee asked me if it was his mouthpiece and I said that it was. Then he asked me if he threw it, then I said no he didn’t, and that’s why he came back. Whether it was intentionally spitting it out or not, I don’t know the intention.”
McCollum scored 36 points and Plumlee had a career-high 27 points to go with 13 rebounds for the Blazers, who have dropped three straight and seven of eight. Damian Lillard had 24 points and 15 assists.
Cousins put the Kings ahead 119-117 with a 3, but Plumlee countered with a dunk at the other end to tie it with 46 seconds left.
Trailing by six to open the fourth quarter, the Kings outscored Portland 17-4 to take a seven-point lead midway through the period. Ty Lawson put Sacramento in front for the first time, 102-101, with a baseline jumper.
Lost in the shadow of Cousins’ huge game was the play of Sacramento’s bench, which outscored Portland’s reserves 43-23. Lawson had 16 points, and both Arron Afflalo and Anthony Tolliver scored 11.
Trail Blazers: McCollum had 14 points in 8 first-quarter minutes. … Al-Farouq Aminu (bruised back) has not played in five of the past six games. … The Blazers shot 65 percent in the first half and led 72-60 at halftime. … Portland is 5-13 on the road. … This was the final game of a three-game road trip and the last leg of a difficult December stretch in which the Blazers played eight of nine games and spent 16 of 17 days on the road.
Kings: Second-leading scorer Rudy Gay (strained hip flexor) missed his fourth straight game.
Trail Blazers: Host the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday to begin a four-game homestand.
Kings: Travel to Utah on Wednesday for the first of a two-game road trip.