Cousins’ playoff debut can remind Warriors to savor the playoffs

Yellow shirts on everybody in the building. Red Panda on a unicycle at halftime. Raucous noise. Stephen Curry exhorting the crowd. The opponent so furious after the pre-halftime Warriors’ blitz that its bench gets a technical.

We’ve all seen it before. Warriors in the playoffs. The “real” season. This has become very familiar territory. Some would say so familiar that it borders on boring.

But the Warriors have a vaccination for boredom. For their own jadedness. A very large vaccine in the form of DeMarcus Amir Cousins.

Cousins played his very first ever playoff game on Saturday night. He scored the first basket of the Warriors 2019 playoff campaign, which happened to be his first ever playoff points.

“He’s going to be excited out there,” Steve Kerr said, before the game. “He’ll be nervous too. In your first playoff game, everybody’s nervous. But I’m excited for his opportunity and what he can do for us.”

Cousins didn’t do much else. In fact, as far as games go, his playoff debut was kind of a disaster. He scored nine points on 4-of-12 shooting, had four assists, nine rebounds and fouled out on a charge midway through the fourth quarter. Maybe because – as Kerr observed – he was nervous. Maybe because the Clippers – who he made his season debut against back in January – aren’t a great matchup for him, with their quickness.

But Cousins’ biggest contribution doesn’t show up in the stat sheet. It is his mere presence, which should serve to remind the rest of the Warriors to not take any of this for granted. To remember that while, yes, this now seems to be the way every season ends up for the Warriors, the playoffs are actually never guaranteed.

Cousins knows that as well as any active NBA player. For eight seasons, he wandered in the NBA wilderness. Actually, he wandered in Sacramento but never sniffed to the playoffs. He was traded to New Orleans but ruptured his Achilles tendon midseason and missed the Pelicans playoff run. At 28, he entered Saturday 0-for-the-playoffs.

His 585 regular season games without a playoff appearance is the fifth-longest such streak in NBA history. The record belongs to Tom Van Arsdale who played in 929 games for five teams in the 1960s and 70s without making the playoffs.

Cousins won’t catch Van Arsdale. Saturday was a perfect example of why he decided to come to the Warriors: showcase his skills, play on a winner and make the playoffs. Maybe even win a ring.

“I’m about to be on a stage that I’ve never been on before, and it’s crazy,” Cousins told The Chronicle last week. “I’m so (expletive) excited. I plan on leaving it all on the floor. I’m trying to take my game to another level and show everyone a player they’ve never seen before.”

Warriors fans should hope that Cousins’ excitement rubs off on his teammates. The guys who hae been here before, who know the drill. Who know that this is just the start of what could be a long, exhausting playoff run.

What was once fresh and joyful is now expected.

“These past two years have felt different,” Kerr said. “(Before) everything was just sort of new and fresh. These last two years, no question, have been arduous.

“There’s no other way to put it. It gets more difficult as you go.”

And some of that is because it has become routine.

On Saturday, Cousins wasn’t the only one excited. Oracle was alive, as it likely will be for every one of the remaining home games. Draymond Green played like he’d been chewing espresso beans all day and looked like vintage Playoff Money Green.

Curry was dazzling, with 30 points on 11 shots through three quarters. When he shot free throws, the crowd chanted “MVP, MVP.” When Kevin Durant shot free throws, the crowd chanted “MVP, MVP.” Make up your minds people!

In the end, the Warriors won 121-104 and the most memorable Game 1 moment will be the exchange between Durant and Patrick Beverley which got them both ejected. The outcome made all of the predictions of a first-round sweep for the Warriors look very realistic.

If any of the Warriors finds this boring or routine, I would direct them to the left back corner of the locker room, to the large man with the scar running down his lower left leg.

Cousins can assure any of his teammates that this is the polar opposite of routine.

Ann Killion is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. Email: akillion@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @annkillion

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/annkillion/article/Cousins-playoff-debut-can-remind-Warriors-to-13765978.php.

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