Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins, stone-faced, stood over his victim for several seconds as a capacity Oracle Arena crowd roared.
Stephen Curry threw both arms in the air. As he ran down-court in the opposite direction, Kevin Durant pulled up his jersey to shield his eyes. Few could blame him. Moments earlier, Cousins caught a pass from Durant, took one giant stride into the key, extended his right arm and threw down a dunk over Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma, who went careening backward.
So vicious was that third-quarter slam that many took to social media to eulogize Kuzma and his trade value (he had been mentioned this week as a piece in a possible deal with New Orleans). In that instance, Cousins had single-handedly changed the tenor of the game, helping propel Golden State to a 115-101 win over Los Angeles.
Before Cousins’ SportsCenter-worthy dunk, the Warriors looked lethargic and disjointed. After it, Golden State jolted out of its daze, closing the third quarter on a 19-8 run to seize an 88-86 lead. By the time Curry hit his first field goal of the game with 6:20 left to halt an 0-for-8 drought, Golden State was well on its way to a bounce-back victory.
Two nights after snapping an NBA-season-high 11-game winning streak with a loss to Philadelphia, the Warriors outscored the LeBron James-less Lakers 27-15 in the fourth quarter. It didn’t matter that Golden State missed 23 three-pointers, endured one of Curry’s worst offensive performances of the season or watched Los Angeles corral 13 offensive rebounds.
With Klay Thompson (28 points on 10-for-15 shooting), Durant (21 points, 11 assists), Cousins (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Andre Iguodala (17 points on 7-for-9 shooting) leading the way, the Warriors exorcized the memory of Thursday’s dud and started to reassert their dominance. They made 18 of 19 free throws and piled up 31 assists to only 10 turnovers.
Photo: Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle
Image 1 8
It all served as a reminder of the luxury Cousins provides. When Golden State last hosted the Lakers, on Christmas Day, it was bullied inside by Ivica Zubac and blown out by 26 points. In Cousins, the Warriors finally have a rugged, skilled post player unlike anyone they’ve had since the halcyon days of Nate Thurmond and Wilt Chamberlain.
Though he is still prone to pouting over whistles and has yet to eclipse the 25-minute mark since returning from his torn left Achilles tendon, Cousins offers the Warriors a much-needed toughness to complement Draymond Green. It was his sheer force on that third-quarter drive to the rim that lifted Golden State out of its doldrums and altered the course of the game.
After totaling just two points through the first three quarters, Curry poured in 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting in the fourth. The Warriors, quick to switch off screens and put hands on shooters, held the Lakers to just 5-for-20 shooting over the final 12 minutes.
Finally, it seemed, Golden State was back to its norm. And that is a scary sight for the rest of the league.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/warriors/article/DeMarcus-Cousins-dunk-highlights-Warriors-13584786.php.