Kings’ coach Malone calls out DeMarcus Cousins’ post defense

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The evolution of DeMarcus Cousins and Sacramento Kings leader is still ongoing. It’s the same old situation with him — video tape cleared him of a flagrant foul call and led to a suspension for Atlanta’s Dennis Schroeder for hitting Cousins in the groin; but he was having a bad game before and lost his focus after those events, and if you are the team leader that can’t happen. You’ve got to play through it and get the team wins.

But that’s not all new Kings coach Mike Malone wants to see him working on.

There’s also post defense, he told the Sacramento Bee.

“He has to do a better job with his low-post defense,” coach Michael Malone said, “and we have to do a better job of helping him. And to his credit, the non-basketball stuff … I give him a ton of credit. He’s really trying to contain his emotions and handle it.”

Post players are shooting 53.8 percent on Cousins so far this season (small sample size theater here, so be careful with big conclusions). Watching the video on the post ups against him (via Synergy Sports), Cousins is letting guys get comfortable — they get position and they get the shot they usually want, he doesn’t push them off the block or seem to alter their plans.

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It’s not simply Cousins in the post that’s an issue. The Kings are 1-3 to start the season and a lot of that can be chalked up to a defense 26th in the league in points allowed per possession so far. Opponents are shooting 48 percent overall (28th in the league) and 40.9 percent from three (27th). That’s what Malone meant by getting Cousins help.

But he has to do his part as well. I like that Malone is pushing Cousins on these things.

Rockets bench hams it up over Andre Roberson missed free throw (video)

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Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.

Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.

It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.

Isaiah Thomas: ‘Mentally and emotionally, I’m not here’

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
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Isaiah Thomas previously explained his emotions in a statement, but the Celtics guard spoke publicly yesterday for the first time since the death of his sister in a car crash just before the playoffs.

Thomas, via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN Northeast:

“Mentally and emotionally I’m not here,” Thomas said after Game 4, the first time he has spoken publicly since his sister’s death. “So I just feed off of what the guys give me. They give me a lot of confidence. I can’t do it without those guys. They believe in me. Being here is what makes me sane and makes me feel somewhat normal through these tough times.”

Thomas has played well for Boston, which won twice in Chicago to even its series with the Bulls, 2-2. It’s remarkable considering the heavy emotional burden and extra travel, going to Seattle for his sister’s funeral then joining the Celtics in Chicago.

His teammates have clearly rallied around him, and that surely helps. But I can’t even imagine how he’s simultaneously handling such a tragic family situation and the biggest games of his career.

Kyrie Irving knocks flamingo from Pacers fan’s hands (video)

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Pacers super fan Matt Asen brings his lucky flamingo to each game.

He also annoyed the heck out of Kyrie Irving by trying to hand it, rather than the ball, to the Cavaliers guard.

James Harden reveals he’s playing through ankle injury

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James Harden didn’t lead the Rockets in scoring in their Game 4 win over the Thunder yesterday.

He didn’t even rank second – or third.

Nene, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each outscored Harden, who scored 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.

What happened to the Houston star?

Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

Houston Rockets star guard James Harden said he has been hobbled by an ankle injury that occurred in Game 3 of this first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harden made the revelation to ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the Rockets’ 113-109 Game 4 victory on Sunday afternoon.

“It was pretty tough; we don’t make excuses,” Harden said in a news conference when asked about his health. “We just try to go out there and get the job done. You build trust, and trust in your teammates all year long. When there’s moments like this, guys step up and they did tonight. We have another opportunity in a few days to go out there and win on our home court, and we’re going to have to get off to a really good start.”

Many players are grinding through injuries this time of year. Is Harden’s exceptionally bad? There’s no way of telling from the outside.

But he didn’t look quite right in Game 4, and if he’s hobbled, that opens the door slightly wider for Oklahoma City to come back from its 3-1 deficit.