There’s still time for Golden State’s all-All-NBA five-man lineup to coalesce into the world-vaporizing unit it appears to be on paper, but a few terrifying stretches aside that hasn’t happened yet. Inserting DeMarcus Cousins into their rotation has so far been a bit of a negative for the Warriors, who spent Tuesday night having their asses comprehensively kicked by the reeling Boston Celtics, and have now lost four of their last six games. Tuesday’s result wasn’t all or even mostly on Boogie, but his performance sucked, and a disappointing picture is coming into focus of a Warriors juggernaut that endures mostly despite his presence, and not because of it.
Cousins, who finished with just 10 points on 12 shots in 25 minutes of run Tuesday night, now has a minus-0.8 net rating with the Warriors. Since his return the Warriors are an eye-popping 9.8 points better by net rating with Cousins off the floor, and the monstrous-on-paper Steph Curry-Klay Thompson-Kevin Durant-Draymond Green-Boogie five-man lineup has a surprising minus-0.9 net rating in 152 minutes together so far this season. Delete Cousins and turn that into a four-man lineup, and it’s producing a pristine plus-11.7 net rating over 823 total minutes. Cousins has thus far made that combination of players pretty definitively worse.
The Celtics spent the competitive portion of Tuesday’s game using screens and handoffs and movement to target Cousins on the defensive end, to their great benefit. Golden State mostly fared no better during backup Jordan Bell’s minutes at center, and the generally lackluster defensive work from their available centers probably goes a long way toward explaining why the Warriors are expected to soon bring unapologetic dickwad Andrew Bogut out of Australian exile. More alarming than his defensive shortcomings, though, is this: Since his return, the Warriors are about nine points per hundred possessions better on offense with Boogie on the bench, a number that becomes less surprising once you’ve laid eyes on his putrid 27 percent mark from downtown, and below-average true shooting as a Warrior. The Dubs will happily endure the inconsistent defensive effort if he’s turbocharging their already overpowering offense, but that sloppiness becomes a lot tougher to bear while he’s shooting the ball like, I dunno, Andrew Nicholson.
Boston ran out to a 25-point first-half lead Tuesday night, and extended that lead to 29 points in the third quarter, when the Warriors normally wake up and throw a huge run at any opponent lucky enough to carry a lead past halftime. Head coach Steve Kerr threw up the white flag and yanked the rest of his starters headed into the fourth quarter, but left Cousins on the floor, presumably to get reps and work his way into some kind of rhythm. It didn’t much work, and a game’s worth of frustration eventually boiled over on an artful Aron Baynes flop, leading to Cousins picking up a technical foul:
Cousins has had some nice offensive games for Golden State—headed into Tuesday night he’d put up three consecutive 20-point performances, including a pair of double-doubles—but the Warriors have won his minutes just once in their past six games, and in just seven of the 17 games he’s played. The sample size still isn’t real large, and Cousins is obviously still working his way back into shape following a terrible Achilles injury. But the regular season is now winding down without having so far produced much by way of evidence that Boogie is ready to play heavy rotation minutes in what promises to be a grueling Western Conference playoffs. The Warriors are good enough that it may not matter, in the end, but their chemistry was already a little screwy before they brought Cousins into the fold, and now their armor is starting to crack a little. It’s enough to give a fellow hope that the final outcome of this season isn’t as set in stone as we’d all feared.*