DeMarcus Cousins got himself healthy just in time. The Warriors center, who has been out since Game 2 of the first round with a torn quadriceps muscle, will be active for Golden State tonight against the Raptors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
It’s unknown what kind of role Cousins will have or how much Steve Kerr will utilize him, but he undoubtedly helps a Warriors team entering Game 1 that NBA betting deemed underdogs for just the fourth time in the postseason and 12th time all year.
Cousins Gives Warriors Another Weapon
The Warriors have been just fine without Cousins this season, going 34-18 without him in the regular season and 11-3 without him in the postseason. But they were able to withstand his injury against the Clippers in Round 1 and the Rockets in Round 2 because they had a healthy Kevin Durant for most of that span.
But without Durant and Cousins, the Warriors have had to adjust. And against a 58-win Raptors team that just won four straight against the NBA-best Milwaukee Bucks, the Warriors will be facing their most difficult opponent yet.
Beginning on the road for the first time since last year’s Western Conference Finals, the Warriors will look to Cousins in two main ways.
If Kerr opts not to start him, Cousins can provide a scoring punch for a Warriors bench averaging just 24.6 points per game, second fewest of the 16 postseason teams (Houston, 21.0). Cousins could also see additional time defending Raptors center Marc Gasol.
While the Warriors do love their small-ball lineups, tossing Cousins in and bumping Draymond Green to power forward has its advantages. Gasol was great against the Warriors twice in the regular season – Cousins was recovering from his torn Achilles for both – averaging 11.5 points on 64% shooting, 8.0 rebounds and 7.5 assists.
The Warriors have a tendency to make opposing centers irrelevant in the postseason, but Gasol is too important to what the Raptors want to do to keep him off the floor.
Durant Travels, Still Doubtful for Game 2
Cousins will be the only return from injury that the Warriors get in Game 1. Kevin Durant has already been ruled out for Game 1 and, according to Kerr, is “pretty doubtful” to play in Game 2.
But he did travel to Toronto, and that’s a positive sign. It gives Durant a chance to begin on-court work with the coaching staff, presumably the next step toward getting him back to practicing with the team and ultimately playing.
Whether or not he plays – or if the Warriors ultimately even need him – remains to be seen but Kerr did say that “hopefully at some point in the series we’ll get him back.” For now, the Warriors will be happy that Cousins is finally pain-free and in good enough shape to suit up for Game 1.
Lowry Dishes on Thumb Injury
Kyle Lowry isn’t in any danger of missing time in the Finals but he did tell reporters that the left thumb injury he suffered against the Philadelphia 76ers in Round 2 has affected his passing.
He didn’t disclose much past that, noting that it may require medical attention in the offseason, but it’s certainly a bump and bruise to keep an eye on over the course of the series.