HOUSTON — In his first season with the Golden State Warriors, DeMarcus Cousins hasn't quite adjusted to the level of scrutiny and interest that comes with playing for the defending back-to-back NBA champions.
And after his best game of the season on Wednesday night (Thursday, Manila time) in a win over the Houston Rockets, Cousins likened the media frenzy surrounding the team to a soap opera his grandmother watched every day when he was a child.
"I'm sure y'all have heard of it — "As the World Turns." She called it her stories. I used to watch it with her and every episode it was something," he said. "That's what this has turned into — "As the World Turns.""
So does Cousins, who scored a season-high 27 points to help end Houston's nine-game winning streak with a 106-104 win, want to star in the basketball version of the show?
"No I don't," he said. "I play basketball. I don't look for the drama or stories or anything like that. I just want to go play basketball."
Some have wondered if Cousins is a good fit with this fast-paced team and there have been some growing pains as he's been worked into the team after missing the first 47 games this season recovering from an Achilles' tendon injury.
But on Wednesday, with Kevin Durant out with an ankle injury, Cousins shined. He added eight rebounds and a season-best seven assists as Houston searched, without success, for ways to stop him. There were times the Rockets switched on defense and left much smaller players attempting to guard the 6-foot-11, 270-pound player. But big or small, Cousins didn't care who's was on him.
"I don't think anybody can stop me one-on-one period," he said. "So you can put whoever you want on me honestly."
Klay Thompson scored 30 points to allow the Warriors to bounce back after a loss to Phoenix on Sunday, and avoided being swept by Houston after the Rockets won the first three meetings this season.
Golden State, which had lost six of 10 overall, is 4 1/2 games ahead of Houston atop the Western Conference standings. The Rockets are tied with Oklahoma City for third place behind Denver.
After trailing by 14 in the fourth quarter, a three-point play by Chris Paul got Houston within one with 10.8 seconds left. Stephen Curry made two free throws with eight seconds remaining to make it 106-103, and James Harden hit one of two from the line at the other end with 6.4 seconds to go. The miss on the second one bounced high off the rim and was rebounded by Andre Iguodala, securing Golden State's victory.
Harden was unhappy that they didn't play good defense until late in the game.
"We locked in and we got stops and we knew who we were guarding," he said. "We knew who we wanted to score, (but) we should have been knowing that the entire game."
Harden had 29 points and 10 assists for the Rockets, but shot just 2 of 12 on 3-pointers. Paul finished with 24 points.
"We just had too many mistakes," Houston coach Mike D'Antoni said.
Curry added 24 points for Golden State. Durant missed the game with a sprained right ankle.
The Warriors were up by 13 after a reverse layup by Cousins with about 5 1/2 minutes left before Houston used a 7-2 run, with a 3-pointer from Eric Gordon, to get to 102-94.
Thompson added a basket for the Warriors before the Rockets used a 6-0 spurt to cut the lead to 104-100 with 47.7 seconds left.
Thompson made five 3s to give him 203 this season. He joined Curry as the only players in NBA history to have seven straight seasons with 200 3-pointers.
Golden State had a seven-point lead to start the fourth and scored the first seven points of the period, highlighted by a 3 from Thompson, to push the lead to 92-78.
The Warriors were up by 12 in the first half but Houston cut it to 54-52 by halftime. A 3-pointer by Gordon gave the Rockets their first lead early in the third quarter and one by P.J. Tucker seconds later made it 60-56.
The game was tied later in the quarter after a three-point play by Paul before the Warriors used a 9-2 surge to take a 76-69 lead with about five minutes left in the third. Curry had five points in that stretch.
Golden State was up by nine soon after that, before the Rockets got two 3-pointers from Gerald Green to power an 8-2 run that cut the lead to 81-78 with two minutes left in the quarter.
But the Warriors scored the last four points of the period to extend the lead to 85-78 entering the fourth.
Warriors: Curry needs six points to become the fifth player in franchise history to reach 16,000 points. He made just three 3-pointers, ending a streak of 12 straight games with at least four — which was second in NBA history behind a 13-game streak by Harden this season.
Rockets: Gordon finished with 17 points. ... Houston converted the two-way contract of Danuel House into a standard NBA contract. ... Clint Capela had 13 points and 13 rebounds.
THEY SAID IT
Gordon on what went wrong in the loss: "We didn't play as smart as we should or I think it would have been a different result. You can't really have letdowns with this team because they'll make you pay, and that's what happened."
Warriors: Visit Oklahoma City on Saturday night as they continue a four-game road trip.
Rockets: Host the Phoenix Suns on Friday night.