SACRAMENTO -- With 35.2 seconds remaining and the game tied up a 119-119, Sacramento Kings star center DeMarcus Cousins went at the Portland Trail Blazers’ Mason Plumlee and came away with a huge bucket and the foul. And then chaos broke out.
While celebrating the bucket, Cousins’ mouthpiece fell out of his mouth near the Blazers bench. Official Brian Forte initially thought Cousins had thrown it at his opponents, hitting the Kings’ All-Star with his second technical of the game and an ejection.
At the time of his ejection, Cousins was sitting at 54 points with a free throw coming, but he instantly ran to the Kings locker room to avoid further complications.
“I called a technical foul because I thought DeMarcus [Cousins] threw his mouthpiece into the stands when it ended up underneath Portland’s bench,” Forte told pool reporter Mike Richman after the game.
But after speaking to his officiating crew, Forte reversed his call, rescinding the technical and inviting Cousins back out onto the floor.
“I conferred with my partners and they confirmed that he did not throw the mouthpiece and that it came out of his mouth that that’s how it ended up there,” Forte added.
Whether the mouthpiece came out of Cousins’ mouth intentionally or by accident will be a major topic of debate over the next few days, but according to Forte, the play was not reviewable.
“From my vantage point, I thought that he taunted our bench and as he was taunting our bench the mouthpiece flew out,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “The referee asked me if it was his mouthpiece and I said that it was. Then he asked me if he threw it, then I said no he didn’t and that’s why he came back in.”
Cousins had a different view of the situation.
“I was talking to the bench and it came out,” Cousins said.
“Nah, no intent,” Cousins continued. “I would never spit on it, I’m not like that.”
The 26-year-old big was summonsed from the locker room. He returned to the court to an incredible ovation by the Golden 1 Center crowd. Clearly caught up in the moment, Cousins wasn’t even sure if he was just allowed to shoot the free throw and then leave the court or if he was still in the game.
“I don’t really know what happened,” Cousins said. “I was caught up in the moment of what I was going to tear up in the locker room and then they called me back - rushed me back.”
He knocked down the freebie to give Sacramento a 122-119 lead. On the ensuing play on the other end of the court, Cousins made the defensive play of the game, swatting All-Star Damian Lillard at the rim to help preserve the lead and Sacramento came away with the 126-121 win.