Kings' Cousins shows Celtics what all the hype is about

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Kings' Cousins shows Celtics what all the hype is about

SACRAMENTO DeMarcus Cousins is a man of many talents, many of which were on display in Sacramento's 118-96 thumping of the Boston Celtics.

The talented but at times troubled big man delivered his first career triple-double with 12 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds as the Kings (11-19) won at home for the sixth time in their last seven games.

With the rumors swirling that the Celtics have some interest in making a run at Cousins, Sunday's performance was just the kind of audition that has Celtics Nation salivating at the thought of him teaming up with Kevin Garnett in the frontcourt.

But it was the kind of game that justifies Sacramento's reluctance to make him available despite having to discipline him repeatedly for various team-related offenses.

And when he has guys around him knocking down shots, it makes him all that more difficult to deal with.

"That's why he was able to pick up 10 assists, because guys were setting up outside," said Kings forward John Salmons who had 23 points on 9-for-12 shooting from the field. "Hopefully it'll get to the point where they can't double-team players because guys are making open 3s and that'll make it easier for Cousins to get in the lane."

Meanwhile, the Celtics (14-16) slip even further below .500 with the loss which will only extend the grumbling among Celtics Nation for the C's to do something to shake up their roster - like aggressively pursue a player like Cousins.

While he has had his share of problems in Sacramento, the one thing that has never been an issue is his talent.

When you look at the C's roster and see what Cousins brings to the floor talent-wise, it's hard to imagine the Celtics can put together a package that would entice the Kings to part with arguably one of the most talented big men in the NBA and wouldn't debilitate the C's core group.

His ability to score and rebound is well documented. But on Sunday he displayed the kind of court vision that speaks volumes about how talented he is now.

And the scary part is that he's just 22 years old.

Even though the Kings led most of the night, it was Cousins' play in the second half that put the Celtics away.

"Down the stretch is where Cousins just took the game over," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "We didn't want to trap and that's a great example of what we're doing defensively."

When too much attention was paid to Cousins, he wisely found teammates for lay-ups or open jumpers.

"We can absorb one big scoring," Rivers said. "But you can't when you start trapping and then everybody gets involved."

Brady on Hogan after record-setting night: 'He's been incredible'

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Brady on Hogan after record-setting night: 'He's been incredible'

FOXBORO -- Someone told Chris Hogan before the AFC Championship that it would be a game he'd look back on 30 years from now and remember in perfect detail. 

That may be difficult for him given the sheer volume of plays he made in Sunday's 36-17 win over the Steelers. Hogan finished the game with nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns on 12 targets, surpassing Deion Branch for the franchise record for receiving yards in a postseason game. 

"It'll be something that definitely I'll remember for the rest of my career," he said, "and probably for the rest of my life . . . I'm happy for everyone in this locker room, all these guys in the locker room, the coaches. We've worked so hard to get here, and I was just happy that I was able to help this team get a win tonight."

Hogan did more than that. He was pivotal during New England's first touchdown drive of the night, catching passes on three consecutive plays for a total of 41 yards, and then reeling in an easy 16-yard touchdown when the Steelers defense lost track of him in the right half of the end zone. 

"I moved a little bit to the left because they were pressuring up the middle, and the pocket kind of collapsed," Brady said. "So I kind of slid to the left and I had good vision. They kind of bit down on Julian [Edelman] pretty hard, and then Hogs just was standing there in the back of the end zone."

Hogan's other catches were generally more contested than that one, but several were made without a Steelers defender harrassing him. And when they let him be, he made them pay. 

The flea-flicker pass that resulted in Hogan's second score of the day was a kick in the gut for the Steelers defense, putting the Patriots ahead, 17-6. Brady initially needed a reminder of how Hogan scored his second touchdown of the night, saying, "Oh, the flea-flicker. How could I forget that?"

"We ran one earlier in the year against, I think it was Baltimore, and it worked," Brady added. "I hit Hogan on that one too, on a crossing route. Those were well-executed plays. It's nice when you can take advantage of some of those plays, nice to gain some chunks that way when you kind of get some misdirection or double-pass, flea-flicker, something like that. It's a big spark for the team."

At that point Hogan already had racked up a career day. He had never scored multiple touchdowns in an NFL game coming in, and he set his own career-high for receiving in the postseason with 117 yards. In his first and only playoff game the week before, he had 95 yards on four catches. 

Hogan suffered a thigh injury in that game that limited him in practice and made him questionable against the Steelers. But he played, and he gave his team an early boost, helping force the Steelers to play catch-up for the vast majority of the night.

And the injury didn't appear to slow him down all that much. Though there were times when he was slow to get to his feet after being tackled, he showed the kind of speed that allowed him to put himself near the top of the list in the NFL when it comes to yards-per-catch (18.7). Among  receivers with at least 20 catches, he trailed only Sammie Coates (20.7) of the Steelers. 

"He's been incredible," Brady said. "I mean, to lead the league in average yards per catch is spectacular. He's made big plays for us all season. He made big plays in the biggest game of the year for us."

It's one that he'll remember for a long time, but he's hoping to add to that happy memory in two weeks.

"We've grinded throughout this entire year, this is what we worked for, and this is what we wanted to get to," Hogan said. "It's a special moment for all of these guys in this locker room. We'll enjoy this and get back to work because we've got one more."