"We were starting to play damn good basketball," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry told ESPN in a text message. "DeMarcus has been great."
Cousins suffered the noncontact injury with about 12 seconds left in Friday's 115-113 win over the Rockets when he attempted to rebound his own missed free throw by poking the ball away from Houston's Trevor Ariza. After landing hard on his left leg, Cousins hopped a couple of times on his right foot and then collapsed to the court when he attempted to put pressure on his left foot again.
He needed assistance from teammates to exit the court.
"I feel horrible for him," Gentry said after the game. "Everything that he's done, and what he's tried to do for us this year, and what he's made himself, and the improvements in all areas that he's made on and off the court, has just been great. I don't want that to happen to a guy that's trying to better himself."
Cousins had 15 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists before leaving, recording his second triple-double in the past three games. This season, he is averaging 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game. According to ESPN Stats & Information, over the past 50 seasons, only four players averaged those numbers for an entire season -- and all four were named MVP.
The Pelicans have won seven of their past eight games to climb to sixth in the Western Conference standings, with a 27-21 record, but the loss of Cousins will be significant. Acquired from the Sacramento Kings at the trade deadline last season, he has averaged 22.0 points, 15.4 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game during New Orleans' recent hot streak.
"We were just getting it," Pelicans All-Star power forward Anthony Davis said. "We were just figuring everything out. That's the tough part. We've just got to keep going. We've got to keep going and keep finding a way to win."
Davis tweeted support for his teammate afterward.
Both Cousins and Davis were selected as starters for next month's All-Star Game. LeBron James, who picked both of them for his team Thursday, was among many players to react to Friday's news.
Thoughts out to @boogiecousins! Hope you good big fella. 🙏🏾— LeBron James (@KingJames) January 27, 2018
Cousins is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
"Just unfortunate, really," Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday said. "I think we've been doing really well, got in a great groove.
"The way we've been playing, and him in particular, has been awesome."