Cousins had a career-high 48 points and 13 rebounds to help the Kings beat the Indiana Pacers 108-97 Saturday night for their season-high fifth straight win.
A hot-tempered player who has had trouble keeping his emotions from raging during his first five seasons, Cousins has seemingly hit a new maturity level this season. He did receive a fourth-quarter technical late in the game but maintained a cool head throughout despite the physical pounding he took underneath by the Pacers.
"I think he's actually been pretty good as much as he's been beat up, pushed, shoved, grabbed, and held his composure as much as he does," Karl said. "I think where he is this year from what we had last year is much improved. His emotional stability is much better."
Cousins' physical gifts -- which include a big, athletic body, terrific hands, and soft shooting touch -- were all on display against the Pacers. His scoring tied Kevin Martin for the most points in regulation during the franchise's Sacramento era and was also an arena record.
Cousins shot 17-for-29 and hit 13 of 20 free throws in producing the most dominant game of his six-year career.
Though he didn't come close to getting enough votes to be a starter in this year's All-Star Game in Toronto, this game could solidify his standing as one of the reserves when the announcement is made Thursday.
"Playoffs, playoffs, playoffs. That's all I am thinking about," Cousins said. "It's been some rough years. But it's not over, and we still got a lot more to go. I'm happy in the moment, but I'm not satisfied."
Sacramento has won five straight for the first time since Oct. 31-Nov. 7, 2014. The Kings are currently in eighth place in the Western Conference and haven't made the playoffs in 10 years.
Rajon Rondo had 11 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his second straight triple-double and sixth of the season, the most in the Sacramento era. Darren Collison had 11 points and rookie Willie Cauley-Stein had 12 rebounds.
The Kings, winners of eight of 11 in January, used a strong third quarter to build an 11-point lead and never relinquished it in the fourth. Sacramento has beaten Indiana four straight times, sweeping the season series the past two seasons.
Paul George had 24 of his 34 points in the second half for the Pacers, who have lost two straight and five of six. Jordan Hill had 17 points and 13 rebounds, Monta Ellis scored 16 and rookie Myles Turner added 11 points and five of the Pacers' season high 10 blocks.
The Pacer concluded a four-game road trip with just one win.
"We gotta do better than that on a trip like this. I'm disappointed," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "We played well in a few games but not good enough."
Cousins had 13 points in eight first-quarter minutes and 24 points and eight rebounds by halftime. He has 15 30-plus point games this season, including eight in the past 11 games.
Cousins scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, including a stretch of 11 straight Kings points that put Sacramento ahead 97-89 at the 4:04 mark.
"I thought we did a poor job of defending him," said George, who also scored 15 in the fourth. "Not the guys guarding him in particular, but us helping out. You've got to send double teams at him and we failed to do so tonight."
KARL CRITICAL OF BLATT FIRING
The firing of Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt on Friday made no sense to Kings coach George Karl, who was let go by Denver after a 57-25 record in the 2012-13 season when he was named coach of the year.
Judging by his record, Blatt's dismissal was a baffling one. He had an 83-40 record with the Cavaliers, including a 30-11 mark this season, the best record among Eastern Conference teams. Blatt's .675 winning percentage ranks seventh in NBA history.
"It's embarrassing and a tragedy. It seems like coaches now have more ability to get fired if they win but don't exceed expectations, and losing coaches don't get fired," Karl said prior to the game. "But I am mystified of it. It's a sad, sad day for coaching."
Pacers: Starting PG George Hill rejoined the Pacers and came off the bench following a three-game absence. He left the team to be at the birth of his son, who was born Jan. 16. He had eight points and four assists in 32 minutes. ... Starting C Ian Mahinmi, who suffered a sprained ankle in Tuesday's win over Phoenix, missed his second straight game and reserve G Rodney Stuckey (foot sprain) was also out.
Kings: An irate Karl picked up a technical early in the third quarter and had to be restrained by several assistant coaches. ... Rudy Gay, the team's second leading scorer, missed his second straight game with a bruised heel.
Pacers: Host the Clippers on Tuesday.
Kings: Host Charlotte on Monday.
LeBron, AD reflect on Kobe's death almost a year since the accident
LeBron James tries not to go back to the "dark headspace" he was in after Kobe Bryant died, while Anthony Davis still can't believe he is gone.
What to make of the NBA's COVID postponements
Zach Lowe reacts to the growing trend of NBA postponements due to COVID-19 contact tracing.
76ers take on the Pistons, look for 4th straight win
Philadelphia 76ers (12-5, first in the Eastern Conference) vs. Detroit Pistons (3-13, 15th in the Eastern Conference)