DeMarcus Cousins will attempt to successfully follow up on one of the best games of his career, but will have to do so against a longtime nemesis, when the New Orleans Pelicans visit Dwight Howard and the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday night.
Cousins exploded for 44 points, 24 rebounds and 10 assists Monday night in a double-overtime win over the Chicago Bulls. It was the Pelicans' third extra-time victory in their last six games, a stretch during which they've won five times.
Cousins has gone just 6-12 in his career head-to-heads against Howard. He's outscored his rival big man on average 19.4-16.9 in those duels, but has been outrebounded 12.3-10.7.
This will be their first meeting since Cousins was traded from Sacramento to New Orleans last February, Howard played for Atlanta last season.
The addition of Cousins for a full season has helped the Pelicans become a serious playoff contender this season. Their 25-21 record is a full seven games better than last year's mark (18-28) at this point.
Cousins, selected as an All-Star starter in next month's game, is currently averaging 25.6 points to complement career-highs in rebounds (12.9) and assists (5.2).
Informed after Monday's historical performance about the rarified air his numbers reached against the Bulls -- only Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had previously had a 40/20/10 game in the NBA -- Cousins insisted he was happier about one other aspect of the game.
"It's about the win," he claimed. "That type of energy is going to carry us through the remainder of the season. Any given night, it could be somebody's night, and it so happened to be mine tonight. The next game it may be somebody else's night, and we're going to rally around that guy the same way."
The Pelicans swept the Hornets last season, with both wins coming in overtime.
It took 121 and 125 points to win those games, and it might require a similar total Wednesday night. That's because the Hornets have been on a nice roll offensively of late, averaging 118.0 points in their last four games.
They are coming off a 112-107 win over Cousins' former team, the Kings, on Monday night, giving them two wins in three games to tip off a five-game homestand as the club celebrates the return of coach Steve Clifford from a health-related leave of absence.
Kemba Walker, the subject of recent trade rumors, responded well to the distraction, leading the Hornets with 26 points.
"I'm over it," he said of the initial shock of hearing his name mentioned in trade talks. "I'm not even thinking about it anymore. I just want to win."
Howard contributed 14 points and 16 rebounds to the win. The double-double was his fifth in a row, a stretch during which he's had at least 11 points and 15 rebounds in each game.
Howard has 27 double-doubles this season, the fifth-most in the league. Cousins ranks second with 36.
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