The New Orleans Pelicans were leading the Houston Rockets late in the contest, when Cousins chased down a missed free throw and collapsed to the court.
But LeBron James came to the fore, scoring 26 points and making 10 rebounds and 11 assists, and overshadowing 25 points from the Pacers' Victor Oladipo.
"We're scared about it", Pelicans Coach Alvin Gentry told reporters after the game. General Manager Dell Demps and Gentry both have tenuous job security, and it was expected that both would be back with a playoff appearance - as would Cousins, who is close friends with Anthony Davis, the team's other superstar big man. Once on the fringe of the top eight of the standings in the Western Conference, New Orleans now is in striking distance of a much higher position in the race.
As for the Pelicans, they'll be hard-pressed to deal for help replacing Cousins at the deadline due to their cap situation. Tonight's game will take place from Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana and will air live on ESPN. The Spurs lost for just the fourth time at home this season.
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Cousins was in the middle of an historic season.
"We were just getting it and just figuring everything out", said Anthony Davis, who added 27 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and five blocks for the Pelicans.
All of that remains to be seen, but it's really lame we have to ask these questions. Smart is averaging 10 points and 4.7 assists this season. Almost all of the Pelicans players were equally solemn. And even if they should do so, they're not going to last long. New Orleans has notoriously lacked leverage in recent negotiations-including its extremely generous five-year, $126 million contract for Jrue Holiday last summer-but a max-money, max-years commitment to a 28-year-old 7-footer in the middle of an Achilles rehab is the toughest of asks. Will they make a move to bring in more talent and hold on to that playoff slot? They may still decide to add at the trade deadline, but without Cousins, their chances of actually winning a playoff series have decreased dramatically.
Can the Pelicans still feel comfortable committing max money to Cousins coming off one of the most serious injuries an National Basketball Association player can suffer?