DeMarcus Cousins' anger with the referees began long before the third quarter.
It started in the first quarter, when James Harden pulled him down by his shoulder while fighting to get around Cousins and Harden wasn't called for a foul. Cousins made a point to speak to the officials about that during a timeout.
Cousins spoke to the officials again at halftime before heading to the locker room. His yelling became too much with 8:21 to play in the third quarter, resulting in his first ejection of the season. That was the primary topic of discussion for the Sacramento Kings after their 129-103 loss to the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night at Sleep Train Arena.
After being called for his fifth foul, Cousins tried to approach official Courtney Kirkland and had to be restrained twice by teammates and coaches. He quickly picked up two technical fouls and was ejected.
"No one in our organization has said he's a finished product by any means," Kings coach Michael Malone said. "He's making the effort to try to get better. Obviously (Tuesday) he let his emotions get the best of him. We just have to try get back on track and try not to let it get to that point."
There had been moments where Cousins had to be restrained this season. But none of them ended as they did Tuesday, with Cousins being escorted to the locker room by team security as he flung his headband in disgust.
"I know we needed him out there, and he knows it," Kings forward Rudy Gay said. "I had a little conversation with him, and I've lost my cool while I've been here. It happens. It's just a matter of how you're going to make up for it."
Cousins has a league-leading 15 technical fouls this season. His next technical foul will result in an automatic one-game suspension.
In each of the last two seasons Cousins has avoided a suspension by having a technical foul rescinded. He has not had one rescinded this season.
"Obviously the next one he'll get suspended," Malone said. "We'll talk about what happened (Tuesday). There were a couple calls where he was very frustrated, and I understand his frustration. But somehow, some way, he's too important to this team to be thrown out of a game. We have to find a way to control and harness those emotions and use that frustration in a positive way. When he's able to do that, he'll really take a turn for the better, and I look forward to that day."
Cousins' ejection did not completely overshadow the beating the Rockets (39-18) put on the Kings (20-37). Sacramento had a lackluster first quarter and trailed by 25 when Cousins was tossed.
Harden scored a season-high 43 points in just 31 minutes as Houston led by as much as 33.
Harden outscored the Kings 22-17 in the first quarter as the Rockets jumped out to a 42-17 lead. The Kings had been proud of their defensive efforts of late, but there wasn't much of a defensive presence Tuesday as they gave up a season high in points.
The Rockets, who have won 10 of 11, sat their starters for the fourth quarter. Dwight Howard had 20 points and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes.
Rudy Gay led the Kings with 25 points, and Cousins scored 16.
ROSTER MOVE: With Jimmer Fredette's buyout expected to be finalized Wednesday, the Kings plan to sign free-agent guard Orlando Johnson to a 10-day contract.
The Kings drafted Johnson in the second round in 2012 but traded his rights to Indiana for cash. The Pacers waived Johnson last week after acquiring Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen from Philadelphia. He appeared in 38 games for the Pacers this season.
The Kings also have worked out former Houston first-round pick Royce White.
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