Nuggets DeMarcus Cousins, center, is defended by Andre Iguadola and Andrew Wiggins on Sunday in Denver.

DENVER – The words “calming influence” and “DeMarcus Cousins” ended up in the same sentence Tuesday.

After the Nuggets practiced before heading to San Francisco to face Golden State, which leads the series 3-1, in Wednesday's Game 5 of their first-round series, coach Michael Malone stressed the importance of his back-up center, who has a reputation for losing his cool.

“To be playing 10 minutes a game and to be having the productivity that he’s had and the efficiency that he’s had is really remarkable,” Malone said. “I told him after the game ‘everybody wants to play more,’ but it’s important for DeMarcus to know the impact he’s having is real. He gives us a calming influence.”

The Warriors have generally sacrificed size in favor of speed, especially with the second unit. Cousins, listed at 6-foot-10 and 270 pounds, has found success against the 234-pound Nemanja Bjelica and smaller wings Andre Iguodala and Otto Porter Jr. in one-on-one situations.

“DeMarcus has become a key fixture in that lineup because he’s a guy that we can slow the game down, get him the ball in the post and read how we’re being guarded,” Malone said. “If you’re going to play him one-on-one, he can score. If they’re going to double-team, like they did in Game 4, he can make the right read. Him and JaMychal have great on-court chemistry. We can play pick and roll with Bones and DeMarcus.”

In Denver’s Game-4 win — when Cousins posted 10 points, four rebounds and two assists in 10 minutes of playing time — he started by getting others involved. On his first offensive possession, Austin Rivers fed Denver’s backup big man just outside the lane and cleared that side of the court with the 215-pound Iguodala standing between Cousins and two points. Bjelica left JaMychal Green to offer help as Cousins spun toward the hoop before dishing to his open teammate for a dunk.

“I’ve seen double teams so much throughout my career. I’m always about trying to make the right play,” Cousins said. “If there’s two coming to me, I know somebody’s open.”

Occasionally, two defenders weren’t enough for the Warriors. Early in the second quarter, Cousins fended off rookie Jonathan Kuminga on a drive before finishing through an Iguodala foul. In the opening minutes of the fourth, with Golden State making a run to get back in the game, Cousins sealed Igoudala, protected the ball from Stephen Curry, who gambled for a steal, and muscled through another foul before laying it in. He earned another trip to the line on the following possessions before hitting his third shot on as many attempts, a fade-away that allowed him to escape a Wiggins and Iguodala double-team.

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The 31-year-old is shooting 68.8% from the field and 79.2% from the free-throw line in the series.

“I feel like I have a mismatch with anybody,” Cousins said. “That’s just my opinion.”

Anticipating more double teams on the way in Game 5, Malone said the Nuggets worked on appropriately reacting and spacing the court when the Warriors send an extra defender at Tuesday's practice. On the other end, Malone noticed Golden State trying to tire out his big bodies by repeatedly putting them in defensive actions.

“In the fourth quarter, it was a steady diet of pick-and-rolls, pick-and-rolls, pick-and-rolls. (They’re) putting DeMarcus in the pick-and-roll, putting Nikola in the pick-and-roll. So, now, that’s where we have to be just as good on the ball as we have been off the ball,” Malone said. “That requires communication, physicality and discipline just like in every other area of the game.”

Cousins will take averages of 8.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 10.5 minutes per game to start the series into Game 5. The Nuggets dropped the first two games of the series at Chase Center by 16 and 20 points, respectively, and Cousins will be tasked with keeping things calm on the court for the 10 or so minutes Nikola Jokic, who’s averaging 31.3 points, 11.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists, rests.

“We made decisions a lot quicker than we did in Games 1 and 2. (We’re) taking advantage of mismatches. Then, everybody is just being aggressive, knowing your spots, being in attack mode. It’s a combination of all those things,” Cousins said of the second unit’s recent success.

“My mindset every time is either (maintaining) the lead or gaining the lead. I think that’s the second unit’s mindset. We know our job.”