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Kings must maintain defensive focus in rematch against Mavericks

Center Kosta Koufos, fouling Charlotte’s Tyler Hansbrough in January, and the Kings are wary of the lowly Mavericks.
Center Kosta Koufos, fouling Charlotte’s Tyler Hansbrough in January, and the Kings are wary of the lowly Mavericks. Sacramento Bee file

Media sessions with Kosta Koufos can be quite comical.

Not because he tells jokes, but because he rattles off clichés to avoid controversy.

Koufos, however, used an appropriate one after the Kings won at Memphis on Friday night.

“We can’t take Dallas lightly,” Koufos said. “Anybody can win on any night, especially in the NBA.”

Coming off perhaps their most impressive road win of the season at Memphis, the Kings can go 2-1 on their three-game trip with a win over Dallas at American Airlines Center on Sunday.

We can’t take Dallas lightly. Anybody can win on any night, especially in the NBA.

Kings center Kosta Koufos

Simple, right?

The Mavericks are tied with Philadelphia for the worst record in the NBA at 6-20. And less than two weeks ago, the Kings dismantled the Mavs by 31 points in Dallas.

But the Mavs came within seconds of forcing overtime at Utah on Friday after overcoming a 15-point deficit.

The key, as always under coach Dave Joerger, will be defense. Sacramento’s Dec. 7 win at Dallas was one of its more thorough defensive outings of the season, but the Kings have been inconsistent in that area.

The Kings held Memphis to 37.7 percent shooting.

“Some of our coaches were saying you could hear our guys talking on defense when they were on the other end of the floor,” Joerger said. “ ... You could hear them all the time trying to help each other defensively, and that’s what we’re trying to build.”

Garrett Temple said the key to beating Memphis was defense, as the Kings shot just 38.8 percent.

The shooting guard said the Kings must keep that in mind. They also have to remember the Mavs do not want to be embarrassed again.

The Kings beat Dallas so badly that Mavs coach Rick Carlisle publicly questioned his team’s desire and made the players watch film of the game immediately afterward.

Garrett Temple said the key to beating Memphis was defense, as the Kings shot just 38.8 percent.

“Dallas is going to be looking for us after the game we were able to play against them, so we have to continue to give the same defensive effort no matter who we’re playing against,” Temple said. “Offense will happen, but defensively we have to continue to stay locked in.”

Sacramento began the trip by being run off the court at Houston, 132-98, as three Kings starters sat out. DeMarcus Cousins (rest) and Ben McLemore (left quadriceps contusion) returned against the Grizzlies, but Rudy Gay (strained right hip flexor) remained sidelined.

Temple, normally a reserve, stayed in the starting lineup and brought the calming effect he’s had on the second team to the starting unit.

Cousins said winning at Memphis boosted the Kings’ confidence, and that even though the team is still learning Joerger’s system, it’s headed in the right direction.

“Regardless of the Houston game – you cancel that one out – but I think we’ve been playing the right type of basketball,” Cousins said. “Just continue on this path and keep getting better each day.”

The clichés remain applicable.

Note – Gay is doubtful for Sunday’s game. Omri Casspi (illness) is questionable.

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

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