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Kings try to remain positive while DeMarcus Cousins recovers from injury

After hitting a three-point basket Kings guard Marco Belinelli (3) celebrates a turnover on Minnesota with teammate Darren Collison (7) at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. The Kings touted their improved depth as being key to withstanding injuries, but replacing DeMarcus Cousins’ 27.9 points and 11.2 rebounds per game and his impact on defense is difficult.
After hitting a three-point basket Kings guard Marco Belinelli (3) celebrates a turnover on Minnesota with teammate Darren Collison (7) at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. The Kings touted their improved depth as being key to withstanding injuries, but replacing DeMarcus Cousins’ 27.9 points and 11.2 rebounds per game and his impact on defense is difficult. hamezcua@sacbee.com

Kings coach George Karl said he did not want to overreact to the Kings’ latest loss. After all, they were playing the best team in the NBA, the Golden State Warriors.

And the Kings were without their best player, DeMarcus Cousins.

But that doesn’t change that the Kings are 6-12 and struggling defensively. They believe they have enough time to get the season back on track and challenge for a playoff spot.

The key is not panicking while waiting for Cousins to return to the lineup. He’s missed the past three games because of a lower back strain.

3 Consecutive games missed by DeMarcus Cousins

“I think you’ve just got to stay strong,” Karl said. “This is the time of the year where Cuz has missed (eight) games. We’ll get back on the right track, but right now we’ve got to hopefully get healthy with Cuz, and once he gets in the lineup, I think we’ll get our confidence in a good direction.”

The Kings appeared to be heading in a good direction last Monday. They had a 22-point lead at Charlotte and looked poised to win back-to-back road games.

But Cousins did not finish the game because of his back, and Sacramento blew the lead and lost. The Kings won at Milwaukee last Wednesday but have since lost to Minnesota and at the Warriors.

Sacramento is 1-7 without Cousins this season. His status for Monday’s home game against Dallas is uncertain.

The Kings touted their improved depth as being key to withstanding injuries, but replacing Cousins’ 27.9 points and 11.2 rebounds per game and his impact on defense is difficult.

“I think everybody knows that we’ve got to continue to keep our poise, staying together,” said guard Ben McLemore. “Even though we don’t have the big fella right now, we’ve still got talented guys who can go out there and compete every night.”

The Kings avoid panicking by keeping perspective. Since starting the season 1-7, they have gone 5-5, so they feel they’re improving.

And they realize they will have issues over the course of the season.

“Never too high, never too low,” said guard Rajon Rondo. “It’s a long season There will be ups and downs; it’s a roller coaster. Hopefully we can get this thing smoothed out pretty soon.”

The Kings could use a stretch of improved health and better defense to begin meeting their expectations.

109.1 Points allowed per game, last in the league, by the Kings entering Sunday

After their 1-7 start, the Kings ran off three straight wins. They believe they can do that again and play more consistently.

“The season is about streaks, how many wins you get in a row,” said forward Rudy Gay. “We want to keep (working), and eventually we’ll get on a winning steak, and hopefully we can build on that.”

Rondo added one more key, considering the Kings had allowed the most points (109.1 per game) and highest field-goal percentage (47.1) in the NBA entering Sunday.

“We’ve got to play better defense,” Rondo said. “Period.”

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

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