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Kings prove they can be ‘above average’ defensive team

Kings forward Rudy Gay (8) steals the ball against the New York Knicks guard Arron Afflalo (4) at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015.
Kings forward Rudy Gay (8) steals the ball against the New York Knicks guard Arron Afflalo (4) at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. hamezcua@sacbee.com

The Kings won’t be confused with the “Bad Boys” of the Detroit Pistons, but lately they haven’t been allergic to playing defense, which seemed to be the case most of the season.

The Kings have held four of their last six opponents below 43 percent shooting and three of the six under 100 points. The Kings are 3-3 in their last six games.

In Thursday’s victory over New York, Kings coach George Karl liked the efforts of Rudy Gay and Omri Casspi, who began the game covering the Knicks’ top scorers, Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis.

Karl, who has spoken of the chemistry between Gay and Casspi on offense, likes their passion on the other end lately, too.

“I think Rudy and Omri, in the last 10 days, have really started to tune up their defense,” Karl said. “We need it. I think I said before the (New York) game, the one game that lingers as a bad defensive game … is the Mexico City game. If you throw that game out, I think our defense in the last four or five games has been above average, maybe even good at times.”

Most of the season, the Kings have been bad on defense, and they still are giving up 108.2 points per game, second-highest in the NBA. And they are allowing opponents to shoot 46.1 percent, 26th in the league.

Offense hasn’t been a problem – the Kings are fourth in the NBA at 104.9 points per game – so the players have shifted more focus to defense.

“We’ve made a concerted effort to play good on that end,” guard Darren Collison said. “... We can score, offensively we’re fine. … But defense seems to be the issue for us all season long, but not the last couple games.”

Center DeMarcus Cousins said the improvement is due to a simple tactic.

“I feel like we’re actually going out there and defending,” Cousins said. “We’re not talking about it anymore, we’re not talking about what we need to do, we’re actually going out there and doing it. And we’re defending as a unit.”

Rest time – The Kings don’t play again until Tuesday, against Houston, so Karl gave them Friday off.

Cousins welcomes the break, because he’s been dealing with various nagging injuries and already has missed seven games due to injury.

“These next couple of days are going to be great for me,” Cousins said. “Just a chance to rest, possibly get some extra work in, try to get back in better shape. So I’m going to take advantage of these next couple days.”

Cousins came into training camp in good shape, but an Achilles strain early in the season and a lower back strain recently have kept him from getting in his work on the court at the rate he’d like.

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

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