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Will Rudy Gay’s return from eye injury help Kings focus on winning?

Video: Rudy Gay of Kings returns from eye injury wearing glasses during practice

Kings forward Rudy Gay, who missed the past two games with an eye injury, shoots with teammates in Memphis while wearing protective goggles provided by Nike on Friday, Jan. 29, 2016
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Kings forward Rudy Gay, who missed the past two games with an eye injury, shoots with teammates in Memphis while wearing protective goggles provided by Nike on Friday, Jan. 29, 2016

Initially, it didn’t look like a big deal.

But it soon became obvious that Kemba Walker’s slap to Rudy Gay’s face on a three-point attempt in the second overtime against Charlotte on Monday night was no ordinary foul. Gay fell to the Sleep Train Arena floor in pain, hands to his face, legs kicking.

Gay, whose eye was watering and swelling, got up and made one of three free-throw attempts. But his vision worsened.

“You know how you get hit in your eye?” Gay said Friday after practice. “Bam, it happens, your eye is blurry for a little bit. But after a little while and I shot the second foul shot, I realized it wasn’t clearing up. So then I got a little scared.”

Gay missed the end of the Kings’ 129-128 double-overtime loss and Sacramento’s next two games, losses at Portland on Tuesday and New Orleans on Thursday.

He is expected back in the lineup Saturday at Memphis.

Gay tried to continue playing Monday after his eye injury, but it was obvious he was in danger of injuring himself further or another player. On defense, he extended his arm.

“I was just trying to protect myself, to be honest,” Gay said. “It was like that even at home. I’ve got so much respect for people with no vision or people with one eye because that was tough on me.”

Gay said his vision was affected for two nights.

“(Wednesday) I was starting to get my vision back close to normal,” Gay said. “After the first two nights, it was painful.”

Gay flew to Memphis on Thursday and practiced for an extra hour on Friday, wearing goggles for most of the session.

“The goggles, I don’t know,” Gay said. “I’m going to try (to use them Saturday), but I don’t think I’m going to be one of those guys who can do that.”

The Kings have lost three consecutive games after their season-best five-game winning streak.

Sacramento has missed Gay, its second-leading scorer at 18.0 points per game.

DeMarcus Cousins has been celebrated for his dominant play in January, but Gay has been important, too. In his past 10 games, Gay has averaged 19.4 points on 54.0 percent shooting.

And on nights when Cousins struggles, Gay can be the top option on offense and help carry the team. He has averaged 20.2 points on 54.3 percent shooting in the 16 wins that he’s played in this season and 16.5 points on 42.3 percent shooting in 24 losses.

“During the five-game winning streak, we were playing really, really hard, and (against) Portland, we just ran out of gas,” Gay said. “I wasn’t able to see the last game (against New Orleans) because I was on a plane, but it happens; it’s the NBA season. Sometimes you run out of gas.”

Gay would have seen the Kings play the way they have in too many of their losses. They had long stretches of uninspired play and defensive breakdowns that allowed an undermanned opponent to win.

After playing solid defense in their five consecutive wins, the Kings have allowed 118.3 points per game during their losing streak. They must get back to outhustling opponents, as second-chance points for other teams have been a problem.

“We need to be a little more physical in securing (the basketball),” associate head coach Chad Iske said after the New Orleans loss. “And they found a way to come up with the 50-50 ones more than us.”

Note – Coach George Karl did not attend Friday’s practice after missing the Kings’ 114-105 loss in New Orleans because of gastroenteritis. He is expected to coach the team on Saturday at Memphis.

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

Kings’ next game

  • When: Saturday, 5 p.m.
  • Opponent: at Memphis
  • TV/radio: CSNCA, 950, 1140
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