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Physical defense rattles Kings

DeMarcus Cousins (15) is fouled as he goes for a rebound against Miami last month. Defenses have taken an aggressive approach against the Kings.
DeMarcus Cousins (15) is fouled as he goes for a rebound against Miami last month. Defenses have taken an aggressive approach against the Kings. hamezcua@sacbee.com

Several opposing coaches have referred to the Kings as physically aggressive.

So how do you compete with the Kings? You rough them up.

That’s what teams have tried to do this season, sending multiple defenders to grab and tussle with DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. Teams have hounded the guards in attempts to force turnovers.

It’s worked, as the Indiana Pacers nearly overcame a 23-point deficit Saturday by taking the fight to the Kings. Sacramento, however, held on for a 99-94 win to end a season-worst eight-game losing streak.

The way to counter strong defense is with ball and player movement and precise execution. The Kings have struggled in those areas this season, especially during the losing streak.

Turnovers were more likely than assists, and the Pacers forced the Kings into mistakes in the second half.

The Kings had 64 first-half points against Indiana before the Pacers made the game more physical and the Kings’ offense sputtered.

“They got aggressive in the second half, and we kind of buckled to it a little bit,” said Kings coach Tyrone Corbin. “ … In the second half, as they picked up the defensive pressure and got their hands on us, we’ve got to make sure it’s pass, pass, pass and not hold it and let their defense affect us.”

What the Kings did take from the second half was they had just enough to win the game.

But Sacramento’s next few games won’t be against teams like the Pacers (17-32), who have been hampered by injuries and are struggling to contend in the Eastern Conference.

Five of the next six games are against playoff contenders, beginning Tuesdayat home against Golden State.

“It’s not going to be easy for us, but we want to come out on our home floor and give a great effort, and let’s win the game,” Corbin said.

Kings guard Darren Collison said the key is to avoid retreating when opponents play aggressively.

No amount of tough defense should lead the Kings to abandon their principles on offense and resort to one pass or no passes.

“We’ve got to take on their physicality,” Collison said. “Teams are going to pressure us. We’ve got to be able to execute, no matter how they’re playing us. The pressure got to us a little bit (at Indiana). They did a good job of trying to pressure us and really start something, but we did a good job of fighting back and continuing to attack.”

The Kings won’t make major changes on offense. Corbin, who took over Dec. 14 for Michael Malone, said there’s no time for that during the season.

“We’ve stayed with a lot of stuff we were running before,” Corbin said. “We have to do a better job of running our sets and sharing the ball as we get in our sets as we try to increase the pace and play faster. We couldn’t implement a whole bunch of new things when I took over. It’s too much for the guys at this stage of the season.”

Follow The Bee’s Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.

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