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Magic return to defense to generate transition points


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Characterizing the Magic as a young team automatically seems to put the group in the category of teams who rely on transition points. Who could blame them for that considering the Magic are 24th in the league in offensive rating at 99.2 points per 100 possessions.

For much of the season, particularly during this stretch the Magic have lost 11 of the past 14 games, half-court offense has been a major struggle as the team tries to fit pieces into the lineup and fit around the injuries that plagued the team early on in the year.

Seeing Orlando dictate the tempo of the game and push the ball in transition in Friday night's win was refreshing and was key for the Magic in the win. Orlando recorded a relatively modest 14 fast-break points in the game, but it was clear that the home team was the one dictating the tempo and being the aggressors after three games where it was caught on its back foot and trying to play catch up the entire time.

"It's real important for us because we have very little room for error," Victor Oladipo said. "We just got to continue doing whatever it takes for us to get easy buckets whether it is getting out on the break or playing defense and letting that create for our offense. We just got to take it one game at a time and keep getting better."

So far this season, the Magic are 23rd in the league in the percentage of points they score on the fastbreak according to NBA.com. They make 11.4 percent of their points in transition, which equates to about 11.1 points per game off of fast breaks. Considering the Magic play at a robust 97.0 pace, 14th in the league, you would expect them to play a little quicker considering the youth on the roster.

This is where Jacque Vaughn and several Magic players make it clear that the problem with generating fast break points begins on the defensive end of the floor.

So far this season, the Magic have been up and down on the defensive end. Overall, the team has posted a defensive rating of 102.4 points per 100 possessions, again right in the middle of the league ranking 14th so far this season. Meanwhile, Orlando is near the bottom of the league in turnovers forced percentage at 14.7 percent on the year, 25th in the league.

That combination does not lead to creating fast break opportunities and getting the easy shots that help players like Oladipo and Tobias Harris really put pressure on a defense.

"I don't think it has gotten away from us, I think you got to get stops to get out on the break," Jacque Vaughn said. "You can't take it out and create a fast break. You have to get stops. That initiates getitng out.

"Every player, they say they want to get out and run. You get two points, you get a layup, you get an advantage, the defense isn't set. You have to get stops to do that."

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Of course, part of the issue is the Magic play a lot of young players, particularly at point guard where Victor Oladipo has taken over much of the primary ball handlind duties recently even with Jameer Nelson on the floor with him. Those growing pains have somewhat stunted the Magic's ability to run half-court sets and even, to some extent, getting out in transition after getting stops.

For sure, Oladipo is extremely effective in transition as he proved Friday night in dishing out 11 assists and scoring 16 points for his second career double double. Oladipo had two points on the fast break Friday night, but also three assists in fast break opportunities. That means on four of Orlando's five fast break field goal makes, Oladipo had a hand on making the play. That included the left-handed jam from Ronnie Price.

This is a rookie who succeeds while playing fast.

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"There is always opportunities to play fast," Jacque Vaughn said. "It doesn't mean your decision making hast to be fast. Those things can slow down internally in your brain depending on what situation is in front of you. If [Oladipo] gets a rebound, we want him to push the pace and get up the floor sot hat part stays fast, but the decision-making process will slow down for him."

The one thing the Magic clearly do not want to do is slow down too much. This is an athletic team that has a small margin for error in a lot of ways. The team needs to catch teams in transition to find the most offensive success and control the tempo of the game on a nightly basis.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily

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