Playing with pace, but not fast


The Magic are playing at a faster pace this year compared to last. That was part of what Jacque Vaughn wanted to build and create with this young team. It is how he is going to get the most out of the high-flying wings and guards on his roster like Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris and Maurice Harkless. Obviously the Magic have not seen it at its fullest yet.

There is also a dark side to playing fast. The other team plays fast with you. And when you have a team that also likes to push the pace and uses their defense to do so that can lead to problems for a young offense.

Against the Celtics and Heat most notably, the Magic's desire to push the pace and dictate tempo through speed backfired. Those teams used a pressure defense to turn the Magic over and turn the pace of play against them.

If the Magic want to dictate tempo, there has to be balance between doing so while still valuing possession of the ball.

"It is a nice balance of, I think the key word you said was dictating," Jacque Vaughn said. "We want to get up and down and push the pace. It is something we had been doing pretty successfully. But their pressure put us in a position where now our decision making is a little at question."

So far this season, the Magic are playing at a pace of 98.3 possessions per game, a significant increase over the 94.5 possessions per game the team averaged last year. The team is scoring 10.0 percent of its points on the fast break this year compared to 10.6 percent last year.

However, the Magic's turnover rate of 18.0 this year is significantly higher than the 15.3 they posted last year. It seems quickening the pace has led to shakier decision making and an increase in the number of turnovers the Magic have committed.

It seems that the Magic have quickened the pace and only seen the negative side to things rather than the positive side to it when it comes to increasing the pace of play.

"[Turnovers are] something we do need to address," Vaughn said. "The fact that puts more pressure on your defense because those guys are getting easy buckets, they are getting out in transtiion and now our defense isn't set. That is an area where I think we consciously have to do things simple. A 3-on-1 break should be a conversion for us. When we're in our set offense, making thesimple pass is good enough. We just need to continue to repeat that simplicity."

Simplicity is something Vaughn has said several times he would like to stress with his team. There is a learning curve that has to develop as the Magic have been in the top half of the league in pace once since 2010, and that was last year. The Magic have not bee in the top-10 in pace, according to Basketball-Reference, since 2008. This is not an organization that has run a whole bunch in recent years.

Most of the Magic's mistakes in transition appear to come when they try to make a difficult play rather than a simple one.

That is a message that has to ring especially true for a growing guard like Victor Oladipo.

"I think that's the key," Oladipo said after a recent game. "We were rushing a little bit too much trying to make the home run play. All of our mistakes are stuff that we can fix. That's the good thing about them. Now we just got to fix them."

OIadipo especially often seems to be going too fast and rushing through his shots. Some of that is the transition to the NBA game speed. He especially seems to need to slow down some and work on reading the defense better to finish his shots and attack the basket. That will come with experience. Until then, teams will try to trap him and hurry up his thought processes which could lead to more turnovers and mistakes.

So how do the Magic find this balance?

Experience and comfort playing at a faster pace helps. So too does patience and knowing when to keep running and when to slow things down. The Magic are not quite a team yet that can rely on its transition defense to do that when they make mistakes. Orlando is going to have to learn when to speed things up and when to slow things down.

This seems to be all about comfort and waiting for the right opportunities to attack.

Until then, there will be frustrating growing pains as the Magic try to incorporate this new style and play with pace without thinking too quickly.