Plagued by poor starts, Jacque Vaughn wants more focus from his players

ATLANTA — The Orlando Magic will begin their game tonight against the Atlanta Hawks intent on avoiding the slow starts that have plagued them all season long.

At least, that’s Jacque Vaughn’s hope.

Focus and concentration must come from the players.

“The game is more than physical,” Vaughn said after the Magic finished their shootaround at Philips Arena. “There’s a mental aspect to the game.

“So, it’s OK that when you’re in your room in the afternoon that you’re thinking about your responsibilities for that night. That’s what you are doing for your job. You’re a professional basketball player. Whether it’s matchups, whether it’s schemes, whether it’s an approach to the game, you can think about that before the game starts. It’s OK. Coach said it’s OK to do that.”

Vaughn’s last sentence was meant for comedic effect, of course.

But his intended humor shouldn’t obscure his overall message.

The starts have been a recurring problem for his team, which trailed their nine opponents this season in the first quarter by an average maximum margin of 9.9 points.

On Sunday, the Magic weren’t focused on their defensive assignments at the beginning of the game — and, according to Arron Afflalo, were too focused on generating offense.

They trailed the Raptors by as many as 13 points in the first period.

The chart below shows the maximum first-quarter deficits the Magic have faced in every game this season.

You can see why Vaughn wants improvement.

DayOpponent1Q DeficitNov. 2Denver3Nov. 4Phoenix9Nov. 6at Chicago8Nov. 7at Minnesota15Nov. 9Brooklyn9Nov. 11at Brooklyn18Nov. 13New York4Nov. 16at Detroit10Nov. 18at Toronto13

Josh Robbins covers the Orlando Magic and the NBA for the Orlando Sentinel. You can reach him via e-mail at and connect with him on Facebook at Follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.

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