When coach Jacque Vaughn told his Orlando Magic to pick up the tempo and increase the scoring output, he insists he didn’t mean that it should come at the expense of defense.
The Magic will try to have a more balanced approach as they look to snap a four-game skid and deal the visiting Indiana Pacers a season worst-tying eighth straight defeat.
Orlando (15-31) ranked 28th in the league in scoring at 93.6 points per game after falling 101-84 at the Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 9. Although its been putting up an average of 107.4 over the seven games since, Vaughn still isn’t pleased.
The Magic have allowed at least 101 points in eight straight while giving up an average of 113.1 in that stretch following Friday’s 113-106 loss at New York. They surrendered 99.2 per game prior to that slump.
"Our mindset of coming into the game and trying to outscore people instead of outplaying them and out-defending them … it’s evident in how we’re approaching the game," Vaughn said. "The defensive end needs to be a premium. Instead of thinking about scoring the basketball as soon as you step on the floor, worry about defending the basketball. That would help."
Nikola Vucevic had his NBA-best 26th double-double with a season high-tying 34 points and 18 rebounds, but Orlando allowed the Knicks to shoot 40.0 percent from 3-point range.
"We’ve been able to score and did again pretty well (Friday). We’ve just got to step it up defensively – all of us," Vucevic said. "Every single guy on this team, we’ve got to do a better job taking pride in playing better defense one-on-one and helping for each other. There’s got to be a better effort on that end. We can’t focus on our offense and try to outscore people."
Orlando had trouble at both ends Nov. 28 in the first meeting with Indiana, which didn’t have Roy Hibbert or George Hill because of injuries. Rodney Stuckey scored 24 and David West added 18 in a 98-83 victory that was the Pacers’ sixth in seven meetings.
Indiana (15-30) ranks near the bottom of the NBA in points per game (94.7) and shooting percentage (42.7) and shot just 41.0 percent in Friday’s 89-87 loss at Miami.
Hill returned from an 11-game absence with 13 points off the bench, but the Pacers lost for the fourth time on a five-game trip despite nearly rallying from a huge deficit.
"Lot of heart, lot of fight," coach Frank Vogel said. "We battled back in a game down 21 to give ourselves a chance to tie it up. Very proud of the group that did that."
The Pacers fell to 6-21 when trailing after the first quarter.
"We were very displeased with how we played in the first half," Vogel said. "I challenged them early on to get a little angry and we did. We started playing better. Clearly we have to start the game better."
C.J. Miles scored eight points in the first seven minutes against the Heat before leaving with a groin injury after Vogel placed him in the starting lineup ahead of Stuckey. It’s unclear if Miles will be able to play in this contest.