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Magic vs. Thunder notebook: Jacque Vaughn wants Orlando to play with more "hostility" and "nastiness"

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In the wake of Sunday's embarrassing loss, the third-year coach said he his team to be the aggressors.

Jacque Vaughn
Jacque Vaughn
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Magic made the wrong kind of history Sunday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, yielding a franchise-record high 79 points in the first half of a 127-99 defeat. OKC led from tip to horn--by as much as 38 points--as the Magic dropped to 5-14 at Amway Center.

"I thought overall they just gave us a early on punch from a very good group of men in that other locker room," said Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn following the game. "They made shots, they got in transition, [and] a lot of things went their way. We responded a bit in the second half, but they put their foot down pretty early."

Indeed, Oklahoma City opened the game on a 13-0 spurt, burying the home team a little more than three minutes in. Serge Ibaka drilled two of the Thunder's three three-pointers in that stretch, opening driving lanes for the likes of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant later on.

Here's some of what went down Sunday.

Vaughn displeased

In arguably his most animated postgame news conference of his two-plus-year Magic tenure, Vaughn challenged his team to play with more "hostility" in the future.

"I want confrontation, I want hostility, I want aversion, I want nastiness, I want all of the above for us to grow as a team." Jacque Vaughn

"I want confrontation, I want hostility, I want aversion, I want nastiness, I want all of the above for us to grow as a team," said Vaughn. "I do not have to like the guy that I'm competing against. That's okay."

Orlando certainly could have played more physically Sunday: in their brilliant first half, the Thunder shot 13-of-13 in the restricted area and 27-of-30 from two-point range overall. OKC also held a 27-15 edge on the glass before intermission.

"We just gotta come out and play harder, man," said Victor Oladipo, whose 23 points led the Magic Sunday. "They were the aggressors today. They set the tone. I gotta do a better job of making sure we're ready to play."

"They just brought it to us from the beginning," center Nikola Vucevic said, echoing Vaughn and Oladipo. "They kept throwing punches at us all game and we never responded."

On one occasion, the Magic did stand up to the Thunder's more aggressive style: in the third quarter, Vucevic drew a technical foul for shoving OKC center Steven Adams in a dead-ball situation. But for most of the night, the Thunder took what was theirs, meeting little or no resistance from the hosts.

Fast pace here to stay

The most noteworthy development in Orlando's season to date: its sudden commitment to playing at a faster tempo. After spending much of Vaughn's tenure as a half-court offensive team, the Magic have switched gears, prizing transition opportunities and hoping to keep opponents scrambling.

That philosophical change appears permanent: Vaughn said he would not consider directing the team to play its former style, a conclusion with which Oladipo agrees.

"We can't defer, we can't go back to the way we were playing," he said. "No matter what happens... [if] we lose by 100, we still gotta play the next game."

Aaron Gordon, who watched from the sidelines Orlando's philosophical shift as he rehabilitated a broken bone in his foot, thinks the change is for the better.

"Our tempo was slow," he said, "and now that our tempo's up, we look a lot better as a team."

Pressed for specifics, the Arizona product offered this response: "Because we're young and we're athletic. We can run. We can jump. Some other teams can't do that."

Orlando's trouble Sunday started with one aspect of playing at a faster pace, specifically regarding defending more often in transition.

"Their ability for four guys to basically get out and start the break [was] pretty hard for us to guard," Vaughn said. "So that's an area that is extremely random."

And randomness, as Vaughn would go on to say, is difficult to "replicate" in practice situations. "A lot of it is being in those situations over and over again, being able to communicate with each other," he said. With no reliable way to drill for transition defense, Orlando's performance in that area might continue to suffer until it gains significant experience playing at this faster style.

Gordon comfortable in return

Sunday marked Gordon's first game since November 15th, after which outing he discovered he had a broken bone in his left foot. Though he didn't turn in an eye-popping performance in his first appearance in nearly half a season, he mostly acquitted himself well, with eight points, three rebounds, and one assist in 12 minutes off the bench. Vaughn turned Gordon loose for the final 7:13 of Sunday's game, a sound choice, given that it afforded the rookie to log extended minutes and gain a level of comfort playing on his surgically repaired foot.

Vaughn praised Gordon for "try[ing] to mix things up for us by getting physical" in Gordon's first game back. For his part, the young forward said he felt "fine."

"I was a little bit winded at the very beginning," he said. Later, he added that he's not at all concerned about his foot.

"When I'm out there playing, that's not even on my mind."

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