TORONTO — It takes a lot to anger coach Jacque Vaughn.
But the Orlando Magic found a way Sunday.
They played terribly at the start of a game. Again.
After a miserable first quarter, the Magic played even worse in the fourth and lost a winnable game against the Toronto Raptors 97-86 at Air Canada Centre.
"There's no other way we're going to win if we're not prepared," Vaughn said afterward. "If we're not ready to play at the start of the game and committed at the start of the game — not waiting to halftime and what happens after halftime — then we won't have a chance."
The Raptors led by 13 points in the opening period as the Magic mixed up defensive assignments, committed a few lazy turnovers and played without focus.
It was the seventh game this season in which the Magic trailed an opponent by at least eight points in the first quarter.
"It takes us a while to get into the game for some reason," said Glen Davis, who then let out a loud sigh.
"I don't know why, but it takes us a little bit to go," he continued. "I don't know why we have to be down to get it going. I don't know. We've got to find it."
The Magic knew they would face an overall talent disadvantage in most games this season, but they hoped they would make up for that disparity by playing hard and by being prepared.
On Sunday, they faced an additional obstacle.
J.J. Redick, their second-leading scorer and perhaps their best passer, sat out because he suffered from flu-like symptoms.
But offense wasn't the primary problem for Orlando (3-6) against Toronto (3-7).
The Magic didn't guard anyone when it mattered most.
The Raptors made 54.5 percent of their shots in the first quarter and 54.5 percent of their shots again in the fourth quarter.
Arron Afflalo thought he and his teammates concentrated too much on generating shots and too little on carrying out their defensive gameplan.
"Whenever we're offensive-minded as a team and we're not focused defensively, we usually go down 10 or 20," Afflalo said.
"We're not focused defensively in the beginning of the game. That's it. We're thinking about points. We're thinking about whatever we're thinking about instead of thinking about stops. Winning teams think about stops. That's it. There's no other way to put it."
Toronto's Jose Calderon and DeMar DeRozan took advantage of that mindset. Calderon distributed a game-high 18 assists, while DeRozan scored a game-high 20 points.
Still, the Magic slowly eroded the Raptors' lead and went ahead 67-66 late in the third quarter on a driving layup by Jameer Nelson.
Nelson's return from injury was supposed to help the Magic finish games — and it did help in Friday's win over Detroit — but the Raptors pulled away even with him on the court.
Nelson reentered the game with 8:29 remaining in regulation, and Orlando immediately went ahead 74-73 on two free-throws by E'Twaun Moore.
From that point on, Orlando made just four of its 12 shot attempts.
"When they went on their little run, we did not let that get to us," DeRozan said. "We didn't get discouraged."
The Raptors celebrated the victory in front of an announced crowd of 18,702 by spraying red, white and black confetti onto the court.
After the game ended, Vaughn did a slow burn as he described what went wrong.
He had reason to feel upset.
His team's start — more than its finish — irked him.
A pattern has developed. For the fourth time in their last six games, the Magic trailed an opponent by double digits in the first quarter.
"We have to be ready," Vaughn said. "We have to understand what coverage we're in at the start of the game and stay focused and stay in it and do it every single time. Every single time."Copyright © 2015, CT Now