By John Denton
January 20, 2013

ORLANDO – A month ago, when the Orlando Magic were a win away from .500 and playing their best basketball of the season, they ranked in the NBA’s top 10 defensively and often relied on their ability to get key stops in crunch time.

While injuries are partly to blame for the Magic’s slide since mid-December, slippage on the defensive end is the primary reason why Orlando seems to have more questions than answers now.

Orlando got shredded defensively in the first half and despite a valiant comeback to get back in the game, the inability to get critical stops late in the game led to a 111-105 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

The Magic (14-26) lost a second consecutive game and for the third time in the past four games. Dallas shot 50 percent, made eight 3-pointers and got a back-breaking 3-pointer from Darren Collison with 31 seconds to play after Orlando had pulled within 104-102.

``Guys will figure it out in time when you get tired of losing,’’ Magic guard Arron Afflalo said of the Magic’s sagging defense. ``When it (infuriates) you enough you’ll start to make the adjustments individually to your own game to apply it to the team to help us win. It just takes time. We just have to put more effort into it.’’

The Magic have yielded 100 or more points in eight of the past 10 games. Two of those games went into overtime, but still Orlando is having trouble getting back to the gritty defense that it played earlier in the year when it was 13-14 after 27 games.

``We’ll continue to work,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. ``We’ll continue to work and that’s our best approach. We’ve been there (in the top 10 defensively), so we know that this team is capable. We’ll continue to stress all the good things we’ve been doing and continue to work to get back to that place.’’

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