Despite more fluke shooting from Crawford, the Hawks played good-to-great offensively in every quarter except the third. Johnson jacked his fair share of long twos after going one-on-one, sure, but he also made a more concerted effort to drive the ball into Orlando’s defense. I [say] “into Orlando’s defense” instead of “to the basket” because he tossed in at least four floaters, and not any layups that I can remember, thus mitigating Howard’s shot-blocking presence.
Further, the team had great energy, particularly in the first half. They were quicker to loose balls and seemed to have a step or two on Orlando.
The physical play with no fouls may have finally gotten to Howard in the fourth quarter when he flung his elbow out and inadvertently(?) struck Pachulia after drawing a foul. Jason Richardson came in to protect his superstar and with Pachulia bobbing his head and hitting Richardson, Richardson gave him an open-hand to the face and a shoving match ensued. Both were ejected. Suspensions may be handed down, putting Orlando further behind in this fight, perhaps.
The Magic didn’t have Richardson on the floor for their last meaningful possession and it ended with Hedo Turkoglu launching a step-back, off-balanced 3-pointer with 30 seconds left on the game clock and 10 seconds remaining on the shot clock. Turkoglu (nine points) made just three of 11 shots and one of six tries from 3-point range, dropping his field goal percentage to 25 percent from the floor and 17.6 percent from 3-point range.
“A horrible shot, plenty of time left on the shot clock … just a horrible shot,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy fumed.’’
Richardson left the arena without speaking to reporters.
“If you get head-butted three times, you’re going to have some kind of reaction,” Howard said. “When a guy hits you — he head-butts you — it’s tough not to have a reaction. But, hopefully, they look at the whole thing. If he can’t play [in Game 4], then the other guys have got to step up.”
The Atlanta Hawks are only playing consistently well on one end of the floor (and then only when fielding a five-man unit capable of executing the sound defensive game plan) but, even that limited, consistent success marks them superior to an Orlando Magic team that, Dwight Howard (and for one half of six, Jameer Nelson) excepted, has struggled to score and been just susceptible enough to dribble penetration from Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson that the Atlanta guards have created enough good shots to augment their abilities to make difficult shots and to overcome their own team’s (self-inflicted) defensive lapses.
Jamal Crawford led the way for Atlanta with 23 points on 7-19 shooting. After struggling what seemed like the entire regular season, Crawford has been the difference in the first three games for the Hawks averaging over 20 points per game. The Hawks haven’t exactly been text book in their execution and Crawford’s ability to create and make a shot from virtually anywhere has been key. In addition to the dagger at the end of the game, Jamal recorded his first career playoff four-point play that followed two rather terrible possessions for the Hawks on offense. With Jamal you have to take the good with the bad. Hawks fans have to be happy that lately there has been more good than bad.
There were all there, in alarming number. All the things the Hawks fail to do, all the things the Hawks shouldn’t do, all of the things that have cost them games time and time again were all over the Philips Arena floor tonight.
The Magic forced the Hawks into all of their bad habits and it’s still 2-1, ATL.
Now Stan Van Gundy — who said he played Nelson too many minutes Friday — might have no choice but to play Arenas as either a point guard or a shooting guard in the wake of J-Rich’s likely one-game suspension.
J.J. Redick could start at shooting guard, although Quentin Richardson might be the better choice, given how the Magic have been torched by Hawks shooting guards Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford. They clearly have been the difference in the series, and Van Gundy has no answers.
And Turk? Good grief, what happened to Turk? He hit only 3-of-11 shots, 1-of-6 from 3-point range. And with the Magic trailing by 1 with 31 seconds left, he, for some unknown reason, decided to let loose with a 25-footer from the corner with Al Horford in his face. The shot missed badly and Atlanta’s Jamal Crawford banked in a 3-point prayer of his own to secure the victory and a 2-1 series lead for the Hawks.
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and ESPN 1080′s Magic Insider (http://espn1080.com). Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here).
Tags: Al Horford Atlanta Hawks Brandon Bass Chris Duhon Dwight Howard Earl Clark Gilbert Arenas Hedo Turkoglu J.j. Redick Jameer Nelson Jason Richardson Joe Johnson Josh Smith Kirk Hinrich Larry Drew Marvin Williams Orlando Magic Quentin Richardson Ryan Anderson Stan Van Gundy