Around the Association presented by AirTran Airways - Game 3 vs. Hawks
In a contest that featured so many twists and turns in the fourth quarter, it was Atlanta that found a way to squeeze out a triumph over Orlando in Game 3 on Friday and take a 2-1 series advantage.
Jamal Crawford banked in a dagger straightaway 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds remaining to extend the Hawks’ lead to four and essentially end any hope for the Magic.
Jameer Nelson and Brandon Bass each buried go-ahead jumpers in the final two minutes, but Atlanta had an answer every time on the other end. Al Horford connected on perhaps the game’s most critical shot when he knocked down a jumper with 46 seconds left to give the Hawks an 85-84 lead.
Dwight Howard led Orlando with 21 points and 15 rebounds, while Nelson contributed 13 points and 10 assists.
In all three games of this series, the Magic have not had the range from long distance. Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson, who was ejected late in the fourth following an altercation with Zaza Pachulia, combined to shoot 3-of-12 from 3-point range.
Orlando will try to even up this best-of-seven First Round series on Sunday when it clashes with Atlanta in Game 4 at 7 p.m.
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Sometimes it comes in the form of a right hook. Other times it’s an uppercut. In the case of the Orlando Magic’s Game 3 road loss to the Atlanta Hawks, it came courtesy of a sucker punch.
With time winding down and Orlando trailing by one, Atlanta’s Jamal Crawford rose over suffocating defense by Orlando’s Jameer Nelson and managed to acrobatically bank in an unquestionably lucky trey to give the Hawks a four-point advantage with 5.7 seconds left, which ultimately dug the Magic into a 2-1 First Round series hole.
“I think Jamal Crawford’s shot was lucky and an angel had to be sitting next to him that let that one go in,” a baffled Dwight Howard explained.
With Nelson pressed hard into Crawford, the perennial Sixth Man of the Year candidate somehow managed to rise up and find enough space to drain that miraculous bucket.
“I don’t know what else I could have done defensively, I just think the guy made a tough shot,” the Magic’s point guard said. “I guarantee he didn’t mean to bank the shot.”
It’s safe to say you could take that guarantee to the bank.
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It just seemed logical to believe that the trio of Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas – all renowned in their careers for being superlative offensive players but imperfect defenders -- were acquired to boost the team’s offensive capabilities.
Immediately following the deals when Orlando strung together nine consecutive victories, this theory seemed totally accurate. Most of the time, at least five and sometimes six or seven Magic players would score in double figures.
But somewhere along the way and certainly during the first three games of this year’s playoffs, Orlando’s offense has seemed incomplete and inefficient. Somewhat amusing, however, is that the Magic’s defense has been superb.
On Friday during a Game 3 loss, Turkoglu shot 3-of-11 from the field, J-Rich went 4-of-10 before being ejected late and Arenas did not play (coach’s decision).
Orlando, nonetheless, did limit Atlanta to just 42 percent shooting from the floor and seemed to cause the Hawks to fluster throughout the second half.
It will be imperative in Game 4 – which many would suggest is a “must-win” for the Magic considering the few number of times a team has overcome a 3-1 series deficit in NBA history – to coalesce their defensive ascendancy with offensive augmentation.
Even though it’s not an elimination game for Orlando, it is critical. The coaches know it, the players know it and the entire league knows it.
Only eight teams in NBA history have overcome a 3-1 series deficit and this is certainly not the kind of chronicle the Magic want to try and register.
This series, nonetheless, is already starting to remind me of Orlando’s First Round series against Philadelphia two years ago.
After the Magic and 76ers split the first two games of the series in Orlando, Philly won Game 3 on a last-second shot (Thaddeus Young connected on a layup).
After that heartbreaking defeat, however, Orlando regained momentum in the series and won the next three to finish the Sixers in six games before ultimately advancing to the NBA Finals.
It would be fitting if Hedo Turkoglu, who drilled a game-winning 3-pointer in Game 4 of that series against Philadelphia, has a monster performance in Game 4 of this series against Atlanta.
Only time will tell what will transpire.
Case and point: The Magic’s Game 3 in Atlanta.
After flopping around the court like a fish out of water, attempting to draw foul after foul on Magic All-Star center Dwight Howard, a frustrated Pachulia chose to respond not by attempting to outshine Orlando’s Superman, but instead by head-butting shooting guard Jason Richardson.
Way to take on someone your own size Zaza.
Instead of just attempting to increase his energy level following an assessed foul on Howard and rather than looking to beat Orlando on the scoreboard, Pachulia chose to beat his head three times off the forehead of J-Rich.
Now that’s what you call class.
Subsequently, Richardson reacted by attempting to create space between the attacking Pachulia and his forehead and as a result suffered the same fate: an ejection from the game.
While Zaza walks that aforementioned fine line on a daily basis, it’s clear that on Friday night he jumped over it with both feet.