Denton: Magic Ready For Critical Game 4

By John Denton
April 23, 2011

ATLANTA – Orlando Magic guard J.J. Redick flashed the bright, red wound on the inside of his left arm, offered to show the matching strawberry abrasion on his hip and admitted on Saturday that there are still times when he feels a stabbing pain from an abdominal strain injury.

But with his Magic shorthanded because of a suspension, rattled somewhat by a shooting slump and peering out of a 2-1 playoff hole courtesy of the Atlanta Hawks, Redick knows that now is no time for pity. He said his team should be feeling the urgency to deliver its finest performance come Sunday’s Game 4 at Philips Arena in Atlanta.

``There’s got to be a supreme sense of urgency now to play our best game of the season,’’ Redick said following the Magic’s film session and light practice on Saturday. ``It’s against a team that has a lot of confidence against us right now and is hungry. But we have to find a way to match and or exceed that and play well.’’

A Magic squad that’s struggled to score in the regular season and playoffs against the Hawks will be playing Sunday night without shooting guard Jason Richardson, Orlando’s second-leading scorer this season. He was suspended a game for Friday’s fourth-quarter fight with Atlanta center Zaza Pachulia. Richardson said the Magic clearly got the worst of that swap.

``Of course, they got the best out of it. Anybody can see that,’’ Richardson said after hearing of the suspension. ``I don’t know if that was the plan to get me out of there because I haven’t been playing that well in this series. But we’re a deep team and other guys will step up for us to get the win.’’

The Magic could start Redick in place of the suspended Richardson or put struggling guard Gilbert Arenas back in the rotation. Quentin Richardson might also see time at shooting guard because of his ability to check Atlanta star Joe Johnson. With Chris Duhon also questionable because of a badly sprained left ankle, Arenas will almost have to play as a reserve at either point guard or shooting guard.

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy found out about the suspension during Saturday’s practice and said he’s yet to decide what form of action he’d take with his rotation at shooting guard without Richardson. While he wasn’t surprised by the suspension, he was none too happy with it.

``What’s natural isn’t what the league is interested in,’’ Van Gundy said when asked if Richardson’s response to head butts from Pachulia were to be expected. ``The league’s philosophy is that – and it’s clear to everybody, coaches and players – is that who starts it and who retaliates doesn’t matter. They’re both equal and there’s equal punishment for the guy who starts it and the guy who retaliates. That’s the league’s philosophy.

``But they have come out and said – and they are one of the few teams honest enough – (Jason) Collins has said that every time Dwight (Howard) comes into the lane that they are going to hit him,’’ Van Gundy continued.

The Magic have taken some hits so far because of their offensive struggles against an Atlanta defense determined to guard Howard with one-on-one coverage while taking away the 3-point shot. Howard has had three big games and is averaging 33.3 points and 17.7 rebounds. But the offense around him has been a mess with the Magic shooting just 40.7 percent from the floor and 26 percent from the 3-point line.

Hedo Turkoglu used his playmaking skills to get the Magic back in Friday’s game after trailing by 14 points in the first half. Turkoglu had all four of his assists in the second half, but Van Gundy was critical of the small forward’s step-back 3-point shot with 30 seconds on the game clock and 10 on the shot clock.

Atlanta followed with a pick-and-roll jump shot from Al Horford and a banked-in 3-pointer from Jamal Crawford to defeat the Magic again. Turkoglu made just three of 11 shots on Friday, but Van Gundy wants him to stay aggressive and ready to shoot open shots.

``Until the last possession, we were riding Turk’s pick and rolls and we were scoring. If you’re not scoring, you’ll have second thoughts. But we were trading baskets,’’ Van Gundy said. ``We just didn’t get a good shot on that last possession. I thought (Turkoglu) had a pretty good look at a pull-up coming off the screen. He got it back (on the side), but I don’t know why he felt he had to get that one up because we had plenty of time. Before that, Turk was in pick-and-rolls with Dwight 15 times and we got great shots 13 of those times. Turk’s pick-and-roll game was really good, so we’ll stick with it.’’

Redick has stuck with it despite being rusty after missing the final 17 regular-season games with the lower abdominal strain. Those floor burns on his arm and hip came from Game 2 when Redick dived on the hardwood for a loose ball that he fed to point guard Jameer Nelson for a layup.

As the likely starter Sunday night in place of Richardson, Redick knows he has his work cut out trying to contest shots against the 6-foot-7 Johnson and trying to stay in front of the cat-quick Crawford. Admittedly, Redick is far from being 100 percent healthy, but he knows that now is no time to hold back what with the Magic facing a 2-1 deficit.

``I’m able to go and I don’t have any limitations. I’m not saying I don’t feel it sometimes, but it’s very limited,’’ Redick said. ``I’ll be 100 percent in the offseason and now’s not the time to worry about a little bit of pain. It hasn’t bothered me one iota in terms of my movement, so I’ll be ready to go.’’

John Denton writes for E-mail John at Submit a question to John for his mailbag segment at