Denton's Notebook: March 30, 2011

By John Denton
March 30, 2011

ATLANTA – The Orlando Magic, winners by a combined playoff-record 101 points in a four-game sweep of Atlanta last spring, greeted the Hawks’ talk of Wednesday’s showdown being ``a statement game’’ with a collective yawn.

With the Magic likely locked into the Eastern Conference’s fourth seed and the Hawks almost assuredly positioned at fifth, the two Southeast Division rivals are almost certainly headed for a showdown in the first round of the playoffs in mid-April. The two teams played last May in the second round and the Magic cruised through the Hawks in a four-game breeze.

While that memory is still painful to several Hawks players, the Magic doubted that much could be gained from Wednesday’s regular-season meeting in Atlanta. After all, there are still seven regular-season games left to be played and there’s little meaning attaching to Wednesday night’s game for a Magic team that’s simply trying to get over a recent rash of injuries.

``For us, it’s not about saying that it’s a statement game because our concerns are to get back to playing better and playing healthier basketball,’’ Magic point guard Jameer Nelson said. ``I’m pretty sure we can’t win a playoff series (Wednesday night) by winning this game.’’

Several of Atlanta’s top players vowed that they have gained confidence out of winning two of the first three meetings against the Magic during the regular season. One of those wins, however, came two days after the Magic had traded for Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, Gilbert Arenas and Earl Clark and had yet to have a practice.

Atlanta guard Joe Johnson, who struggled mightily last spring against the Magic and said that ``Orlando pretty much embarrassed us,’’ added that Wednesday’s game would go a long way toward sending a message to the Magic that the Hawks were a different team.

``It’s a potential first-round matchup and we want to make a statement,’’ Johnson said. ``We want to go into the playoffs with some momentum and let (the Magic) know that it won’t be easy when they see us in the playoffs.’’

Added Atlanta’s Jamal Crawford: ``What Orlando did to us in the playoffs pretty much stayed with us the whole summer and even in training camp guys were still talking about that. Our season ended so abruptly that people almost forgot that we had a good year. But we want to show the Magic that things will be different this time around.’’

POINT GUARD ADDITIONS: Magic point guard Chris Duhon is scheduled to see an orthopedic surgeon and a hand specialist on Thursday about his badly sprained right thumb. Duhon, who was still wearing a splint on Wednesday, suffered the injury Monday against the Knicks when his thumb was pulled back almost to his wrist.

If the Magic’s fears are realized – that Duhon has ligament damage in the joint – the team could be looking to add another point guard in the coming days.

``We’ve talked about it, but I don’t know what we’ll do,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said of his talks with President of Basketball Operations/GM Otis Smith. ``We need it for practice situations, too. It’s just frustrating for me because we’re just not getting anything done (in practice).’’

The Magic have Nelson and Gilbert Arenas at point guard and point forward Hedo Turkoglu can shoulder the ball-handling duties from time to time because of his pick-and-roll talents.

The Magic curiously didn’t have Quentin Richardson Wednesday night because of lingering issues with back spasms. Richardson missed games last Friday and on Monday with pain in his lower back, but he was supposed to work out on Tuesday and be available against the Hawks.

But Richardson didn’t participate in the Wednesday morning shootaround, and Van Gundy said he was given no indication of a setback from Head Athletic Trainer Keon Wise as it relates to Richardson’s back injury.

LONG MEMORIES: While the Magic put little stock into how much weight a win against the Hawks would carry come playoff time, they did enter Wednesday night with some revenge in mind.

When the Magic were last in Atlanta, it was two days after the blockbuster trades with Phoenix and Washington and Orlando’s players might as well have been playing with nametags on their jerseys. Orlando had yet to practice and had just a couple of plays installed and it showed – the Magic scored just 81 points and shot 35 percent.

What particularly rankled many of the Magic players was the way with which the Hawks celebrated the December victory. Josh Smith and Marvin Williams had alley-oop dunks late in the game and seemed to take particular delight in showing up the new-look Magic.

``We were like a new AAU team out there because nobody knew the plays or the defensive assignments,’’ Nelson remembered. ``We were just out there playing together (for the first time) and they rubbed it in a little bit. They were showboating and celebrating a lot and that’s one thing that we do remember.’’

ETC: Howard just shook his head in frustration on Wednesday when he was told that the NBA did not rescind his 17th technical foul of the season for rolling the basketball to the other end of the floor during overtime of the loss in New York. Howard had hoped the play would be ruled a delay of game violation – the usual call by officials – but it stood as a technical and wasn’t overturned by the NBA league office. The 17th technical foul cost Howard an additional $5,000 in fine money. He’s already been fined $205,000 this season for the technical fouls, and an 18th technical foul would result in a second one-game suspension. … Many of those on the Magic’s support staff received a scare late Monday night when one of the team’s busses had to come to a screeching, swerving stop on the New Jersey Turnpike to avoid a wrecked car that had been spun in the opposite direction. And just seconds after the passenger in the car was pulled away from the wreckage, the car was slammed into by an oncoming vehicle. The Magic bus, which didn’t have any players on board, stayed at the scene of the accident for nearly an hour, delaying the departure for Atlanta until almost 2 a.m. … Nelson, who returned to action Wednesday night after injuring his left knee last Friday against New Jersey, felt fortunate that he suffered only a sprain. Nelson was able to pull his leg back some before Jordan Farmar fell into his knee, causing the join to hyperextend. Said Nelson: ``It could have been much worse and I was very lucky that I caught it at the last second. It was a freakish play, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and I was fortunate to get out of the way when I did.’’ … Referee Nick Buchert, a recent call-up from the NBA’s Developmental League, hails from Orlando and worked Wednesday’s Hawks-Magic game.

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