Denton's Notebook: April 26, 2011

By John Denton
April 26, 2011


ORLANDO – Watching Sunday night’s unsightly Game 4 loss at the team hotel gave Orlando Magic shooting guard Jason Richardson a dramatically different perspective. It’s one that he didn’t enjoy and never wants to have again.

Suspended for his skirmish with Zaza Pachulia in the fourth quarter of Game 3, Richardson wasn’t allowed in the NBA on Sunday night and had to watch the game on TV from afar. Richardson said he feels like he did what he had to do when Pachulia head-butted him three times with a retaliatory punch, but he also feels like he let his teammates down by not being at their side Sunday night.

Orlando made just two of 23 3-pointers on Sunday and certainly could have used Richardson, the NBA’s leader in 3-point makes and attempts this season. Not being with the team made Richardson feel helpless.

``It was frustrating. Watching the game, you could see different things and see it from a different perspective. I was like a player-coach where I know I was a part of the team, but I wasn’t in the game,’’ he said. ``We did a lot of things right and a lot of things wrong. It was frustrating seeing my teammates out there and knowing that I couldn’t battle with them.’’

Pachulia, an eight-year NBA veteran, still fondly remembers his rookie season in 2003-04 when his gritty, hard-nosed style of play made him a fan favorite. But he knew that Magic fans would likely unleash their fury upon him Tuesday night after he fought with Richardson.

``I always thought it was important how you start your career and that first year in Orlando I was voted the fan favorite. It was official. That sort of made me fall in love with the NBA,’’ Pachulia said. ``But tonight I’ll go from fan favorite to the most player here.’’

COMEBACK CONFIDENCE: The Magic went into Tuesday’s game knowing that eight teams in history have pulled off comebacks from 3-1 deficits in best-of-seven series. Of those eight, three went on to win NBA championships and six won the following series. And another common theme is that among the eight come-from-behind teams, six were the higher seed.

Magic superstar center Dwight Howard, who also doubles as the Magic captain, has been preaching to his team that it has to believe to pull off this comeback. Howard also feels that the Magic would shock the basketball world after winning Tuesday night.

``Right now, all we need is this one game. We get this one (Tuesday night) and we’re going to win the whole thing,’’ Howard said. ``We just go out and play hard for 48 minutes and good things usually happen for us.’’

BENEFITS OF STRESS: Much was made early in the season of Van Gundy’s vow to exercise more this season and drop some pounds. And he said Tuesday that he’s run on the treadmill or elliptical machine every day since Sept. 2, the start of training camp for the Magic.

He’s dropped more than 20 pounds this season by slightly altering his diet and working out on a daily basis. And since the playoffs started he said he’s down another 5 pounds, but it has little to do with his workout regimen.

``I’ve been on it every day and I haven’t missed a day since the second of September,’’ Van Gundy said. ``The playoffs have had me drop another five or six, but I don’t know if it’s been by the way that I’d prefer. Less sleep and less eating and not having much time has helped me drop a little more in the playoffs.’’

ETC: Atlanta’s Joe Johnson, who entered Tuesday’s game averaging 20 points a game in the playoffs, said he’s taken great satisfaction from redeeming himself from a horrid four games against the Magic last spring. Johnson averaged just 12.9 points on 29 percent shooting in four playoff losses to the Magic last April. Said Johnson: ``It’s been fun and it’s given me a chance to redeem myself against the team that we struggled with last year in the playoffs.’’ … Van Gundy compared reserve guard Gilbert Arenas to Tim Hardaway, who once revived his career in Miami after a series of knee injuries in Golden State. Said Van Gundy: ``As you get older and have to deal with injuries to remain a great player you have to sometimes make adjustments. In Miami he didn’t have the same quickness and he learned to adjust his game and became a first-team All-NBA player again. Guys like Gilbert and Tim Hardaway, they’ve been used to having incredible quickness their whole lives. Gilbert will learn to make those adjustments.’’ … Howard received the commemorative basketballs from the 2011 NBA All-Star Game (signed by all of the participants) and the ball from the game when he scored his 10,000th career point earlier this season. Howard planned to put them in his ever-expanding trophy case. … Tuesday’s game was the 11th closeout game of Van Gundy’s head coaching career in Orlando and Miami. He was 5-5 in the previous 10 games before Tuesday night.

John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. E-mail John at jd41898@aol.com. Submit a question to John for his mailbag segment at AskJD@orlandomagic.com.