J-Rich Suspended For Sunday's Game 4

By John Denton
April 23, 2011

ATLANTA – Orlando Magic shooting guard Jason Richardson and Atlanta reserve center Zaza Pachulia were both suspended for Sunday night’s Game 4 following a heated fight in the fourth quarter of the Hawks’ Game 3 victory.

Pachulia fouled Magic star Dwight Howard on a move to the basket and then reacted angrily when Howard flung his elbow back and hit the Hawks’ center in the jaw and neck. Richardson then confronted Pachulia, who repeatedly head-butted the Magic guard as the two jawed at one another. Richardson then shoved Pachulia in the face with his left hand, resulting in the suspension.

``He walked up on me and head-butted me a couple of time and it’s just a reaction. What do you want to do -- walk away? If that was done again I’d do it again and that’s just how it goes. It is what it is and I just have to get ready for Game 5,’’ Richardson said Saturday after finding out about the suspension. ``Personally, no (it’s not fair) because I’m just reacting and protecting myself. In a heated situation I’d want anybody else to do the same thing. If somebody is in your face and head-butting you, you have to get them off of you. But that’s the rule and it’s unfair, but it is what it is.’’

Both players were immediately ejected from Friday’s game. Howard was hit with a technical foul on the play, but did not receive any further punishment. It’s his second technical foul of the playoffs. Richardson said the Magic clearly got the worse of the suspensions because those lose a starter, while the Hawks will be without a reserve.

``Of course they got the best out of it. Anybody can see that,’’ Richardson said. ``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.’’

Richardson said he was coming to the defense of Howard, who has been repeatedly whacked throughout the series.

``That’s my teammate and it’s been going on all series with guys playing real dirty,’’ Richardson said. ``I have to do a better job of keeping my emotions in because that’s the one thing I did wrong. But I feel like I acted in a way that anybody else would with somebody in their face. I’d don’t know what all was said because it was the heat of the moment, but I was telling him that he needed to calm down because he was doing too much.’’

The Hawks lead the best-of-seven series 2-1. Game 4 is Sunday night at 7 p.m. at Atlanta’s Philips Arena.

For a Magic team already struggling to score and make jump shots, losing Richardson is another blow. In the first three games of the series, Richardson has averaged 8.7 points while shooting 30 percent from the floor and 26.7 percent from the 3-point line.

The Magic could start reserve J.J. Redick or benched guard Gilbert Arenas. Redick had eight points in 21 minutes on Friday, but has shot just 30 percent in the series after missing the final 17 games of the regular season with a lower abdominal strain.

``Not just Gilbert, but the whole team will step up. We’re a deep team and we have each other’s backs,’’ Richardson said. ``When somebody goes down with illness or injury or Dwight is out suspended, we pick our games up. I don’t expect anything less from these guys and we’ll try to go and get the win.’’

The loss of the 7-foot Pachulia could also hurt the Hawks. Pachulia played a big role defensively in limiting Howard to 21 points on Friday night. Starter Jason Collins, who didn’t play much in the second half on Friday after bruising his tailbone, said he will play Sunday night.

The Hawks will likely use Josh Powell, Hilton Armstrong and/or Etan Thomas off the bench to defend Howard in Game 4.

Richardson, who is not allowed to be in the arena Sunday, said he’ll watch the game from the team hotel in downtown Atlanta.

``It will be tough not being out there in a playoff situation playing,’’ Richardson said. ``I’m not sorry for what I did, but I feel bad that I’m not out there for my teammates. I’m always there for my teammates, but they understand the situation.’’

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.