MIAMI - Mike Bibby got cracked in the nose and poked in the eye.
Josh Smith got the skin on the side of his face scratched off in three places.
Joe Johnson finished the game hobbling and was later spotted with his right foot in a bucket of ice before he was sent off to get examined to determine the extent of the damage.
Everyone saw Zaza Pachulia’s right eye, darkened around the edges by an unidentified flying object (or an errant elbow) that he doesn’t remember connecting.
Even Hawks equipment man extraordinaire Zac Walsh went down during the game (food poisoning) and was reportedly left behind at a local hospital to recover.
Oh, yeah, the Hawks paid the price for their monumental 81-71 Game 4 win at AmericanAirlines Arena a couple hours ago.
They paid dearly.
And they’d gladly do it again and again and again, if it means snatching back home court advantage in their first round playoff series against the Miami Heat every time.
Things got physical Monday night and the Hawks rose to the challenge, leading from start to finish in a wild game that could eventually define their season.
Obviously, there’s plenty of work still to be done.
But none of it would be possible without what on Monday night.
“Well, it’s 2-2 in the series and you say that we have the home court advantage now,” said Pachulia, the Hawks’ Game 4 hero, “but we did have home court advantage after Game 1 and everybody thought we were going to win two games at home. But we lost [Game 2] at home. We still have to win two more games. We have to use our advantage and play the same way we played [to win Game 4].”
If that means sacrificing their bodies again, so be it.
“Well, it wasn’t obvious when it happened,” Pachulia said of his black eye, “and it happened in Game 3. I just felt it burning during the game and then I touched my eye and it was already swollen. But watching the tape I think happened on the rebound when me and James Jones were fighting for it. It happens, though, I look like Rocky Balboa.”
Pachulia set the tone with his rugged play early. And the Heat felt it, particularly Heat center Jermaine O’Neal, who couldn’t push the bigger Pachulia around the way he did Al Horford in Games 2 and 3.
“He was tough down there,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Pachulia. “He was pretty much doing everything in traffic. Bodies were flying. Loose balls, he seemed like he came up with every one of them. He had a major impact on the game. Eighteen rebounds … he played very well.”
Well enough to help the Hawks’ bench crew outscore the Heat’s reserves a whopping 25-2. This after being outscored 37-20 in Game 3.
“They made all the plays,” Jones said. “Zaza was the guy who every time they needed a big play, he made it. Whether it was a rebound, a tip or a layup, he was the momentum breaker tonight and i think he kind of sealed our fate.”
NOT THAT THE HAWKS DIDN’T TRY and give this one away with their inexplicable power failure just before halftime.
Leading by 21 points (44-23) with 4:37 to play before the break, the Hawks watched the Heat go on a 19-2 run to pull to within four points, 46-42 at halftime – and that includes those crazy four-point plays in 11 seconds by Jones to energize the crowd and frighten Hawks fans around the globe.
But the Hawks never surrendered their lead. They kept their composure in a hostile environment, showcasing a mettle and maturity that had been lacking previously.
“We played defense like we did in Game 1,” Smith said. “We just got after them the whole game. We took control of the game from the tip and we had to do that to get the fans out of it early. Fighting through adversity shows the character of this team. That was a big win for us.”
BACK-TO-BACK wins for Wade’s team produced back spasms for the Heat superstar Monday night.
That might explain his 9-for-26 shooting effort, and yes, it was as dismal as it looked on the stat sheet. But how bad was Wade’s back if he could find a way to launch 26 shots?
As bad as his back was, the Hawks’ defense on Wade was that sound.
“We just switched off the pick-and-rolls,” Johnson said. “We even had our [centers] out there guarding him at times.”
Now comes the hard part, doing it again Wednesday night in Game 5.