How big is Game 3? Said Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy, speaking minutes ago: “You win and you’re up 2-1.”
Well, yes. More from Van Gundy: “People want it to mean something psychologically. Heck, it means something mathematically.”
Well, yes. But the psychic dimensions of this game for the home team are immense. Win and the Hawks will go some distance toward proving Game 1 was no fluke. Lose and they’ll travel just as far in the wrong direction.
The belief here is that Game 1 was no fluke. It’s a belief buttressed in reality: The Hawks beat the Magic three times of four in the regular season, and then they went to Orlando and won once and nearly won again.
Said Larry Drew, the Hawks’ coach: “We feel very confident.”
They should. They’re better than Orlando. They have the better starting five — you’d give Orlando the nod at center and point guard — and the better subs. And I’m not alone in this feeling. Jeff Van Gundy, Stan’s announcer brother, has taken to saying on-air that the Hawks are more talented than the Magic.
Informed of his sibling’s stance, Stan Van Gundy said: “That’s of no consequence.”
Tonight’s game is a far bigger deal for the Hawks than the Magic. Orlando needs to win once here over the weekend to reclaim the homecourt edge. If it loses Game 3, there’s still Game 4. But for the home side …
This is the prove-it game. This is the night to prove a series in which almost nobody – present company excepted — gave the Hawks a chance is theirs to take. This is the night to banish bitter memories of wretched home losses to Orlando in Round 2 last spring. For the Hawks, this is a massive night both psychologically and mathematically.
And with that, the floor is again yours. (Until I feel like saying something else, which I’m fairly sure I will.) I invite you to sit next to me — psychologically if not physically — as Game 3 unfolds. And if you’re asking me who will win, I’m saying the Hawks.
By Mark Bradley