Losing Zaza Pachulia hurts the Hawks. Losing Jason Richardson hurts the Magic more. It’s pretty simple why.
Zaza is a sub splitting minutes at center, where the Hawks have other choices: Jason Collins is the starter in this lineup, and Al Horford has had some success at the position, having twice made the All-Star team. Richardson is a starter and was, at least during the regular season, the second-leading scorer on a team starving for options beyond Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson
Howard has averaged 33.3 points in this series, up nearly 10 over his regular-season yield. Of Orlando’s 92 baskets, he has 33. Nelson has 19. That means 56.5 percent of the Magic’s offense is coming from two players. That’s why the Hawks lead 2-1. The rest of the Magic men have been, in a word, lousy.
The trades the Magic made in December were bold in the sense general manager Otis Smith acknowledged his team as constituted couldn’t win an NBA title, but being bold isn’t always being smart. The Magic were clearly better with Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter and Mickael Pietrus and Marcin Gortat than with Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu and Gilbert Arenas. Better offensively, better defensively, better every which way.
Turkoglu has been the biggest dud. He was great as a point forward in Orlando’s run to the 2009 NBA finals, but after a stint in Toronto he’s half the player he was then. He has made 25 percent of his shots in this series, and his 3-point try over Al Horford with 30 seconds remaining Friday was, as coach Stan Van Gundy conceded more than once, a “horrible shot.”
Without Richardson, Turkoglu will need to shoot more. And somebody — J.J. Redick or Gilbert Arenas — will need to start. If it’s Redick, he’ll have to guard Joe Johnson, which is a howling mismatch. If it’s Arenas … well, Van Gundy rates him so highly he was deployed for six minutes in Game 2 and not at all in Game 3.
Howard worked 45 minutes and three seconds of Game 3. He sat only at the start of the second quarter, over which time the Magic were outscored 8-3. (The Hawks would win 88-84. Pretty big three minutes, those were.) Said Van Gundy: “He can’t even get a drink of water.”
Van Gundy also said: “We know who our guys [meaning scorers] are — Dwight, Jameer, Turk, J-Rich.” Only two of those have held up their end against the Hawks, and now one of the other two has been suspended for Game 4. Advantage, Hawks.
By Mark Bradley