Jamal Crawford put the word "Highlight" in the "Highlight Factory." Zaza Pachulia and Jason Richardson put on their own little show, too. And the Atlanta Hawks finally exorcised those Game 3 demons.
Crawford connected on ridiculous banked 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds left to help the Hawks escape with an 88-84 win over the Orlando Magic in Game 3 of the first round matchup between the two clubs on Friday night at Philips Arena.
Zaza Pachulia and Jason Richardson were ejected for fighting down the stretch in a hotly contested game between two clubs looking for an edge in the series.
"I didn't call bank," he said at the post-game press conference. "I think the bank's closed right now. ... Actually I was looking for Joe (Johnson) or Al (Horford). I just tried to get to my comfort zone and get to my sweet shot. I felt comfortable getting there. Luckily, it went in."
In the end, it was the Hawks who will take a 2-1 lead in the playoff series. According to Fox Sports South, the Hawks snapped an eight-game Game 3 losing streak when going into that game in a series knotted at a 1-1 tie. The last time the Hawks won a game in that situation the team wasn't even in Atlanta. They were in St. Louis. The year? 1964.
"Feels great; feels good," Hawks center-turned-forward Al Horford said of the win. "We came out here and we played a really solid game throughout the game. This was our game. This was our game to win. We did it."
But getting to that win wasn't easy.
Brandon Bass nailed a jumper to post the Magic to a 84-83 lead with 1:01 left before Horford put Atlanta back ahead with a jumper on the other side of the floor. Atlanta ramped up its defense and got a huge stop in the ensuing possession, closing off the passing lane and forcing Hedo Turkoglu to take a tough 3-pointer.
Turkoglu missed and Josh Smith grabbed the rebound. Crawford lead Atlanta back down the floor. Orlando actually played some great defense, closing off the Atlanta sixth man's options to pass the ball as the 24-second clock ticked down near zero.
Crawford composed himself, eluded Jameer Nelson and banked a 3-pointer as the Philips Arena crowd erupted in a way that it hasn't since those three games here in first round of the 2008 playoffs against the Boston Celtics.
Off the glass, through the legs or from the Philips Arena rafters ala Michael Jordan-Larry Bird style -- it doesn't matter. The Hawks and their fans will take it -- as long as the ball goes through the hoop.
"It's one of those things where time stopped for a little bit," Horford told the Hawks television broadcast of Crawford's circus 3-pointer. "He's made that shot before. I'm just happy it went in."
Before a sellout home crowd all clad in white in "Dwight Out" conditions, the Hawks picked up the intensity. Zaza Pachulia was an absolute pest on Dwight Howard all night and things came to a boiling point down the stretch.
With Atlanta staked to an 81-79 lead with 2:22 left, Howard went to the post and Pachulia went in for the hack. Howard responded with an elbow to the throat. The Atlanta big from the Republic of Georgia started jawing for a technical on Howard.
Instead, Richardson got in Pachulia's face as the duo went behind the Orlando bucket. Pachulia threw a headbutt. Richardson followed with a slap and both were ejected. Dwight Howard also picked up a technical on the play. Suspensions could be looming for Pachulia and Richardson as there's an automatic one-game ban for throwing a punch.
"I just got (an) elbow (from Howard)," Pachulia told Nubyjas Wilborn of nobiasnobullsports.com in an interview posted on YouTube. "It was obvious, they called a technical. I tried to tell the refs. Honestly, I didn't see Richardson there. He came from behind me and things got bad there."
The Hawks came out of the gate in this one strong, scoring nine of the first 11 points before the Magic tied it at 25 through one quarter. Atlanta opened up a nine point edge at the break, but Orlando quickly got back into it in the third, tying the game at 55 in as Atlanta connected on just 2 of their first 14 shots in the frame.
"I think we settled way, way too much for the perimeter (shots) to start third quarter," Hawks coach Larry Drew said.
Crawford had 25 and Joe Johnson added 23 for the Hawks, who had 20 assists on 34 field goals.
Howard netted 21 and Richardson had 14 for the Magic, who connected on an Orlando series-high eight 3-point tries.