The Atlanta Hawks and Orlando Magic are sounding like they are two teams that are starting to not like each other very much. Of course, that's to be expected when you have a series that has been as physical as it has been so far with so much on the line.
The Hawks and Magic continue their best-of-seven set without Zaza Pachulia and Jason Richardson on Easter Sunday night at Philips Arena (7:00 p.m., TNT, SportSouth, 97.9 FM).
One day after Pachulia landed a couple of head-butts and Richardson retaliated with one of those open-handed NBA-style quasi-girl slaps, the league came down hard, suspending both players for Game 4. But you have a feeling from the media availability on Saturday, it's not just Richardson and Pachulia that are growing tired of playing each other.
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy called out Pachulia and fellow center Jason Collins for "flopping" while covering, pestering, annoying, hacking, grinding down former Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy star Dwight Howard.
Things were decisively different in the other locker room, where the talk was about how Howard likes to throw an elbow or two after getting fouled in the lane. Not surprising, since it was an errant elbow by Howard that ignited the mele between Pachulia and Richardson with 2:22 remaining in a game ultimately won 88-84 by Atlanta when Jamal Crawford with a ridiculous banked 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds left.
That gave the Hawks a 2-1 lead in the series and set up as close to a must-win non-elimination game as possible for the Magic, who will be without one of their best players and 3-point threats in Richardson. Richardson was second on the team in scoring in the regular season and has been primarily tasked with guarding Atlanta All-Star Joe Johnson.
Plan "B" for Orlando may even include a Gilbert Arenas siting, although Van Gundy wouldn't tip his hand at Saturday's press conference. The Magic did not use the reserve guard in Game 3.
Replacing Pachulia should be a little bit easier for Atlanta. Sure, you don't want to lose the intensity of the Atlanta big, who covered, pestered, annoyed, hacked and ground down Howard in Game 3. However, Atlanta can just ask Jason Collins, Etan Thomas and Josh Powell to basically do the same thing.
Thomas was back in Atlanta on Saturday after missing Game 3 to go to his grandmother's funeral.
Expect another physical game between these two clubs, but look for Johnson to get a few extra looks in Richardson's absence. As always, this game will turn on Atlanta's ability to go inside-out and Orlando's ability to make shots from the perimeter.
Both teams fared better in those respective categories in their contest on Friday. The Hawks had 20 assists on 34 field goals, while the Magic netted a series-best eight 3-pointers.