Even when it was not a portrait of how to play basketball, the third game of the Hawks-Magic first-round playoff series was always intriguing. And, for a moment, it looked like ESPN2 might not have to air a boxing match for its Friday fight.
Oh yeah, and Atlanta won. The Hawks now hold a 2-1 lead in the series with two games left in Atlanta.
Yes, the fight requirement was almost fulfilled by a scuffle between the two teams late in the fourth quarter. As Dwight Howard drove to the basket, he was fouled by Atlanta's Zaza Pachulia. As they came back down to the floor, Howard alerted Pachulia to his displeasure by placing his forearm in Pachulia's face.
Pachulia apparently used words to alert the Magic to his displeasure, irritating Jason Richardson. Both of them shared their displeasure with each other in a more physical way, Pachulia with a quasi-head butt to Richardson and Richardson with a slap/shove to Pachulia's face.
Richardson and Pachulia were both ejected, the Hawks were given a free shot for Howard's technical foul (the forearm thing) and Howard was given two free shots for the personal foul from Pachulia that started the whole thing. After all that, the score stood at 81-80.
The teams then traded the lead four times before a three-point shot from Jamal Crawford with 5.7 seconds left gave the Hawks their final margin of victory.
Crawford led the Hawks with 23 points, followed by Joe Johnson with 21 and Josh Smith with 15. Al Horford, who disappeared from the box score for a long stretch starting in the first quarter, chipped in 13.
Dwight Howard was the leading scorer for the Magic, with 21. Richardson had 13 before his abrupt departure, Jameer Nelson had 13 and Brandon Bass added 10.