Posted by Royce Young
We were building to this point. At some point, the Magic and Hawks were going to rumble.
Finally it happened in Game 3 with 2:22 left in the fourth quarter. Zaza Pachulia fouled Dwight Howard hard, Howard flung his arms, Jason Richardson came to defend Howard after Pachulia took exception to Howard and off we went. Pachulia was right in Richardson's face apparently yelling "What? What?" and with the motion of his head seemed to headbutt Richardson. Immediately, Richardson threw and open-handed push to the face at Pachulia.
After the officials reviewed the play, both Pachulia and Richardson were ejected with "fighting" fouls. Howard was assessed a technical because of hanging his elbow out.
Obviously the NBA will review this incident and it's likely both Pachulia and Richardson will be hit with suspensions. Will the NBA punish Howard for the elbow? Remember that he was suspended a game in the postseason in 2009 for one, which was widely criticized.
Pachulia defended Howard extremely well in the post all game long, holding the MVP candidate to just 21 points. Howard averaged 39.5 the first two games. Pachulia is notorious for getting under player's skin and he certainly has with Howard. The follow-through from Howard was pretty clearly intentional and it set Pachulia off. Howard takes a beating every night and at times, does a poor job of containing his frustration. It set off this chain of events which will likely put Richardson and Pachulia on the bench for a big Game 4.
Atlanta went on to win 88-84 after a huge Jamal Crawford 3 to take a 2-1 series lead.