Hawks-Magic gets testy

Series heated after Game 3 altercation

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ATLANTA --- Stan Van Gundy says he's getting tired of all the flopping by Atlanta's big men. The Hawks accuse Orlando star Dwight Howard of being a little too loose with his elbows. And Jason Richardson sums up his feelings about Zaza Pachulia this way: "I don't like him."

Yep, this Eastern Conference playoff series is getting downright testy.

The NBA tried to tone things down a bit Saturday by handing one-game suspensions to Richardson, one of Orlando's top outside shooters, and Pachulia, the Hawks' burly backup center, after their altercation in the closing minutes of Game 3.

Pachulia will sit out tonight's game for head-butting Richardson. The Magic player was suspended for shoving Pachulia in the face. Both also will forfeit one game's pay.

Pachulia took exception when Howard swung his elbow after a hard foul, responding with an elbow of his own. Richardson jumped in and was head-butted several times by Pachulia as they jawed with each other. Richardson responded with a slap to Pachulia's face before Howard pulled away his teammate.

Pachulia and Richardson were both ejected, and Howard received a technical. The Hawks won 88-84 to take a 2-1 lead in the series.

The NBA didn't punish Howard.

"I'm not trying to be dirty. But I never back down from anybody," Pachulia said. "It's just my character. When I feel like I'm disrespected, I'm there. I'm not backing down."

The best-of-seven series has taken on a nasty tone. The Hawks accuse Howard of freely swinging elbows when he gets in the lane, while Orlando's coach said Atlanta's big men tend to fall down anytime someone gets near them.

Van Gundy mocked 7-footer Jason Collins for going down in Game 3 on a charge by Orlando's 6-foot point guard, Jameer Nelson.

"One thing that frustrates me is all the flopping," the outspoken coach said. "It's amazing to me how many times guys as big Jason Collins and Zaza Pachulia get knocked down. You'd think they'd be able to stand up a little bit better."

Collins hasn't been too pleased with some of Howard's tactics, either.

"When the whistle blows, it doesn't end for him," Collins said. "You've got to protect yourself at all times."

Without Pachulia, the Hawks will likely go with a combination of Collins and little-used Etan Thomas against Howard. Collins played only 17 minutes Friday after taking a hard charge from Howard, landing on his tailbone. He said he'll be able to go today.

The Magic could turn to Gilbert Arenas to fill some of the scoring void with Richardson out. But Arenas didn't play at all in Game 3, and Van Gundy wouldn't commit to a larger role for tonight's game.


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