- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Orlando Magic can point to a fortunate 3-point heave by Jamal Crawford as the reason why they lost Game 3 of their playoff series to the Atlanta Hawks 88-84. But as Crawford triumphantly hopped up and down the Philips Arena court, game-in-hand with 5.7 seconds remaining, the Magic only had themselves — and not bad luck — to blame. Jason Richardson lost his cool late. Hedo Turkoglu lost his shooting stroke. For one half, the Magic lost their intensity on the defensive end of the court. And now the team trails the best-of-seven series two games to one. The Magic may confront an additional obstacle when Game 4 arrives Sunday. Richardson could be serving a league-imposed suspension for fighting with Atlanta’s Zaza Pachulia late in Game 3′s fourth quarter. With Atlanta ahead 81-80 with 2:22 remaining, Pachulia fouled [Dwight] Howard hard as Howard shot the ball in the lane. As Howard landed, his right forearm careened into the left side of Pachulia’s face just as Pachulia flung an arm at Howard. Richardson raced into the picture, and as he and Pachulia jawed at each other, Pachulia delivered two or three head butts to Richardson’s forehead. Richardson responded by delivering a slap to Pachulia’s face. Both Richardson and Pachulia were ejected for fighting, and Howard received a technical foul.”
- Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Orlando Magic are spending money like the New York Yankees, but after yet another loss to the Atlanta Hawks Friday you wonder if they aren’t cooking their books like the New York Mets. Nearly $20 million for Gilbert Arenas, who didn’t even play in Friday night’s 88-84 defeat? Another $10 million for Hedo Turkoglu, who made a triumphant return to Orlando earlier this season but forgot to bring his shooting touch and basketball sense with him? This has to be some sort of Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, doesn’t it? Somebody please call the Securities and Exchange Commission. Rich DeVos has to be robbing Peter to pay Gilbert, right? The reason we bring this up is because of a recent study conducted by ESPN the Magazine that found the Magic have the fifth-highest salary structure in sports. Let me repeat that: The Magic have the fifth-highest salary structure not in the basketball world but in the entire world. The Magic pay their players an average of $6,367,114 per year, a number only exceeded by Real Madrid and Barcelona of Spain’s premier soccer league, the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Lakers. Hey, you think it’s cheap to build the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference?”
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “Of all the ways to get floored Friday night in Game 3, the Orlando Magic couldn’t have ever seen a knockout punch quite like this coming. Jamal Crawford’s questionable shot selection was rewarded when his desperation 3-point shot banked off the glass and gave the Atlanta Hawks an 88-84 defeat of the Magic in Friday’s Game 3 at Philips Arena. Down as many as 14 points in the first half, the Magic came all the way back and took an 84-83 lead with 1 minute to play on Brandon Bass’ clutch jumper from the free throw line. But the Hawks scored the final two baskets of the game – a 15-footer from Al Horford with 46 seconds to play and Crawford’s miracle bank shot from 26 feet out to seal the game. The defeat dropped the Magic into a 2-1 hole in the best-of-seven first-round playoff series. Game 4 is Sunday night in Atlanta, and superstar center Dwight Howard vowed afterward that he still has supreme confidence that his Magic can win the series.”
- Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “The Hawks built a 14-point lead in the second period, mostly with Howard on the bench, and the Magic never really recovered. An outstanding defensive third period bought them to within four points, and a top-of-the-circle jumper from Brandon Bass gave them a one-point lead with a minute remaining. On Atlanta’s next possession, the Hawks leveraged the Magic’s defense against itself. Stationing Al Horford on the weak side, the Hawks fed Johnson the ball in the right short-corner, anticipating the help-defense attention he’d draw. The ball swung to Horford just inside the arc, and he drilled the shot–with no Orlando player anywhere near him, due to the over-rotating–to give Atlanta the lead for good. With 46 seconds remaining, the Magic had possession, trailed by one, and had a decent chance to get a good shot up in a two-for-one situation. They failed to execute. Hedo Turkoglu ran a high screen-and-roll with Dwight Howard, the Magic’s go-to play when they absolutely need to score. Turkoglu drove to his right toward the baseline, tiptoed along it, and continued dribbling toward the corner; he completely missed Howard, who dove to the rim and could have had a dunk.”
- Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Crawford’s leaning, challenged shot with 5.7 seconds left provided an unlikely ending to Atlanta’s 88-84 victory over the Magic on Friday at Philips Arena. The Hawks lead the best-of-seven series 2-1 with Game 4 on Sunday at home. The Hawks survived to win an intense, physical contest that featured late ejections for Hawks center Zaza Pachulia and Magic guard Jason Richardson. They’ve now won five of seven games against the Magic including the regular season. The lower-seeded Hawks took home-court advantage in the series by winning one of two games in Orlando and kept it with a victory in front of a rowdy, sellout home crowd.”
- Bret LaGree of Hoopinion: “The Atlanta Hawks are only playing consistently well on one end of the floor (and then only when fielding a five-man unit capable of executing the sound defensive game plan) but, even that limited, consistent success marks them superior to an Orlando Magic team that, Dwight Howard (and for one half of six, Jameer Nelson) excepted, has struggled to score and been just susceptible enough to dribble penetration from Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson that the Atlanta guards have created enough good shots to augment their abilities to make difficult shots and to overcome their own team’s (self-inflicted) defensive lapses. You don’t have to play well to win a playoff series if you make (and let) the other team play worse.”
Who knows maybe Gilbert working with with Tim Grover will regain his latent athleticism and thus making him a useful contributor instead of a millstone around the Magic's cap space. It could happen. Probably not though.