Jason Richardson was quick to come to the defense of his teammate, Dwight Howard, after he was on the receiving end of a blatant Zaza Pachulia foul with 2:22 left in Game 3 of the first round series between the Orlando Magic and the Atlanta Hawks.
Unfortunately, Richardson's attempt to defend his teammate quickly turned violent, as the 6' 11" Pachulia delivered a series of headbutts to Orlando's guard, which provoked Richardson to fire his left hand, palm-open, to Pachulia's face.
The altercation that transpired in Friday evening's contest resulted in the league issuing single game suspensions to Richardson and Pachulia for Game 4 of the series that is set to take place later this evening.
According to ESPN, Richardson has no remorse for his actions and has even gone as far to say, "I don't like him," in reference to Pachulia. Though he is not sorry for what he did, Richardson did say that "I kind of feel bad because I'm not there for my teammates."
To begin with, Orlando will be forced to combat Atlanta without one of their most reliable scorers to compete. For instance, during the regular season, Richardson was the Magic's second leading scorer, trailing only Howard in the points per game (PPG) category, averaging 13.9 PPG since arriving in Orlando from Phoenix in December.
In Game 3, Richardson scored 14 points and gathered nine rebounds by finding a variety of ways to score and being active around the basket.
Also, Orlando has become a team that is fairly dependent on the three-point shot and dominant performances from Howard, and are therefore sure to miss Richardson's ability to shoot from behind the arc. After converting over 38 percent of his three-point attempts in the regular season, Richardson has proven his worth to the Magic making his suspension that much more detrimental to his team's chances of winning Game 4.
Furthermore, the Magic will miss Richardson on the defensive end of the floor as well. They will be forced to deal with both Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford, who have given their defense fits during this opening series. Richardson has guarded both players in the first three games of the series and his experience and knowledge of their tendencies would have been valuable to the Magic in Game 4.
Instead, his absence will rob the Magic of his defensive abilities, which will likely not facilitate Orlando's ability to neutralize Atlanta's deadly perimeter shooters.
However, working in Orlando's favor, the Hawks will be without the lengthy Pachulia, whom they have relied on to match up against Dwight Howard. Hence, the Hawks will be forced to find an alternative matchup to answer the size and skill Orlando's All-Star center.
Pachulia has not played perfectly against Howard, but he is probably Atlanta's most solid option defensively. The absence of Pachulia is bound to create some matchup issues for the Hawks, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
In addition to being without their best defensive answer for Howard, the Hawks will also be without their most efficient "actor" in Game 4, so they will have to find another way to lure Howard into foul trouble. Pachulia demonstrated his acting skills in Game 3 by flopping around and prompting officials to peg Howard with some questionable fouls. Though Pachulia is not a cornerstone player for Atlanta's team, the Hawks will still miss his presence this evening.
Though the Magic will be feeling the burden of Richardson's absence tonight because they will be without his shooting and defensive talents, the Hawks face their own problems. Without a real defensive answer for Howard in tonight's game, I anticipate Superman putting the Magic on his broad shoulders and surge for another huge playoff performance, especially if he intends evening this series up at two games apiece.