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Magic wilts late in testy defeat

ATLANTA — Jamal Crawford banked in a 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds left to cap a brilliant second half, leading the Hawks to an 88-84 victory over the Magic on Friday night and a 2-1 lead in their Eastern Conference playoff series.

The Hawks led most of the game, but things got close and testy in the final minutes.

Zaza Pachulia of Atlanta and Jason Richardson of Orlando were ejected with 2:22 left after a confrontation under the basket.

The teams swapped the lead four times after that near-brawl until former Florida star Al Horford put the Hawks ahead for good with 46.6 seconds left.

But Crawford, who had 18 of his 23 points after halftime, hit the biggest shot as his jumper struck high and went in.

The physical game turned ugly when Dwight Howard drove the lane and was hammered by Pachulia, who took on the job of guarding Orlando's big man after Jason Collins went out with a back injury in the first half.

As they jawed, Pachulia appeared to deliver at least one headbutt to Richardson, who responded by slapping Pachulia. In addition to ejecting the two, officials gave Howard a technical.

"In that situation, I'm never going to back down," said Pachulia, who had two long scratches on his right arm after a tough night tussling with Howard. "That's just my personality."

Howard said he didn't blame Richardson for lashing out.

"If you get headbutted three times, you're going to have some reaction," Howard said.

Pachulia and Richardson are likely to miss Sunday's Game 4 after the league hands down expected suspensions.

With order restored, Jameer Nelson put the Magic ahead at 82-81 with a jumper after a steal. Johnson drew a foul on Howard and hit both free throws to put Atlanta ahead 83-82. The Magic pulled ahead for the final time on Brandon Bass' jumper with 1:01 left.

Hawks 88, Magic 84

ORLANDO (84): Turkoglu 3-11 2-4 9, Bass 5-8 0-0 10, Howard 8-14 5-9 21, Nelson 5-17 2-2 13, J.Richardson 4-10 4-4 14, Redick 3-8 1-2 8, Anderson 0-2 0-0 0, Q.Richardson 3-3 0-0 9. Totals 31-73 14-21 84.

ATLANTA (88): Smith 6-13 3-3 15, Horford 6-14 1-2 13, Collins 1-1 0-0 2, Hinrich 3-7 0-0 8, Johnson 9-23 2-4 21, Crawford 7-19 6-8 23, Pachulia 1-2 2-2 4, Williams 1-1 0-0 2, Teague 0-1 0-0 0, Powell 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 34-81 14-19 88.

Orlando 25 17 20 22— 84

Atlanta 25 26 15 22— 88

3-Point GoalsOrlando 8-28 (Q.Richardson 3-3, J.Richardson 2-6, Redick 1-4, Turkoglu 1-6, Nelson 1-7, Anderson 0-2), Atlanta 6-14 (Crawford 3-5, Hinrich 2-4, Johnson 1-2, Smith 0-3). Fouled OutPachulia. ReboundsOrlando 53 (Howard 15), Atlanta 48 (Smith 10). AssistsOrlando 20 (Nelson 10), Atlanta 20 (Johnson 5). Total FoulsOrlando 24, Atlanta 24. TechnicalsHoward, Orlando defensive three second. Ejected—J.Richardson, Pachulia. A19,865 (18,729).

Celtics spoil MSG's playoff return party

NEW YORK — No fantastic finish needed for the Celtics this time.

Paul Pierce had 38 points, Ray Allen added 32, and Rajon Rondo had a Boston playoff-record 20 assists as the Celtics beat the Knicks 113-96 to take a 3-0 lead in their series.

The Celtics won two close games in Boston but never trailed in this one, dominating the first playoff game at Madison Square Garden in seven years.

The Celtics scored the first nine points and never really let it get much closer.

"You can't give them that big an opening that they can smell blood," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said.

Amare Stoudemire started for the Knicks after missing the second half of Game 2 with back spasms. Chauncey Billups (knee) sat out.

Celtics 113, Knicks 96

BOSTON (113): Garnett 4-9 1-1 9, Pierce 14-19 4-4 38, J.O'Neal 3-7 0-0 6, Rondo 5-13 5-6 15, Allen 11-18 2-2 32, Davis 2-5 0-0 4, West 0-2 0-0 0, Green 3-8 3-4 9, Krstic 0-0 0-0 0, Wafer 0-2 0-0 0, Murphy 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 42-83 15-17 113.

NEW YORK (96): Anthony 4-16 6-8 15, Stoudemire 2-8 3-4 7, Turiaf 2-2 1-1 5, Douglas 4-6 4-4 15, Fields 1-5 0-2 2, Jeffries 5-11 2-2 12, Walker 4-9 0-1 9, Carter 1-1 2-2 4, Sha.Williams 6-10 3-4 17, Mason 4-8 0-0 10. Totals 33-76 21-28 96.

Boston 27 25 34 27— 113

New York 20 24 19 33— 96

3-Point GoalsBoston 14-24 (Allen 8-11, Pierce 6-8, Wafer 0-1, Green 0-2, West 0-2), New York 9-20 (Douglas 3-4, Sha.Williams 2-5, Mason 2-5, Walker 1-1, Anthony 1-3, Fields 0-2). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsBoston 50 (Garnett 12), New York 43 (Anthony 11). AssistsBoston 31 (Rondo 20), New York 18 (Anthony 6). Total FoulsBoston 24, New York 16. TechnicalsNew York defensive three second. A19,763 (19,763).

Lakers back in front

NEW ORLEANS — Kobe Bryant scored 30, Pau Gasol had 17 points and 10 rebounds, and the Lakers took control of their first-round series with a 100-86 victory over the Hornets.

Andrew Bynum added 14 points and 11 rebounds and Lamar Odom had 13 points for the two-time defending champs, who lead the series 2-1.

Chris Paul had 22 points and eight assist for the Hornets, who stayed within single digits for long stretches but never truly threatened to take the lead.

KINGS FUTURE: NBA officials now expect the Kings to play next season in Sacramento, league executives told the Los Angeles Times. Whether the team, about to seek permission to move to Anaheim, stays in Sacramento beyond next season remains to be decided. That will depend on city and county officials and local businesses redeeming pledges made by Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson before the NBA's relocation committee last week in New York, including support for a new downtown arena. Kings co-owner Joe Maloof said his family is still deciding.

LATE Thursday: Wesley Matthews had 25 points for the host Trail Blazers, who got within 2-1 in their West series with a 97-92 victory over the Mavericks.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said he was struck in the face by an unknown object during the game. He said he did not know what the object was, and he was unhurt by it. He also praised the security at the Rose Garden.

PACERS: The league ruled that two fouls committed by center Jeff Foster in Thursday's Game 3 were flagrant, but he won't be suspended for today's Game 4 at Indiana. The fouls were flagrant 1, which is less severe than flagrant 2.

Magic wilts late in testy defeat 04/23/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 23, 2011 1:26am]

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