Zaza Pachulia, Jason Richardson out

Updated: April 23, 2011, 9:22 PM ET
By Michael Wallace | ESPN.com

ATLANTA -- Orlando Magic guard Jason Richardson and Atlanta Hawks center Zaza Pachulia have been suspended for Game 4 on Sunday for their roles in an altercation in the final minutes of Friday's game at Philips Arena, the NBA announced Saturday.

The incident occurred with 2:22 left in the game, after Pachulia and Magic center Dwight Howard were entangled under the basket after Howard swung his elbow upon being fouled by Pachulia. Richardson then approached Pachulia, who appeared to headbutt Richardson under the basket. Richardson responded by shoving an open hand into Pachulia's face.

Richardson
Richardson
Pachulia
Pachulia

Pachulia and Richardson were ejected from the game, and Howard was assessed a technical foul in what has become an intensely physical series the Hawks lead 2-1.

Although Richardson is a starter for the Magic, the suspensions might have a bigger impact on the Hawks, who will be weakened at center in their attempt to slow Howard. Pachulia is Atlanta's top backup center and starter Jason Collins missed Saturday's practice to treat a bruised tail bone he sustained Friday while drawing a charge call against Howard.

"Both teams will have an adjustment to make," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said Saturday. "We lose a starter and our second-leading scorer and they lose their best backup big guy. What's clear to everybody in the league is who starts it and who retaliates doesn't matter. So there's equal punishment."

Collins expects to play Sunday night after another day of extensive treatment on his lower back.

"You always have to prepare for the worst," Hawks coach Larry Drew said after Saturday's practice. "We still have bodies. The million-dollar question is will those bodies be as effective? That's the question we have to ask ourselves. That remains to be seen. I told [Collins] to report directly to the training room [Saturday], and stay there all day if he has to."

Both teams have complained about rough play and dirty tactics during a series in which there have been a combined 148 personal fouls, three conduct-related technical fouls and the two ejections through three games.

Pachulia has established a reputation for his his physical play, but said he didn't intentionally headbutt Richardson but acknowledged he did get caught up in an emotional moment.

"Whatever happens, happens," Pachulia said Saturday. "You can't control yourself in a game while people are screaming at you, teammates, referees trying to get in the middle. So you end up doing things without thinking. I'm not trying to be dirty. I'm out there to play basketball and not fight. But if it comes to the situation, one thing, know this, I'm never going to back down from anybody."

Richardson had similar feelings toward his involvement in the Game 3 altercation.

"[Pachulia] walked up on me and headbutted me three times," Richardson said Saturday. "It's a reaction. What do you want me to do? Walk away? If it was done again, I'd do it again. I'm not sorry for what I did. I'm sorry I won't be there [Sunday] for my teammates."

Collins has also suggested that Howard should be watched more closely by referees for the extra contact he makes at the end of plays.

"When the whistle blows, that's not the end for him," Collins said of Howard.

The NBA announced the suspensions in the middle of the Magic's practice session on Saturday. Van Gundy could either start J.J. Redick or Gilbert Arenas in Richardon's shooting guard spot. Richardson is averaging 8.7 points in the series -- nearly half his season average -- while shooting 30 percent from the field.

The Hawks are expected to adjust to Pachulia's absence by playing starting power forward Al Horford more minutes in the center rotation. The Hawks have used five different centers in the series, with Josh Powell, Etan Thomas and Hilton Armstrong also in the mix.

"I think both teams lose," Hawks guard Jamal Crawford said. "J-Rich is a key player for them, and Zaza is a key guy for us, as well. Nobody benefits from it at all. It's an unfortunate situation."

Michael Wallace covers the NBA for ESPN.com.

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