The Orlando Magic were moments away from staying alive with style, putting the finishing touches on a Game 5 beatdown of the Atlanta Hawks to send their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series back to Philips Arena for Game 6 on Thursday. Stan Van Gundy's squad held a 23-point lead and possession of the ball with less than 10 seconds left in the game. It was all over but the shoutin', and since SVG doesn't much care for shoutin', he decided to get a head start and beat the traffic to the locker room.
Which would've been fine, except that reserve Atlanta big man Hilton Armstrong elected to foul Magic backup point guard Chris Duhon with 7.1 seconds left, unnecessarily extending a game that (if we're being frank) felt like it lasted a bit too long as it was. The game continued, but Orlando's coach just kept on keeping on down the tunnel. His exit was captured by the Orlando broadcast team, leaving a nation of onlookers — well, those that hadn't already flipped over to catch the rest of Bulls/Pacers, anyway — having Alan Ladd flashbacks. It was kind of an odd scene.
Soon after the final buzzer had actually sounded, though, the pep in Van Gundy's step made a bit more sense. He was probably just really, really excited to get to his postgame press conference and sling some zings at the ink-and-pixel-stained wretches covering his team.
At NBA.com's Hang Time blog, Sekou Smith has video of Van Gundy "answering a simple question after the Magic's Game 5 blowout win [by defending] Dwight Howard's honor (yet again), while also taking shots at those of us forced to listen to him on a regular basis." Here's what Stan had to say about a play during the game that one media member suggested could have been called a flagrant foul against Atlanta:
"No, it couldn't have gone as a flagrant, because it was on Dwight. He has not been flagrantly fouled this year, so we were not surprised. [...]
"I understand, and [Dwight] understands too, that he has to keep his cool and everything else. I have said, for the people — like you guys in the media — that want to be critical of him: Go run on the treadmill for 40 minutes [that] he plays every night, and every two or three minutes, I'm going to hit you as hard as I can upside the head, OK? And what I want you to do is, keep running and don't react at all. Don't react. Don't say anything to me, don't look at me wrong, don't hit me back, don't do anything. I just get to whack you as hard as I want every three minutes.
"Now, I'm not saying — look, if you're a referee, you know, they have their guidelines. They just think they're hard fouls. That's fine; I'm not criticizing the referees here. What I'm saying is, for the people in the media who criticize Dwight for the few times that he retaliates, understand: That's what you're criticizing.
"I want to make it clear: I'm not criticizing the officials. I'm not. I'm criticizing you guys, OK? And I don't think I can be fined for that, because nobody out there likes you guys."
Pretty good chop-bustin', Stan. I'm sure some of the journalists in attendance laughed a little at the time for show, then let loose a tear or two over their keyboards later. I mean, it cut me deep, even though I'm the most respected and well-liked type of writer there is — a part-time basketball blogger.
Smith seemed to be one of the folks who didn't appreciate it. "Maybe some of us aren't as sympathetic to Howard's cause as we should be. But that's beside the point," he wrote at the Hang Time blog. "Van Gundy has more important things to worry about than insulting us."
That's certainly true — even with the Game 5 blowout, Orlando is still in a 3-2 hole facing Game 6 on the road, a fact Van Gundy made sure his team remembered in a postgame whiteboard message, according to Y!'s Adrian Wojnarowski. But those displeased at Stan's barbs are missing the silver lining around his grumpy, frumpy cloud: At least he's not obliquely comparing writers to military strongmen to make the point about flagrants! That's something, right?
Original video of the SVG postgame presser via wathuhbra.