Smith scores 26, Johnson hits winner for Hawks
Wednesday, March 30, 2022 11:28 PM

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(Source: Associated Press/AP Online)By PAUL NEWBERRY

ATLANTA - Joe Johnson's floating one-hander in the lane put Atlanta ahead with 55.4 seconds remaining and Orlando's Jameer Nelson missed two chances to tie it, allowing the Hawks to escape with an 85-82 victory Wednesday night in a likely playoff preview.

Josh Smith led the Hawks with 26 points, and Johnson added 18.

Nelson paced Orlando with 20 points, but he missed a jumper with 38 seconds remaining, then badly on a drive with 6 seconds left.

Jason Collins hit one free throw, giving the Magic one last chance to send the game to overtime. But Atlanta played tight defense, and the best Orlando could do was a long 3-point attempt by Hedo Turkoglu that didn't come close.

Atlanta won its third in a row and took the season series 3-1.

The Hawks, who seem to be getting themselves together after a dismal stretch in which they lost 14 of 21 games, will likely face Orlando again in a couple of weeks.

The Magic seem assured of the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference, while the Hawks are headed for the fifth seed. Last year, the teams met in the second round of the postseason, which turned into a monumental mismatch. Orlando won four straight by an average margin of 25 points - the most lopsided sweep in NBA history.

With that in mind, the Hawks wanted to show they could be more competitive with the Magic this time around. They sure did it during the regular season, holding the Magic to 38 percent shooting in the four games.

Jason Collins was a big key in the regular-season finale, frustrating Dwight Howard with tough, physical defense. Howard picked up two early fouls and finished with 17 points, making just 4 of 13 shots.

Turkoglu also scored 17 for the Magic.

Howard picked up his fourth foul with over 8 minutes remaining in the third quarter, whistled for knocking down Smith going for a rebound. The big man didn't come out of the game immediately, and the Hawks felt he should have been called for his fifth foul less than a minute later.

Howard backed into the lane looking for a pass, smashing a shoulder into Collins' chest to gain position right under the basket. Nothing was called, the ball arrived and Collins had no choice but to wrap up Howard with a partial bear hug. He then turned to the officials with a look of disgust, while Hawks coach Larry Drew sprung off the bench.

"You can't let him do that," Drew screamed.

Then, with 6:30 left, Collins picked up his fourth foul when Howard stumbled driving toward the basket and lost the ball. Again, the Hawks complained to no avail.

Finally, Howard came out, spending the final 5:26 of the third on the bench.

The Hawks ended the period on a high. Jamal Crawford saved an errant pass and Zaza Pachulia hit a turnaround jumper just ahead of the buzzer after pulling down an offensive rebound. Pachulia chest-bumped Smith as he bounced off the court, having given Atlanta a 69-61 lead.

Notes: Magic F Quentin Richardson missed his third straight game with back spasms. "He couldn't even walk through," coach Stan Van Gundy said. ... The Magic have talked about bringing in another point guard if Chris Duhon's ailing right thumb continues to be a problem. He didn't even suit up in Atlanta, and the Magic also have been hampered in practice because of limited numbers. "It's frustrating for me," Van Gundy said. "We're just not getting anything done.

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