ATLANTA (AP)—A poor shooting performance wasn’t going to keep Antoine Walker from taking the biggest shot of the game.
“I wasn’t going to pass up a game-winning shot,” said Walker, who finished 4-for-13 from the field and scored only 12 points.
Walker’s 15-footer gave the Hawks a one-point lead, but the victory wasn’t assured until Grant Hill’s shot at the buzzer took two bounces on the rim before falling away.
“That first bounce killed me,” Walker said. “He had so many that bounced around tonight and went in. It was good to see one bounce away.”
“It was a tough shot,” Howard said. “I was just trying to keep him from going to the hole.”
The Hawks snapped a four-game losing streak, pulling this one out despite letting the Magic charge back from a 76-64 deficit in the final five minutes.
Steve Francis scored 24 points for Orlando, including 10 in the final period. Hill added 19 but couldn’t make his final shot.
“It felt good,” Hill said. “It was a little short. I guess it was just not meant to be.”
Tony Delk led the Hawks with 17 points, and Harrington added 16.
Fresh off a two-game sweep of Washington, the Magic struggled most of the night against the Hawks, who have the worst record in the Eastern Conference. Orlando barely topped its scoring low for the season, 78 points in a Jan. 24 loss at Houston.
“We started slowly and tried to make it a game late,” Orlando coach Johnny Davis said. “We just didn’t make the plays down the stretch. … We didn’t get the bounce at the end.”
A steal by Doug Christie led to Delk’s sixth foul with 1:08 left, and Francis sank two free throws to pull the Magic to 76-75.
An offensive rebound and putback by Howard gave Orlando a 77-76 lead with 33.8 seconds left, but Harrington answered with a baseline shot for a 78-77 lead.
Following a timeout, Francis drove past Boris Diaw for a layup with 11.3 seconds left to give the lead back to the Magic before Walker came through for Atlanta.
“I was due to make one anyway,” Walker said. “I just had the ball in my hands and I didn’t want to hold it. I just wanted to get a shot up.”
Howard scored a career-high 24 points against the Hawks on Nov. 26, and the Atlanta native had three jams in a strong first period. Howard didn’t score again in the first half as the Hawks opened the second quarter with an 8-0 run and led 40-32 at halftime.
Howard finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Orlando ranks eighth in the NBA in scoring, but its road average of 96.2 points per game is almost 10 points below its home average.
The Magic shot only 33 percent from the field in the first half and managed just 13 second-quarter points.
Orlando picked up the scoring pace with 22 points in the third quarter, but Atlanta led 61-54 after Delk and Tyronn Lue combined for 11 points in the period.
Diaw had 10 points to reach double figures for the first time since Dec. 4. He played more than 20 minutes for the first time since Dec. 15.
In 18 starts early this season, Diaw averaged only 3.9 points and 2.8 rebounds, and the second-year guard from France became an afterthought in the Hawks’ rotation as coach Mike Woodson turned to Delk and rookies Josh Smith and Josh Childress.
Hawks C Obinna Ekezie, signed by the team for the remainder of the season Monday, made his second start because Jason Collier had flulike symptoms. … Smith left with a sprained right ankle with 5:29 left in the first half and did not return. Delk started the second half in Smith’s spot. … The Magic’s 32 first-half points were the low mark for a Hawks opponent this season.