ATLANTA — For most of the night, the Atlanta Hawks struggled to make free throws and labored to put away the Orlando Magic.
But with the game on the line at the line, Joe Johnson came through.
Jamal Crawford scored 25 points for the Hawks and Johnson made four big free throws in the final 20 seconds to preserve an 88-85 victory over the Magic.
Atlanta has a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference series and can wrap it up in Orlando on Tuesday night.
The Hawks made only 12 of 20 free throws, yet all was forgiven when Johnson knocked down the ones that really matter. Running out of time and forced to go for a tying 3-pointer, the Magic set up a play for Hedo Turkoglu.
Al Horford foiled that plan, knocking the ball away from the Orlando player. Turkoglu got it back with only enough time to force one up. It missed badly, and the Hawks celebrated a commanding lead in the series as streamers fell from the ceiling of Philips Arena.
Dwight Howard led the Magic with 29 points and 17 rebounds. His night was marred by eight turnovers, however, including a couple of walking calls when he tried to back in on the collapsing Atlanta defense.
Gilbert Arenas, who didn't even play in Game 3, picked up some of the scoring slack with Jason Richardson serving a one-game suspension for an altercation with Zaza Pachulia.
Arenas scored 20 points, but no other Orlando player had more than 11. The Magic continue to struggle with their jump shooting, unable to solve an Atlanta defense that is not consumed by Howard's numbers, allowing it to play the outside guys straight up.
The Magic shot only 39 percent (31 of 79) and actually rallied in the second half to reach that number.
Crawford, who hit a clinching 3-pointer in the closing seconds Friday night, had another big night. Last year's top sixth man hit 10 of 18 from the field, including three from outside the arc.
Johnson made only 6 of 15 and finished with 20 points. Al Horford and Kirk Hinrich both had 14 for the more balanced Hawks.
The Hawks led by as many as 16 in the first half, threatening to pull away from an Orlando team that kept throwing up one clunker after another. The Magic shot only 28 percent (12 of 43) before halftime, but Atlanta didn't really take advantage of it. Orlando got it down to 46-37 going to the locker room, fully aware that it could've been much worse.
There were no altercations after things turned ugly late in Game 3.
Howard and Pachulia exchanged elbows, leading to a confrontation between Pachulia and Richardson that resulted in both being suspended for Game 4. Pachulia head-butted Richardson, who responded with a shove to the Atlanta center's face.
With Pachulia barred from the arena, the Hawks were missing one of their primary defenders against Howard. They countered with the trio of Jason Collins, Josh Powell and Hilton Armstrong, the latter playing for only the second time in the series. Al Horford and Josh Smith also got time guarding Howard, the Hawks' throwing wave after wave at Orlando's big man in hopes of keeping anyone from fouling out.
Howard, an Atlanta native, bantered with the crowd in his hometown, even coming over to the press table to exchange barbs with a couple of trash-talking fans in the third quarter.
"You're the biggest whiner in the league," one of them said.
"You wanna come our here and play me?" Howard responded. "I'm averaging 33 points a game. Just keep drinking your beer."
But the Atlanta fans had the last laugh.
Notes: Armstrong had one shining moment, setting a huge pick that sent Quentin Richardson sprawling and freed up Crawford for a 3-pointer. ... Orlando exchanged one Richardson for another in the starting lineup, starting Quentin in Jason's place. ... With both teams forced to go with only 11 active players because of the suspensions, the Hawks deactivated Damien Wilkins. ... Former Hawks owner Ted Turner made a rare appearance, watching from a courtside seat and even waving a white towel that was given out to all fans.