The Magic evened the best-of-seven series, with Game 3 Friday night in Atlanta.
Orlando used a 10-1 run to close the third quarter to take an 11-point lead into the fourth and fought off a late Atlanta charge down the stretch.
After allowing the Hawks to become the first opponent in 16 consecutive playoff games to score 100 points in Game 1, Orlando's defense tightened around Atlanta's shooters in Game 2. The Hawks shot 39 percent.
Jamal Crawford led Atlanta with 25 points and Josh Smith added 17.
The Magic led 65-54 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Joe Johnson's basket cut the lead to 78-72, and he got another following an Orlando turnover to trim it to four points with 2:43 to play.
A steal by the Hawks ended with a dunk by Al Horford to pull Atlanta within a basket. But Hedo Turkoglu got a friendly roll to push it back to four and Jason Richardson drilled 3-pointer that made it 83-76 with 1:08 remaining.
Crawford dropped in a layup that made it 84-80, but Orlando was able to hit enough free throws the rest of the way to secure the victory.
Orlando led 48-42 at halftime. The Hawks led by as many as 10 in the second quarter, 32-22, before a 12-2 run by the Magic tied it at 34-all. Howard had 10 points during the spurt, which included the Magic doing their best job of the series converting defensive stops into quick offense.
Atlanta, which shot 55 percent in the first half of Game 1, saw the figure drop to 38 percent in the opening quarters on Tuesday.
The Magic also shot 38 percent, but converted 16 of 19 free throw attempts. The Hawks had only five trips to the line in the first half and were dominated in the paint, 28-14.
Horford picked up two quick fouls in the game's first 2 minutes and spent the rest of the half on the bench.
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said one of the biggest reasons Howard's big performances don't always garner national buzz could be the lack of an anticipated matchup. "There's no matchup for him that creates the excitement," Van Gundy said. "If you got back to when the centers were king, you have Chamberlain-Russell and people say 'Wow, that's a matchup you look forward to.' Now people look forward to Chris Paul against Derrick Rose.