Wizards 107, Pacers 96
WASHINGTON (AP)—Now that’s more like it, Kwame.
After 2 1/2 seasons of fighting the label of No. 1 overall bust, Kwame Brown is having the best stretch of games in his NBA career. He’s perhaps never been better than he was Saturday night, when he scored a career-high 25 points and had nine rebounds in the Washington Wizards’ 107-96 victory over the Indiana Pacers.
“It’s coming together,” said Brown, the top pick straight out of high school in the 2001 draft. “I’m a lot more comfortable. Not as jittery, taking my shots when I have it.”
Brown went 8-for-12 from the field, 9-for-10 from the free throw line, had three blocks and no turnovers, getting the better in a matchup against fellow college-skippers Jermaine O’Neal and Al Harrington. Brown is averaging 13 points and 7.8 rebounds over his last 11 games, well above his averages of 6.2 points and 4.6 rebounds from his first two seasons.
“Let’s see some consistency,” Washington coach Eddie Jordan said. “We’re not going to gloat. We love what happened tonight. We’re not going to say he’s arrived, because it’s all about consistency.”
Rookie Steve Blake added 18 points—his second career-high in as many nights—and made 12 of 13 free throws for the Wizards, who never trailed and have won three of four. Washington also shot 63 percent in the first half and committed a season-low seven turnovers.
“That’s incredible. That’s unheard of for us,” Jordan said. “We’ve got to watch the tape and see if they miscounted.”
Jordan was almost in disbelief over beating one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s just a freak of the NBA season,” he said. “It just happened tonight for us.”
Harrington scored 21 points for the Pacers, who were done in by poor outside shooting as they lost their second game in as many nights following a five-game winning streak. Indiana was 1-for-14 from 3-point range at one point in the fourth quarter and finished 5-for-22.
“Defensively we were terrible,” said Reggie Miller, who scored 13 points. “You don’t want to start a trend when you give up 100 points to any team—no matter if it’s the Lakers or the Wizards.”
The Wizards made 12 of 17 shots in the second quarter. The offense, which Jordan has had to simplify because of injuries, looked as good as it has all season. Brevin Knight played the point and had four assists, shooting guard Juan Dixon made all three of his shots, and Brendan Haywood, Etan Thomas and Brown rotated inside to make seven of nine shots.
Despite the solid first half, the Wizards’ lead was just 57-50. They failed to capitalize in the third quarter when the Pacers went 4:25 without scoring— including three missed 3-pointers by Jamaal Tinsley. Washington made just four field goals in the third quarter, and the lead stayed in single digits until Blake made two 3-pointers and two free throws to put the Wizards up by 12 early in the fourth.
The Pacers broke out of their 1-for-14 3-point slump when Harrington and Miller each hit from long range. Harrington made another 3-pointer to cut the deficit to four, but Brown hit a jumper to start a 6-0 run. The Pacers didn’tget closer than six the rest of the way.
Wizards forward Jared Jeffries sprained his right ankle in the fourth quarter and did not return. … Washington guard Larry Hughes got limited playing time in the second half. “Knee, elbow, ankles—he’s really taking a beating,” Jordan said. … Indiana’s Ron Artest played despite a sore left thumb. His hand was wrapped, and he mishandled two passes in the first quarter, but he finished with 15 points and seven assists. … Wizards forward Christian Laettner was called from a flagrant foul for leveling Harrington with a right elbow while holding the ball in the third period. Harrington got a technical for confronting Laettner after the foul. Laettner was playing just his second game since returning from a five-game suspension for violating the NBA’s drug policy. … Indiana center Scot Pollard missed his second straight game with the flu. Coach Rick Carlisle said Pollard is expected to return to practice Monday. … The Wizards began a seven-game homestand. … Thomas started for Jeffries, giving Washington its 13th different starting lineup of the season…. The Pacers allowed 100 points for only the fourth time this season.