After 21/2 seasons of fighting the label of No. 1 overall bust, Kwame Brown is having the best stretch of games in his career. He perhaps has never been better than he was Saturday night, when he scored a career-high 25 and had nine rebounds in the Wizards' 107-96 victory over the 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 past 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 for the Wizards. Harrington scored 21 for the Pacers.
LAKERS 93, JAZZ 86: Kobe Bryant scored 21 in his return after missing six games with a sprained right shoulder, and Gary Payton hit a clutch 3-pointer with 13 seconds left to help the visitors snap a nine-game road losing streak.
Slava Medvedenko tied his career high with 26 points for the Lakers, who let a 19-point lead slip to three twice before sealing their first road victory since a 114-103 victory over Dallas on Dec. 4.
Payton scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half, and Medvedenko added 12 rebounds.
Rick Fox (left foot surgery) also was activated by the Lakers. Brian Cook (broken right pinkie) was placed on the injured list and is expected to miss four to six weeks.
HORNETS 98, SPURS 96: Darrell Armstrong capped a season-high 35-point performance by hitting a 3-pointer from 25 feet with a second left to lead the visitors to a come-from-behind victory.
The Spurs took an 18-point lead with five minutes left in the third, going up 69-51 after Tim Duncan (17 points) dunked off an alley-oop pass from Manu Ginobili.
But Armstrong scored 13 in the quarter to lead the comeback.
HEAT 85, KNICKS 77: Eddie Jones scored 26, including a jumper that put Miami ahead for good with 3:03 remaining, and added six assists for the visitors.
The Knicks suffered their first loss at Madison Square Garden under coach Lenny Wilkens, who was without Allan Houston (sore knee) for the final 141/2 minutes and left Keith Van Horn on the bench for almost the entire fourth quarter.
CAVS 95, 76ERS 87: Eric Williams scored 20, and Dajuan Wagner added 17 for the hosts.
Carlos Boozer had 15 points and 15 rebounds as the Cavs improved to 2-1 without rookie star LeBron James, who missed his third consecutive game with a sprained right ankle.
Allen Iverson scored 32 - 21 in the third - for the Sixers.
In 76ers news, center Todd MacCulloch had surgery on his left foot for a possibly career-ending neurological disorder.
WARRIORS 105, BLAZERS 87: Jason Richardson scored 31, including seven 3-pointers, and visiting Golden State ended a 12-game road losing streak.
Erick Dampier had 20 rebounds and 18 points for the Warriors.
Zach Randolph had 23 points for the Blazers.
In Blazers news, Dale Davis will be fined for leaving practice early Friday.
KINGS: Chris Webber has become a partner in the CBA's Great Lakes (Mich.) Storm.