WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON -- Their 9-10 home record might not indicate it, but it has become clear halfway through the season that MCI Center is a special place for the Washington Wizards.
The Wizards have notched virtually all their important wins at home this season, with the biggest coming last night, a 107-96 victory over the NBA's winningest team this season in the Indiana Pacers.
The Wizards (13-29) won their third straight home game, their fourth in the past five here and their third in four overall with a solid performance, leading from wire-to-wire and fighting off every Indiana challenge.
"It was a joy to behold, just the effort for 48 minutes, the physical intense basketball," said Washington coach Eddie Jordan. "'Everybody saved the day. Everybody was a hero, and that's what we needed. We respect that team because they are veteran and physical and deep. We just stepped up to the challenge. We really did.'
Forward Kwame Brown met his challenge, a head-to-head battle with Indiana All-Star Jermaine O'Neal, who, like Brown, skipped college for the NBA.
Brown had a career-high 25 points with nine rebounds, more than holding his own against O'Neal, who had 12 points, nine below his season average, and 15 rebounds for the Pacers (33-13).
"I was just running the floor and being active," Brown said. "Brevin [Knight] got me a couple of easy baskets, I got fouled and made my free throws. Once you can do that, you can flow. It was a nice game for us."
Said Jordan: "Let's see some consistency. We're not going to gloat. We love what happened, but we're not going to say that he has arrived, because it's all about consistency for him."
Meanwhile, rookie Steve Blake scored a career-high 18 points -- 15 in the fourth quarter -- one night after scoring 17 in a loss at Boston.
Blake, the former Maryland point guard, hit two critical three-pointers in the fourth quarter to hold off Indiana early in the period, then hit seven straight free throws in the final 1:35 to cement the win.
"I just tried to play my role," Blake said. "Everyone stepped up in the fourth quarter and in the whole game. It was good to see that we can finish the game out. I'm not used to getting to the line that much. I was there and knocking down free throws, so it's good to get some points that way."
The Wizards matched Indiana in effort, hustle and intensity, shooting 63 percent from the field in the first half. They held off the Pacers in a furious contest, even going toe-to-toe with the Pacers on the physical front.
Forward Christian Laettner, in only his second game back from a five-game suspension for violating the league's drug policy, threw an elbow at Indiana's Al Harrington with four minutes left in the third period, drawing a flagrant foul.
The Pacers cut the lead to five off free throws and the next possession, but the Wizards led by seven after three quarters and went on to their seventh win at home with no losses when leading into the fourth quarter.
"They were out there, banging us around a little bit and talking trash," Laettner said. "Sometimes, they were talking trash about nothing. Sometimes, teams that are really good do that to the refs to gain an advantage. You can't allow that to happen all the time. It was just a small statement on my part. Hopefully, we'll make more statements like that."
NOTE: Wizards forward Jared Jeffries sprained his right ankle in the fourth quarter and did not return. His status for tomorrow vs. Portland is day-to-day.
Percentages: FG .456, FT .905. 3-point goals: 5-22, .227 (Al.Harrington 2-3, Miller 2-5, Tinsley 1-6, Foster 0-1, Artest 0-2, Johnson 0-2, Croshere 0-3). Team rebounds: 5. Team Turnovers: 11 (12 PTS). Blocked shots: 6 (O'Neal 3, Tinsley 2, Al.Harrington). Turnovers: 11 (Al.Harrington 4, Artest 2, Johnson 2, Croshere, O'Neal, Tinsley). Steals: 3 (Al.Harrington, Artest, Tinsley). Technical fouls: Al.Harrington, 3:51 third. FGFTReb
Percentages: FG .507, FT .829. 3-point goals: 3-6, .500 (Blake 2-3, Hughes 1-2, Dixon 0-1). Team rebounds: 12. Team Turnovers: 8 (9 PTS). Blocked shots: 6 (K.Brown 3, Thomas, Haywood, Hughes). Turnovers: 7 (Thomas 2, Hughes 2, Laettner, Jeffries, Hayes). Steals: 4 (Thomas, K.Brown, Blake, Knight). Technical fouls: Defensive Three Second, 1:10 second. Flagrant fouls: Laettner, 3:51 third. Indiana24261630--96
A--14,305 (20,674). T--2:16.Officials--Mike Callahan, Sean Corbin, Jason Phillips.