The last-place New Orleans Pelicans are playing well with the All-Star break fast approaching.
Newly anointed All-Star Anthony Davis is a big reason why.
Davis and the Pelicans go for a season best-tying third straight win as they visit the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday.
While he was surprisingly left off the Western Conference All-Star team at first, Davis was chosen Friday to replace the injured Kobe Bryant. The second-year pro responded by posting 26 points and 10 rebounds in a 98-91 win over Minnesota later that night.
"Today has been great," Davis said. "I’m going to enjoy it while it can. We have a game against Brooklyn coming up so I can’t get too happy, but at the same time I have to enjoy it."
Davis, who was 10 of 16 from the field, is averaging 24.8 points while shooting 56.6 percent over his last five games.
"To be selected for the All Star Game in the afternoon and to play like that on national TV in front of the world, that’s pretty cool," coach Monty Williams said. "It’s a lot for a 20-year-old. He’s just starting to scratch the surface on what he can do."
Eric Gordon also came up big with 20 points, and Brian Roberts added 16 as the Pelicans (22-27) improved to 6-2 over their last eight. New Orleans has surrendered 92.8 points per game during that stretch, significantly lower than its season mark of 101.3.
The Pelicans are 17-5 when holding opponents to 100 points or fewer compared to 5-22 when they don’t.
"We’re fighting," Davis said. "We’re grinding each and every night and coming up with big-time wins."
New Orleans will try to stay hot against Brooklyn (22-26), which has dropped four of six. One night after beating San Antonio 103-89, the Nets suffered an ugly 111-95 defeat at Detroit on Friday.
Jason Terry scored a season-high 18 points off the bench and Joe Johnson added 16, but Brooklyn was limited to 36.0 percent shooting and outrebounded 57-40. The Nets were also outscored 28-16 in transition and 52-38 in the paint.
"We knew what we had to do against them – rebound and get back in transition defense," said point guard Deron Williams, who failed to record an assist for the first time this season when playing more than five minutes. "We just weren’t ready to play tonight. Our energy wasn’t there, our effort wasn’t there and they seemed to have another gear than we did."
While coach Jason Kidd didn’t play his starters in the fourth quarter, the Nets cut what was a 29-point deficit to 10 with 1:57 remaining.
"We could not get a rebound or a stop, so I was trying to find guys who can play," Kidd said. "The guys who were out there playing continued to execute and we finally got some stops."
The Nets may be able to bounce back at home, where they have won nine of 11. Brooklyn took both matchups from New Orleans last season behind a combined 54 points and 21 assists from Williams.
Williams is averaging 20.7 and 11.0, respectively, over his last 11 meetings against the Pelicans.
Kevin Garnett should be back after sitting out the second of Brooklyn’s back-to-back. He’s averaging career lows of 6.9 points and 21.7 minutes.
"It’s a long term plan," Kidd told the team’s official website. "It’s a marathon, not a sprint. … We have to do what’s best for him and us as a team."