NBA

Red-hot Wizards visit up-and-down Pelicans

NEW ORLEANS -- The Washington Wizards are the hottest team in basketball. For most of the season, the New Orleans Pelicans oscillated between hot and cold.

The Pelicans (19-28) defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers and the red-hot San Antonio Spurs at home this week, mixed around lopsided losses to the Oklahoma City Thunder and the NBA-worst Brooklyn Nets.

So when the Pelicans host the Wizards (26-20) -- winners of 10 of their last 12 games -- at the Smoothie King Center on Sunday, it's anyone's guess which New Orleans team will show up.

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"The only thing that I keep telling these guys, and I really believe it, is if we play to the level we are capable of playing, then we can beat anybody," New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said. "I do believe that. Obviously, this week we have kind of proven that with wins over the world champs (Cleveland) and a team that's going to have an opportunity to win a championship (San Antonio).

"That says a lot. But we keep going back to that word consistency. We have to do it night in and night out, and we can't just do it against the great teams."

In routing the Spurs 119-103 on Friday night, the Pelicans stunned the Spurs with a 71-46 second half, including a 34-19 fourth quarter.

Even more impressive was that the victory came without a lot of heroics from Anthony Davis. The All-Star forward scored only seven points in the 71-point second half, but appears recovered from a right thigh bruise that limited him earlier in the week.

"We just can't show up for teams that are top-tier teams," Davis said. "We've got to come out and play well against everybody, no matter their record or no matter what it says on the front of their jerseys. We're a great team, and we've got to realize that and play like this every night. The Wizards have been playing well since late December into January. We've got to make sure we play the same way -- defend and get out and run. If we do that, we can take care of business."

The Wizards won seven of their last eight games and are 10-4 in January, including a 112-86 rout of the Atlanta Hawks on the road Friday night. The 26-point victory was their most lopsided of the season and moved the Wizards within a half-game of the Hawks for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks came into the game having won 12 of 15.

John Wall led Washington with 19 points to go with nine assists and six rebounds. Backcourt mate Bradley Beal added 15 points.

"We're a totally different team," Beal said. "In every way. Our confidence, our swag as a team. Everything is a lot better."

The Wizards won four of their last six road games. Washington has not trailed in a game for 141 minutes, 50 seconds, the longest active streak in the NBA. The Wizards also have won eight of the last nine games against the Pelicans.

The Wizards are an Eastern Conference best 20-9 since Dec. 1 and are 23-11 since starting the season 3-9. They also have had consecutive 10-win months for the first time since 2006-07.

"That means we're doing something good the last two months," Washington coach Scott Brooks said. "Guys are playing well. We're very confident, but we're not overconfident. We understand that we've got to keep plugging along and playing for each other."