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Davis, Pelicans soar past 76ers

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NEW ORLEANS — This is rarefied air for the New Orleans Pelicans, and they love the crisp, sweet aroma of it all.

In routing the Philadelphia 76ers 99-74 Monday night at the Smoothie King Center behind forward Anthony Davis’ game-high 32 points and 10 rebounds, the Pelicans posted their season-high fourth consecutive victory.

New Orleans (24-21) moved three games above .500 for the first time since the 2010-11 season, Monty Williams’ first as head coach.

After hovering around .500 for the first half of the season — winning one and losing one with maddening consistency — they now seem to be hitting their stride.

With the Pelicans recording two straight wins to open a season-high, six-game home stretch, Williams wants the team to be anything but satisfied.

“I told our guys tonight that there’s going to be a lot of discussion about streaks and playoff contention,” Williams said. “Our goal is to play one game at a time. We’re thankful for the win, thankful for the winning streak. I’d like a 20-game win streak. We’re don’t want to try to talk like we’re San Antonio or Golden State. I’m not downplaying it. I’m just sticking to the course.”

Davis made five layups and five dunks in shooting 12-for-19 from the floor, and he recorded his 26th double-double of the season. It was the 12th time this season Davis scored at least 30 points, and he credited the Pelicans’ guards, especially Tyreke Evans, who had 12 assists.

“They definitely set me up and gave me the ball where I could score,” Davis said. “That’s all they care about, moving the ball. It doesn’t matter who scores. Hitting me early is going to open the lane for them later in the game.”

The Pelicans had 28 assists on 39 made field goals.

The 76ers, who beat New Orleans 96-81 at home on Jan. 16 while Davis was sidelined with a sore toe, lost for the 10th time in 11 road games. Reserve guard K.J. McDaniels led Philadelphia (8-37) with 16 points.

Sixers coach Brett Brown said watching Davis up close was similar to watching a thoroughbred going through his paces. Davis scored 19 of his 32 points in the first half as New Orleans built a 52-43 lead.

“He is a stud,” Brown said. “He is just one of those rare cornerstones of a program that you can build around. I think Monty has done an excellent job of featuring him and finding ways to go to him, and the other players complement him. He is just one of the elite players in the league.”

Playing its second game in two nights, New Orleans led by as many as 25 points in the third quarter and coasted home. Forward Ryan Anderson had 19 points off the bench, and guard Eric Gordon added 13 points.

“We really moved the ball well tonight,” Anderson said. “Tyreke can really control the game, and Anthony, man, he just showed what he could do all over the floor. It was just a fun game to watch him. Our team’s confidence is at an all-time high. It’s just fun basketball.”

The Pelicans’ dunk fest continued in the third quarter, with Davis pouring in 13 points and flashing his jumping ability. His right-hand bank shot and free throw started a 20-6 run that built the Pelicans’ lead to 81-59. Davis also had a fastbreak dunk down the middle off a three-on-two on a nifty feed by Gordon. The Pelicans outscored the 76ers 33-19 in the quarter to build an 85-62 lead.

The Pelicans held the Sixers to just 31 second-half points, the second-lowest output for a half by Philadelphia this season. Second-year 76ers center Nerlens Noel, who like Davis played at Kentucky, struggled from the floor, hitting just one of nine shots and scoring two points.

“I think I probably should have slowed my mind down,” Noel said, referring to his nervousness about facing Davis for the first time. “I was thinking about my game too much. I need to have the mindset of playing within myself.”

Davis said the Pelicans are now poised to take off in the second half of the season.

“We got tired of that .500 basketball,” Davis said. “Coach told us we had to put a couple of wins together. We’re just coming out playing hard and trying to rattle teams with our intensity and our energy and let the defense lead to our offense.”

NOTES: Philadelphia PG Michael Carter-Williams missed the game because of an upper-respiratory infection. “It’s just been a progressive illness that has finally caught up with him,” coach Brett Brown said. Larry Drew II, who is on his second 10-day contract, started in his place and scored four points. … Pelicans coach Monty Williams said he was encouraged by his team’s recent defensive efforts. In winning six of their past eight games, the Pelicans allowed only one opponent to break the 100-point mark, averaging 90.8 points allowed. “We’ve learned how to defend consistently,” Williams said. … Williams was still wowed by F Anthony Davis’ swooping steal of an inbounds pass against the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday that sealed the victory. “A.D. just made a great play,” Williams said. “That’s a testament to the workout regimen that he has in the summertime. His first year, he couldn’t hold that position.”

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