With Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins leading the way, the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings have emerged as two of the biggest surprises in the NBA.
A couple of the league's top young frontcourt players meet Tuesday night when the Pelicans go for their fourth straight home win and second victory over the Kings in eight days.
Davis is coming off his best performance as a pro, scoring a career-high 43 points and adding 14 rebounds to help New Orleans wrap up a 2-2 road trip with a 106-94 win over Utah on Saturday.
The All-Star forward ranks second in the NBA with 26.3 points per game, trailing only Kobe Bryant (26.7). He leads the league with 3.5 blocks.
"He never lost his rhythm," coach Monty Williams said. "He'd come out of the game and come right back and get right back into it again. We know he's a special player who's just starting to scratch the surface."
Davis has keyed the Pelicans' surprising 7-5 start, highlighted by a 100-99 win at San Antonio on Nov. 4 in which Davis hit a driving layup with 6.6 seconds left. He's shot 67.4 percent while New Orleans has averaged 116.0 points and 56.3 percent from the field during its three-game home winning streak.
Davis paced the Pelicans with 28 points in last Tuesday's 106-100 win at Sacramento.
After winning 28 games last season, the Kings (8-5) are one victory away from their best start since opening 13-5 in 2004-05. They've recovered from a recent 1-3 stretch with double-digit victories over Chicago and Minnesota.
Cousins has played a huge role in the club's turnaround, averaging career highs of 23.2 points and 12.3 rebounds. He ranks among the NBA leaders in scoring and rebounding after finishing with 31 points and 18 boards in Saturday's 113-101 road win over the Timberwolves.
"I don't know if there's a better center in the league, the way he's playing," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. "He's got his head screwed on straight. That was always a question mark. He seems to be very focused."
The fifth-year pro had 24 points and 17 rebounds against the Pelicans last week. He had 35 and 14 in the most recent road meeting March 31, a 102-97 Kings win.
Sacramento held a 60-50 edge in points in the paint and a 52-32 advantage on the glass in last week's meeting, but New Orleans turned 15 Kings turnovers into 22 points. Sacramento is near the bottom of the league with 16.1 turnovers per game, while the Pelicans commit the fewest at 11.0.
Ryan Anderson scored 22 points, Tyreke Evans had 18 and Eric Gordon added 17 for New Orleans last Tuesday. Evans has averaged 20.4 points in five games against his former club, though Anderson will have to regroup after totaling 15 and going 4 of 26 from the floor in his last two contests.
Rebounding could be a concern again for the Pelicans with Omer Asik's status uncertain, as he missed his fourth straight game Saturday due to a back injury. Asik averages 9.0 points and 10.0 rebounds.
New Orleans has dropped the past two home meetings after winning 14 of the previous 16.