The surging Washington Wizards continue to look more and more like a serious contender in the Eastern Conference.
Former Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce is a big reason why.
Washington goes for a season-best fifth consecutive victory in the opener of a home-and-home set against the Celtics at TD Garden on Sunday.
The Wizards (13-5) are enjoying their best start since 1974 after beating Denver 119-89 on Friday. Kris Humphries had a season-best 20 points to lead six players in double figures for Washington, which has allowed 87.5 points per game during its win streak.
The Wizards are holding opponents to 42.8 percent shooting, among the NBA's best marks, and are 12-0 when surrendering 100 points or fewer.
"When we play great defense, that is what we hang our head on every night," Pierce said. "Right now I think we are starting to put both together. We are scoring the ball really well and playing well defensively. That is why we are showing the results that we are getting."
While the Wizards figure to go as far as fifth-year guard John Wall will take them, Pierce has provided a steady veteran presence. He's averaging 12.5 points in his 17th season, the first 15 of which were spent with Boston.
"We know it's early in the season, but we like where we're at right now," said Pierce, who helped the Celtics to 10 playoff appearances and the 2007-08 NBA title. "You see a lot of similarities to teams that have made long playoff runs and teams that made it to the Finals."
Pierce was held to a combined 16 points on 6-of-21 shooting in his first two trips back to Boston last season while with Brooklyn.
The Wizards had dropped seven straight in the series before taking three of four last season, including both road meetings for the first time since 2005-06.
The Celtics (6-11) have followed a five-game skid with back-to-back victories, 109-102 over Detroit on Wednesday and 113-96 over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday. Boston, which hasn't won three in a row since Feb. 2-7, shot 51.1 percent and outscored the Lakers 27-7 in transition.
Rajon Rondo had 12 points and eight rebounds to go with 16 assists, seven of which went to Tyler Zeller, who scored a career-high 24 points on 10-of-11 shooting. Zeller also added a season-best 14 boards while making his fourth consecutive start.
"The more I play with him, the easier it gets," Zeller said of Rondo. "Everybody knows he's a phenomenal passer. Somebody that's going to find the right guy, the open guy, and tonight it was me."
Rondo, who had scored a combined 14 points in the previous four games, is shooting a horrendous 26.5 percent over the last five. He's shot 52.9 percent in his last three meetings against the Wizards while averaging 14.3 points and 10.7 assists.
Rondo leads the NBA with 11.3 assists per game, while Wall sits in the top five with an average of 9.8.
Jeff Green scored 32 points against the Pistons and is averaging 25.3 on 54.2 percent shooting in three games this month. He's averaging 24.0 points during a three-game stretch against Washington.
Boston ranks near the top of the league in both fast-break points (16.9) and points in the paint (46.1).
The home-and-home concludes Monday in the nation's capital.