Anthony Davis grew up watching the NBA's biggest stars shine on Christmas Day. His first chance to be part of the experience comes against a Miami Heat team that's dominated this holiday showcase in recent years.
Looking to match their season high with a third straight victory, Davis and the visiting New Orleans Pelicans try to snap the Heat's six-game Christmas winning streak Friday.
"I was one of the youngest in my family. All my cousins, uncles, everybody played basketball," the 22-year-old Davis said. "Even if I wanted to watch cartoons on Christmas Day that TV stayed on (NBA basketball). It was the love for the game. I loved watching those games.
"The past couple of years watching, knowing we can be there ... Now, we're finally here."
Thanks to the presence of the two-time All-Star, New Orleans (9-19) makes its first Christmas appearance since Chris Paul and the then-Hornets lost by 20 at Orlando in 2008. The Pelicans, 8-8 since losing 11 of the first 12 and looking to equal a three-game run from Nov. 20-25, hope for a better showing this time.
"I don't know what to expect," Davis said. "We know all the hype that's around a Christmas game. You can't get too amped up ... We've got to do whatever we can to win."
The Pelicans have averaged 122.5 points and shot 52.1 percent in the last two games. Though second-to-last in scoring defense (107.5), they yielded season lows for points and shooting (34.7 percent) in Wednesday's 115-89 rout of a Portland team missing Damian Lillard.
"We're going to keep playing the way we've been playing and give ourselves a chance to win," said Davis, who has totaled 55 points on 21-of-34 shooting in the last two while Tyreke Evans had 45 and 19 assists.
The Pelicans followed a five-game series skid with three straight wins over Miami (16-11), though either Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh has been out for those past three. They took both last season with hardly any help from Davis, who was limited to eight minutes by a shoulder injury in their 105-91 road victory Feb. 21 and sat out the 104-102 win in the rematch six days later. Teammate Eric Gordon combined for 44 points.
New Orleans enters this one averaging 90 points and shooting 42.8 percent while going 0-4 against Eastern Conference road opponents.
Though the Heat have dropped two of three on this four-game home stretch, they haven't lost on Christmas since falling in Cleveland in 2007 and are 4-0 all-time at home on the holiday.
Miami allows the second-fewest points per game (94.9) and the fourth-lowest field-goal percentage (42.8), but it allowed Detroit to shoot 52.6 percent in the first half and overcome an early 18-point hole in Tuesday's 93-92 defeat. Bosh scored 20, Wade added 19, and both missed shots in the final three seconds.
"We'll regroup, learn from it and keep on plugging away," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of a club that ranks 25th in 3-point shooting and went 4 of 18 from beyond the arc Tuesday.
Though Wade (18.5 points per game) is averaging his fewest points since scoring 16.2 as a rookie in 2003-04, he's averaged 25.8 while going 9-1 on Christmas. He scored 31 in last season's 101-91 victory over Cleveland in LeBron James' return to South Beach.
It's uncertain if Miami point guard Goran Dragic will miss a second straight contest with thumb and wrist problems.