TORONTO - The Toronto Raptors have struggled early in games so far this season.
But on Friday night, Toronto turned in its most complete performance yet, never trailing in a 103-84 rout of the Washington Wizards that ran its record to 5-1, the best start in Raptors franchise history.
"I think we played well from start to finish," said Kyle Lowry, who led the way with a triple-double, his club-record fourth with Toronto. "We still made some mistakes but I think there's a lot more positives than negatives to take from this game, finally we can say that."
Lowry had 13 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists on the night to surpass Damon Stoudamire for the most in Raptors history. It was the sixth triple-double of his career.
Toronto head coach Dwane Casey said it was clear his players understood they needed better starts.
"Our guys are professionals. They're smart players. They're mature. They're playoff battled, ready, so they should understand how important the start of the game is," Casey said. "Over the long run, they understand that we can't start games the way we've been starting them.
"Now, we have to make a habit of the way we started the game tonight."
Toronto opened a 5-0 lead early in the first quarter and never looked back against the Wizards (4-2). The Raptors led 28-18 after 12 minutes, 59-35 at the half and by as much as 28 points in the second half.
With the victory, before a sellout crowd of 19,800 at Air Canada Centre, Toronto moved into a first-place tie with the Chicago Bulls atop the NBA's Eastern Conference. Washington is a game back.
The Raptors held the Wizards to just 31 per cent shooting from the field in the first quarter and 28 per cent in the opening half in winning their third straight game. Washington shot just 36 per cent on the night, including just 16 per cent from three-point range, where they missed their first 10 shots.
The game was the Raptors first of a franchise-record seven-game home stand.
"The defence that we had tonight was a lot like us last year, and that is where we have to perform," Casey said. "It starts in the first quarter. We've been getting that in the second, third and fourth quarters, but finally tonight we were not Seabiscuit we were Secretariat. So, that was the difference."
DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors in scoring with 25 points, one of four Toronto players in double figures.
"This is the way we have to be all year," DeRozan said. "We have to rely on our defence and the offence will come.
"If we play that way defensively every night we will be fine."
The Raptors led 59-35 at halftime and continued to pour it on early in the third quarter.
DeRozan's basket at 2:58 of the quarter widened the Toronto lead to 28 points at 63-45.
The Wizards went on a 10-0 run over the next 1:49 but never seriously threatened to make it a game.
Kris Humphries had 11 points for the Wizards while Marcin Gortat pulled down 10 rebounds.
On a night the Raptors wore their throwback purple jerseys and held the first of seven 20th anniversary celebrations this season, the only blemish was that forward Amir Johnson, who missed the previous three games with a sore left ankle, went to Toronto's locker-room early in the second half. He did not return.
"I'm good," Johnson said after the game, his ankle in a tensor bandage. "I didn't roll it or re-injure it or anything. It was just a precaution thing.
"I think I gave it all I got, played 22 minutes and it got a little sore, so I sat out the rest of the game."
The Raptors continue their home stand Sunday night against the Philadelphia 76ers.