Though the Toronto Raptors don't have an impressive record, a solid road win their last time out put them in first place in the Atlantic Division.
They'll look to climb a step closer to the .500 mark Friday night when they host the Washington Wizards, who are in last place despite a similar record to Toronto and are seeking a third straight victory.
The Raptors (5-7) are benefiting from a down season so far in the Atlantic, but given their history, they aren't complaining. Toronto, which won its only division title in 2006-07, defeated Philadelphia 108-98 on Wednesday to go a half-game up on the Sixers for the top spot.
"It's a great accomplishment to be in that position," guard Kyle Lowry said. "But we still have to keep it up. We have to take all the good from it, learn from it and grow."
DeMar DeRozan had 33 points and reserve guard Terrence Ross scored a season-high 17 - more than 10 above his average - and grabbed seven rebounds for the Raptors.
Toronto avoided a third straight loss, recording season highs of nine blocked shots and 14 3-pointers in the process.
"We're nowhere near where we need to be," coach Dwane Casey said. "We'll take it, but it's early. We've got to continue to work and stay hungry."
Casey's team will now try to avoid a third consecutive defeat at Air Canada Centre, where it is 2-3 going into a four-game homestand. Toronto has been better on the road recently, winning its last two such games and scoring at least 103 points in each of the previous three.
DeRozan has had no trouble scoring wherever he's played in the past three contests, averaging 33.0 points while going 8 of 16 from 3-point range. He averaged 22.3 points against Washington last season as the teams split the four-game series.
The Wizards (4-7) share the Southeast Division basement with Orlando but also have shown signs of improvement in the early going, taking two straight after a four-game slide. Bradley Beal scored 26 points and Nene added 24 as visiting Washington defeated Cleveland 98-91 on Wednesday after nearly blowing a 27-point third-quarter lead.
"It was rocky, but you can expect things like that in any NBA game," Beal said. "We played well for 40 minutes, but we went away from our principles after that. ... Fortunately, we pulled it back together before the end."
The consecutive victories came on back-to-back nights.
"That's how you get in position to make the playoffs," coach Randy Wittman said. "You're tired, you get (into town) late, but you make that effort to win the game from the start."
Beal and Nene have powered Washington offensively in the past three games, averaging 26.3 and 22.7 points, respectively. Beal is 12 for 19 from 3-point range in that span and scoring a team-best 21.2 per game for the season while Nene is at 15.8.
John Wall has shot poorly this season at 35.9 percent, but he's totaled 37 assists in the past three games and is averaging a career-high 9.7.
The Wizards have lost six of seven at Toronto.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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