The Toronto Raptors are trying to prove they can contend in the Eastern Conference, following their first postseason in six years with one of their best starts.
The Raptors can extend their early success Sunday night at home against the Philadelphia 76ers, who are rapidly moving in the opposite direction.
With a 103-84 victory over Washington on Friday, Toronto (5-1) got to five victories in one fewer game than its 1999-2000 edition. That team finished 45-37 before being swept in three games by New York in the opening round of the playoffs.
"It means a lot," DeMar DeRozan said of the quick start. "Every new thing we accomplish definitely means a lot because we're leaving that mark forever.
"Nobody can take that away."
DeRozan scored 25 points and Terrence Ross added 18, but the star of the game - and the season, thus far - was Kyle Lowry, who had 13 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for his sixth career triple-double.
"Kyle does it all," Ross said. "He's been doing it all since he's been here. He deserves to be an All-Star this year."
Lowry is averaging 18.5 points, 6.0 assists and 4.8 rebounds to lead one of the NBA's most dynamic offenses. The Raptors are scoring 105.3 points per game - fifth-highest in the league - while their defense has also been respectable in allowing 97.2.
Lowry also leads the way in ball security. Ranking near the top of the NBA with a 6.0 assist-to-turnover ratio, Lowry and the Raptors are averaging a league-low 9.8 turnovers.
Both DeRozan and Lowry torched Philadelphia last season. DeRozan scored 27.8 points per game and Lowry averaged 10.5 assists to help Toronto sweep all four meetings with the 76ers for the first time in team history.
Philadelphia (0-6) does not match up well with Toronto on paper, ranking near the bottom of the league in both scoring offense (94.2) and defense (103.8). The 76ers may be at an even bigger disadvantage if Nerlens Noel is sidelined.
Noel missed Friday's 118-115 loss to Chicago with an ankle injury. After pulling down 10 rebounds in each of his first two games, Noel managed only eight over his next three but made his presence felt on defense, where is averaging nearly two blocks.
Without Noel, the 76ers fought back from a 18-point fourth-quarter deficit against Chicago but were unable to complete the comeback.
For coach Brett Brown, that stretch of resiliency represents a source of pride.
"We ask our guys often, 'What would you want other teams to say about you?'" Brown said. "We want respect. We want to work hard. We want to have a tenacity and a spirit that reflects the city and reflects a bunch of young guys."
The 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers are the NBA's only remaining winless teams, and Philadelphia is still contending for the worst start in franchise history. The 1972-73 club lost its first 15 games, eventually finishing with an NBA-record 73 losses.
Tony Wroten, who had 31 points against the Bulls on 11-of-27 shooting, leads the 76ers with 22.5 per game. He started once against Philadelphia last season, scoring 23 in a 108-100 loss Dec. 13, but played limited minutes in two other meetings while shooting a combined 7 of 18 for 20 points.
The 76ers haven't won in Toronto since Nov. 10, 2012, losing their last three at Air Canada Centre.