TORONTO -- Shame, illness and trouble at home were among the baggage the Toronto Raptors carried onto the court with them.
But after a blow out 106-89 win over the Washington Wizards on Friday, only a sense of relief and even a little positivity hung over the Raptors' locker-room.
They did it behind a breakout performance from Amir Johnson, who earned a double-double off the bench with 18 points and 13 rebounds, and a tenacity in the paint that even broke a couple team records in the process.
"They came out like a team that was embarrassed by what happened against Atlanta and Boston," said Toronto head coach Dwane Casey, referring to back-to-back blow out losses that included an ugly 100-64 defeat to the Celtics on Wednesday.
Leandro Barbosa scored 19 points, Linas Kleiza had 15, and Jose Calderon chipped in with eight points and a season-high 17 assists for Toronto (8-16), which had a franchise-high 61 rebounds in regulation and broke a six-year record for second-chance points with 28.
The defence-by-committee mindset seemed infectious, and even point guard Calderon contributed with eight boards while the Wizards could only counter with 37 rebounds.
Casey had praise for everyone, but pointed to Johnson as the difference maker against a suffering team from Washington.
"Amir was a monster," said Casey. "I thought he did a good job rolling to the basket and cleaning up the offensive boards. ... Amir was very, very active. He did a good job bouncing back and having a good night.
Johnson came into the game with what Casey called "family issues," and he played like a man possessed with 12 points in the second quarter including two consecutive slam dunks that energized the crowd.
Johnson's demeanour was low-key after the big win. The six-foot-nine forward said he tried to focus on the game and ignore the noise surrounding it.
"Absolutely. I've been talking to coach, my mother and family. I just have to play," he said.
Johnson wasn't the only Raptor in need of a boost.
Barbosa played off the bench after being ill the night before the game. Casey said Barbosa, who had 11 points in the first half to help Toronto take a 55-45 lead into halftime, provided the spark the Raptors needed.
"Whatever he ate last night that made him sick, we're going to give it to him again tonight," said Casey. "But he came out, bounced out. I thought he was a little weak but he still performed and did a good job of really giving us a spark in the first half."
Washington put a scare into Toronto after the half. Ed Davis drew a flagrant foul after bringing a driving Wall to the floor in the third quarter. Wall missed both subsequent free throws but drained a jump shot to cut into Toronto's 10-point lead and force the Raptors to call a time out.
But that was as close as Washington got to overcoming the Raptors. Kleiza hit a running lay-up to re-start Toronto's offence and Johnson's bucket with just over a minute left in the third restored the Raptors' double-digit lead. Toronto had a 80-69 advantage heading into the fourth.
Toronto cruised from there. Kleiza scored seven points and Davis came alive with six points in a quarter that saw the Raptors lead by as much as 20.
"There's not much to say after this one," said Wizards head coach Randy Wittman. "Tip your hats to Toronto. They outplayed us in every phase of the game. Rebounding is effort and we didn't have that same effort tonight that we've had.
"Give them credit they came out like a wounded dog. They had it in their minds that they were going to come out tonight and be the aggressors and they were."
A free throw by Jerryd Bayless looked to have put Toronto ahead by three at the end of an unremarkable first quarter in which the Raptors never led by more than four. But Jordan Crawford hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to tie the game at 22.
Wall wasn't a factor for Washington in the first quarter, but found his shot in the second with nine points before the half.
"Very important," said Johnson. "It's not just for the team, it's for our fans. We owe more. They come in game in and game out and we haven't held down home court. So it was big for us to win this on home court tonight."
Notes: Attendance at the Air Canada Centre was 16,382. ... Leading scorer Andrea Bargnani missed his 11th of the Raptors' last 13 games with a strained left calf. There's no timeline for his return. ... The game marked the first time Wittman faced Casey as head coaches. Wittman replaced Casey as Minnesota's head coach mid-season in 2007. ... Washington played without forward Andray Blatche (strained left calf) and centre Ronny Turiaf (fractured left hand). ... Toronto is on the road Sunday against Miami before a rematch in Washington on Monday.