Nuggets hold off Raptors for 113-104 victory


TORONTO – The Toronto Raptors’ best effort came too late and was too little.

Nikola Jokic had 31 points and 15 rebounds as the Denver Nuggets held off a late Toronto comeback bid to earn a 113-104 win over the Raptors on Wednesday night. Toronto was down 17 points at the half and cut the deficit to five with five minutes left in the fourth quarter, but ultimately fell short.

“We were flat in the first half,” Raptors head coach Darko Rajakovic said. “Was it because maybe we missed a couple of layups or open shots? I don’t know, but our defence was not good.

“I thought we won the second half but against this type of team you’ve got to have respect for them from the jump ball … (and) respect for ourselves from the jump ball and our energy was for whatever reason, (it) was not there.

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“We’ve got to be much better.”

Jokic scored seven of his 11 fourth-quarter points in the final five minutes, including in a 9-2 run that put Denver ahead 108-96 with 3:24 left. He hit a three-pointer to give the Nuggets an 11-point edge with 1:01 remaining.

“That’s Nikola Jokic,” Rajakovic said. “It’s nothing new in this league, it’s happening every single night. First half he was at nine points and second half, he got his game.

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“We got in a little bit of a zone there to get some life against the second unit but once he came in the game he was really good at catching the ball and attacking and finishing in the paint … he did his job.”

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Jamal Murray of Kitchener, Ont., added 20 points for Denver (19-10), which has won five of its last six games.

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Murray was met with a standing ovation during pre-game introductions and a second-quarter timeout when highlighted for his national team play.

“I think just the whole experience, from takeoff to landing,” Murray said of playing in Toronto. “I get to see my family and my friends, playing in a familiar gym that I’ve been playing in growing up, even though I missed some easy shots today.

“Just the whole environment. I appreciate Toronto for having me on the screen and all that, just little stuff like that means a lot. Obviously, it’s good to come here and try to put on a show in front of my friends and family. It’s a blessing to be in this position.”

Scottie Barnes scored a team-high 30 points for Toronto (11-16), which has dropped to 2-6 in December. Pascal Siakam and Precious Achiuwa contributed 18 and 13 points, respectively.

“That’s on us as players,” Achiuwa said of the team’s effort. “We’ve got to control what we can control. I think that’s something that we can go out there and control every night — our effort being able to play every minute of the game like it really actually matters.”

“We’ve just got to find a way to accomplish that. I don’t know what type of motivation we need but we’ve got to do something to play 48 minutes of intense basketball.”

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Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Murray combined for a 7-0 run to provide Denver its first lead, 18-13, with 4:24 left and never looked back. The Nuggets held a 29-20 edge following the opening quarter.

In the second, the Raptors failed to get out of their own way. Toronto committed six turnovers in the opening 6:48 of the frame as Denver’s second and first units combined for eight points off giveaways and went up 45-33.

Michael Porter Jr.’s floater with 30 seconds remaining gave the Nuggets their largest lead of 19 points. Denver led 61-44 at halftime.

Siakam’s layup with 5:01 left in the third quarter brought the Raptors to within 14, but they struggled to get stops at the same pace they scored in the frame.

Jokic’s layup, and free throw to follow, with 2:27 left gave Denver an 85-64 edge to quiet the Scotiabank Arena crowd. The Nuggets led 90-75 after three quarters.


The Raptors head to Philadelphia to take on the 76ers on Friday.

The Nuggets will be in Brooklyn for a matchup against the Nets on Friday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 20, 2023.

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