February 28th, 2024

Jokic, Murray lead Nuggets to 113-104 victory over Raptors for fifth win in six games

By Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press on December 20, 2023.

Denver Nuggets' Nikola Jokic (15) tries to shoot over Toronto Raptors' Chris Boucher (25) during second half NBA basketball action in Toronto on Wednesday, December 20, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

TORONTO – Nikola Jokic had 31 points and 15 rebounds as the Denver Nuggets held off a late Toronto comeback effort to earn a 113-104 win over the Raptors on Wednesday night.

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

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

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.

The Raptors won five of their last seven home games against the Nuggets, dating back to October 2016 entering Wednesday.

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 and closed with a 61-44 halftime lead.

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

Jokic’s layup, and free throw to follow, with 2:27 left gave Denver an 85-64 edge to quiet the Scotiabank Arena crowd and the Nuggets finished the frame ahead 90-75.

Toronto found its groove in the final quarter. Dennis Schroder’s three-pointer with 5:20 remaining pulled the Raptors within five, 99-94, for its smallest deficit since the opening frame.

But Denver answered with a 9-2 run capped by a Jokic hook shot with 3:24 left, prompting a Toronto timeout.

Barnes scored four straight to make it 108-100, but Jokic replied with a three-pointer that just beat the shot clock with 1:01 left and the Raptors couldn’t cut the deficit below nine from there.

SIMILARITIES

Raptors head coach Darko Rajakovic finds similarities to Jokic in the facilitator aspect of Barnes’ development.

“I think there are traits that Scottie is very capable of doing, especially from the elbow area and playmaking,” Rajakovic said before the game. “But also, Scottie is doing a lot of that when he’s catching the ball as a roller to the rim and also he’s doing it, like Jokic is going to run some pick and rolls with him on the ball, Scottie’s more and more involved in those decisions as well.

“Just his size and passing ability is allowing him to see the court really well and now he’s in the process of getting even better chemistry with teammates but also learning the schemes of the opponents.”

UP NEXT

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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