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Recap: Denver continues their stifling defense beating the Raptors 121-111

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Toronto Raptors v Denver Nuggets Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets welcomed the Toronto Raptors into Ball Arena. Toronto usually poses some danger defensively, but Denver has shown they can be just as good. In fact, Denver holds the fifth-best defensive rating in the NBA since the Jamal Murray injury. Denver’s persistent defense remained intact as they beat the Raptors 121-111.

Toronto frustrated Denver on the opening possession. They doubled Jokic at the three-point line forcing him to pass to Gordon for a missed floater. The Raptors hit their first two shots one of them being a Siakam three. Michael Porter Jr. ignited Denver’s offense early with their first five points. Facu Campazzo helped give the Nuggets an early 7-0 run sprinting down the court for a transition layup. Toronto responded with four straight baskets including an OG Anunoby dunk off an Aaron Gordon turnover.

Nikola Jokic stifled Toronto’s momentum for the moment with a one-arm slinger to Porter for a two-hand jam. Kyle Lowry then gave the Raptors a two-point lead with a tough, contested three on Austin Rivers. Off a Denver miss, Michael Porter Jr. made a great play to strip it off OG Anunoby in transition for the turnover. That led to Aaron Gordon's first points of the game with a baseline fadeaway.

Kyle Lowry extended the Raptor lead to four at 29-25 with his second three of the game, but Rivers responded by getting to the rim for two. Lowry seemed to be a pain in the Nuggets side, scoring and dishing often. Austin Rivers has been struggling from three, but he found his stroke in the first going 2-4 from three. Lowry ended the scoring in the first with a baseline drive for a reverse layup. At the end on one, Raptors maintained a three-point advantage at 33-30. Jokic and Rivers led the scoring for the Nuggets at 8 points each, while Anunoby led the Raptors with 10.

Toronto continued their good play forcing a Denver turnover for an easy layup. PJ Dozier quickly remedied the situation by driving to the lane for a left-hand layup. Shaq Harrison gave the Nuggets their first lead since early in the first darting off a fast break past everybody for the layup. Another bad entry pass to the post powered the Raptors into transition and two made free throws. The Denver bench contributed nicely, at the 8:00 mark they scored 14 points.

After a back and forth scoring period, both teams seemed to hit a little funk. Millsap then sparked some energy by scoring in the post to give Denver a 40-39 lead. Shaq Harrison continues to give the Nuggets great energy off the bench. He played great perimeter defense and spotted up for a corner three to help maintain the Denver lead. The Nuggets appeared to get to line frequently in the second quarter shooting 12-14 from the line.

Aaron Gordon provided Denver with a six-point lead at 50-44 with an elegant driving euro step for two. The Raptors did not flinch proceeding with their hot three-point shooting against the Nuggets. Kyle Lowry hit his third three of the half to reduce the Nugget lead to one. The score was tied at 50-50 when Lowry fouled Facu on his three-point attempt. Facu sank all three, but Denver continued to foul Toronto in the paint so Anunoby responded with two free throws.

Shaq Harrison ended the half with a nice mid-range jumper. Denver took a two-point lead into the locker room at 59-57. OG Anunoby led all scorers with 19 shooting 3-4 from three and 6-12 overall. Denver had a balanced attack in the first half. Jokic led the Nuggets with ten, Porter and Harrison chipped in with nine along Facu and Rivers with eight. Once again, the Raptors had Denver’s number from three. They shot 47% from beyond the arc compared to the Nugget’s 26%.

Kyle Lowry welcomed the second half with a fadeaway on PJ Dozier, and then Jokic answered with a mid-range jumper for his twelfth point. Jokic then delivered some of his defensive skills with a deflection leading to a Facu layup. He leads Denver with steals at just over one and a half per game. The Raptors continued to smother Michael Porter Jr. as Siakam turned him over for an easy layup. Nikola Jokic tallied his 54th double-double of the season at the 7:00 mark in the third.

Porter Jr. and Jokic hit back-to-back threes to give Denver a 73-70 lead and force a Toronto timeout. Denver carried their momentum to the defensive end rotating very well to finally force an Anunoby miss. Facu put together two straight nice plays lobbing it to Gordon for the dunk and a steal assisting it to Porter for the slam.

Following the Raptor timeout, they corraled an offensive rebound and kicked it out for a made three. MPJ responded with a block and a mid-range jumper to extend the Nugget lead to five. The momentum was short-lived as Denver gave Toronto a wide-open three and a layup off another offensive rebound. Shaq Harrison finally gave the Nuggets some rebounding presence with a great board over multiple Raptors. That kindled some energy as Denver rebounded a Harrison missed free throw by diving onto the floor. PJ Dozier almost closed the third with a driving layup, but with seconds left Denver fouled Watanabe for two made free throws.

Millsap began the fourth with a great offensive rebound and two made free throws after he got fouled. Toronto was physical with MPJ all night, but Porter Jr. responded with an aggressive driving layup. Denver obtained their biggest lead of the night at 93-85 with a Millsap teardrop floater for two. The Nugget defense showed out early in the fourth and following the Millsap floater, they forced a shot clock violation. MPJ then scored his 23rd point with a three to expand the Nugget lead to eleven.

The Raptors took a timeout to get their starters back in, but Denver maintained the momentum. Off a Toronto miss, Dozier rattled in a three providing the Nuggets a 16-2 scoring run. The Nuggets were firing on all cylinders early in the fourth as JaMychal Green sank a three as the score enlarged to 102-85. Kyle Lowry stopped the run with his fourth three of the game. Denver’s defense remained aggressive with a Millsap block along with guiding the fast break to Dozier for the and-one.

At the seven-minute mark in the fourth, the Nugget’s second unit held Toronto to 1-8 shooting. Denver’s bench had 36 points to that point as JaMychal Green gave the Nuggets a 21 point lead 109-88. Toronto absolutely imploded at the same time Denver’s defense ramped up. Denver held a 31-8 scoring run with their second unit on the floor.

Nick Nurse switched to a zone late in the fourth but it could not stop Denver. The Nuggets had seven players with double figures in scoring. They seemed to get very effective production from everybody on both ends of the floor. A very tight game going into the fourth exploded with great Denver defense. They outscored the Raptors in the fourth 34-26 with much of the Raptor scoring coming in garbage time on their way to a 121-111 victory. Michael Porter Jr. led the Nuggets with 23 points, but it was a very balanced attack by all Nuggets.

Next on the schedule is a crucial matchup with the third-seeded Clippers in Los Angeles on Saturday.

Stat Leaders

Points: OG Anunoby - 25

Assists: Kyle Lowry - 7

Rebounds: Nikola Jokic - 11

Player of the Game: Michael Porter Jr. - 23 points and 7 rebounds on 8-19 shooting and 4-4 from the free-throw line