The Denver Nuggets were coming off a take care of business game where they did just that against the Utah Jazz and had a chance to repeat the performance again against the Toronto Raptors. It was a different story tonight though with the Raptors being the team that built a big lead in the first half and the Nuggets left trying to mount a comeback in the second. Nikola Jokic led a huge third quarter for Denver and ended the night with another monster triple-double while Jamal Murray finished off the comeback with a big fourth quarter.

The Nuggets size advantage was noticeable early on with Aaron Gordon bullying the Raptors in the post and Jokic dominating the glass. The Raptors hung tough, Kelly Olynyk was knocking down jumpers, and that kept the game tight despite the Nuggets continuing to score at will. Gradey Dick also was giving Toronto some solid minutes scoring and playing strong defense. The Raptors built some momentum behind Denver turnovers and with the quarter winding down found themselves in front by a couple of points. A timeout didn’t help and the Raptors started stretching out the lead. The Nuggets responded with a strong close to the quarter to pull back within two points and after one they trailed 34-32.

The Nuggets opened the second quarter with more sloppy play as Toronto opened with an 11-0 run. That led to an early return to the game for Jokic but the Raptors had their momentum going and were able to maintain their double digit lead. Denver continued to give Toronto a free pass down the lane while they themselves settled too often for jump shots. Halfway through the quarter the lead had stretched to eighteen. Toronto’s offense had everything going right for them. The early attack at the basket grew their confidence and suddenly they were knocking down threes and the champs were getting blown out. When the lead got to twenty-two points Malone took an angry timeout with a couple minutes left before half. Meanwhile Murray and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope were without a point. Jamal finally got a midrange jumper to go in the final minute and then followed it up with a three to trim the lead to seventeen. At half the Raptors led 68-51.

Denver was more focused to start the second half and that helped them to get on a little run out of the gate. Olynyk responded for Toronto and started abusing Denver inside to push the lead back up. The combination of him and Dick was just too much for the Nuggets. To Denver’s credit they found enough on offense to not let the Raptors grow the lead past twenty or so. Gordon knocked down a three and then finished and alley-oop to build some momentum in Denver’s favor. They got it down to fifteen by the halfway point of the quarter and they finally were able to start grinding away at the lead but still struggled to put together a big run. Jokic managed to reach a triple-double with over three minutes left in the third quarter as he was trying to will the Nuggets back into the game. He flat out wasn’t going to let the game get away and nearly led a 13-3 run on his own to get Denver within seven. Reggie Jackson made a 5-0 run in his own in the final 30 seconds of the quarter and after three quarters Denver trailed 98-93.

The pace picked up to open the fourth quarter with the Nuggets continuing to cut into the lead. Peyton Watson knocked down a three to get Denver within one a couple minutes in but then they stalled out there. Murray stepped up to break the Nuggets out of their lull. He attacked the lane and after a layup got the Nuggets back within one and then responded to another Toronto basket with a beautiful pocket pass to Zeke Nnaji. Jokic checked back in around the seven minute mark with the Nuggets till stuck on the one point deficit. Murray, who continued his huge quarter, finally got Denver back in front 108-107. With momentum completely on Denver’s side they started to build a lead of their own, after a Jokic block led to a Gordon transition dunk the lead was up to five with just over five minutes left. Toronto wasn’t going to go away. R.J. Barrett asserted himself on offense to keep it a one possession game going into the final minutes as he dueled back and forth with Murray. Denver got it to a two possession lead going into the final minute and a Michael Porter Jr. offensive rebound and free throw iced it out. Denver wins a crazy one 125-119.

Best matchup: Nikola Jokic vs Kelly Olynyk

Mar 11, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) attempts a shot as Toronto Raptors forward Kelly Olynyk (41) guards in the first quarter at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Raptors had one guy to bring at the center position tonight and he brought it. Olynyk was throwing it back to his Gonzaga days tonight and was dominant force on offense. He had his game working down low and also knocked down some threes as well, ending the night with twenty-four points. Olynyk is one of those guys that is a complete journeyman in the NBA at this point but still has a game that any team would be happy to have. The Nuggets would be one of those teams and would surely love to back up Jokic with a player of Olynyk’s caliber. Nikola did just fine on his own tonight though, putting up a monster triple double to go with six(!!) steals, two blocks and carrying Denver in their comeback efforts. He’s clearly playing at peak level right now, has put the MVP race into no doubter territory and looks ready to lead Denver on another long playoff run.

The Nuggets are inevitable

The Nuggets definitely approached this game with the wrong mentality to start. They held serve in the first quarter but didn’t have any focus on defense. That let the Raptors build momentum and with Denver’s energy still non-existent in the second quarter Toronto started firing away and burying shot after shot. Before Denver knew it they were in a dog fight just to avoid getting blown out. This team 100% knows how to flip the switch though and when they do they will bulldoze whatever team is in front of them. The Raptors got a full dose of that basically from the seven minute mark of the third quarter and looked helpless as Denver marched back from a twenty-two point deficit. It’s definitely not the best way to win a game, but it’s a win and it seems like the only thing keeping the Nuggets from getting one every night is when they decide to dominate.

Somehow AG doesn’t cash the Thing to Bet with a block

The Nuggets were swatting shots left and right tonight but sadly Gordon was not one of the players to get one. He still had a solid night racking up nineteen points on nine shots but sadly left us wanting on our TTB