Nuggets pull away from Raptors in third quarter
DENVER — The Denver Nuggets used a strong third quarter Monday just to get back into their game against the New York Knicks.
On Wednesday, they used another strong third to bury the Toronto Raptors.
Jamal Murray scored 16 of his game-high 24 points in the Nuggets’ explosive third quarter, and Denver routed the Raptors 129-111.
Paul Millsap scored 20 points, Emmanuel Mudiay had 16 points and six assists, and Gary Harris scored 15 points for the Nuggets. Denver led by 14 at the half and outscored the Raptors 43-25 in the third to blow it open.
It was a turnaround from Monday, when the Nuggets outscored the Knicks 38-19 in the third, an effort wasted in a six-point loss.
“Last game we had to turn it up in the third quarter,” Harris said. “This game we got off to a good start, had a decent lead and the first few minutes we knew would be huge. We could have let them back in the game, but we didn’t.”
Nikola Jokic finished two points shy of his first triple-double of the season. He had eight points to go with 16 rebounds and 10 assists. He also blocked two shots.
Norman Powell led the Raptors with 14 points. Delon Wright added 12, Serge Ibaka had 11, and DeMar DeRozan scored 10 while Kyle Lowry was held to nine points. The Nuggets limited the Raptors’ potent starting backcourt to 19 points two nights after the Toronto guards scored 44 in a win at Portland.
The Raptors (4-3) are known for their defense, but they gave up a season high in points two nights after holding the Trail Blazers to 85 points in a 14-point win.
“It was an embarrassing performance by all of us. From coaches to players, it was embarrassing,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. “The one thing we said is you’ve got to come in here and compete and play hard, play a physical game, and we didn’t on either end of the floor. We played soft offense and soft defense.”
The Nuggets (4-4) never trailed, led by as many as 36 and were hardly challenged in the opener of a six-game homestand. Millsap hit his first four shots and scored 11 of Denver’s first 13 points as the Nuggets quickly went ahead 18-6.
Millsap converted two four-point plays when he was fouled on 3-point makes in the first quarter. It was a bounce-back game for the forward, who struggled against the Knicks, scoring only eight points.
“I knew Paul was going to be aggressive coming off the 2-for-13 game in New York,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “He was disappointed in his performance in the Garden. For him to get hot from the 3-point line, draw two four-point plays is great to see.”
The Raptors cut it to eight, but a 9-0 run at the end of the first quarter gave Denver a 34-19 lead.
The Nuggets increased the advantage to as much as 19 points in the second quarter, but Toronto’s late rally got it within a manageable 60-46 heading into halftime.
The Raptors scored the first five points of the second half before Murray — and the Nuggets — took over. Murray scored seven straight points, the last on a 25-foot 3-pointer, to put Denver up 72-54.
He showed no ill effects of diving after a loose ball and over the courtside seats and knocking over a fan’s cup. He briefly left the floor for a uniform change.
“I smelled like Heineken,” he said. “I had to change.”
His finger roll and another 3-pointer — his third on five attempts in the game — put the Nuggets up 93-60.
“We started the second half strong, but then they made shots and took the air out of us,” Lowry said.
Murray finished with 16 of Denver’s season-high 43 points in the third quarter. The Nuggets have now outscored their last three opponents 121-65 in the third, winning two of those contests.
NOTES: Toronto C Jonas Valanciunas returned to the lineup after missing four games with a left ankle sprain, and he had eight points and five rebounds. The Raptors were 2-2 in his absence. ... Nuggets coach Michael Malone said F Juancho Hernangomez is still out while dealing with mononucleosis. “He has not been cleared yet to play or do any contact,” Malone said. “I do not anticipate him being back for a few weeks.” ... The Nuggets’ 69 points in the second half were the most Toronto has allowed this season. ... Denver Broncos LB Von Miller and Colorado Avalanche C Matt Duchene were sitting courtside.