March 28, 2018 / 2:25 AM / a month ago

Raptors nip Nuggets to maintain lead atop Eastern Conference

DeMar DeRozan recorded 15 points and eight assists and Jonas Valanciunas and Fred VanVleet also scored 15 points apiece to help the Toronto Raptors post a 114-110 victory over the visiting Denver Nuggets on Tuesday.

Serge Ibaka added 13 points while Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam scored 12 apiece for the Raptors. Kyle Lowry had 11 points and eight assists for Toronto. The Raptors blocked 16 shots — including four apiece by Ibaka, Lowry and Valanciunas and three by Lucas Nogueira.

Nikola Jokic had 29 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists for the Nuggets, who lost their second straight game. Paul Millsap added 20 points, Jamal Murray scored 15, Trey Lyles had 13 and Will Barton tallied 10.

Denver fell two games behind the eighth-place Minnesota Timberwolves for the final Western Conference playoff spot.

Toronto, which shot 51.1 percent from the field, leads the Eastern Conference by 3 1/2 games over the Boston Celtics.

Murray, Wilson Chandler and Jokic all made 3-pointers in the final minute as Denver crept within 113-110 with 11.5 seconds left. Valanciunas split two free throws with 9.7 seconds left as Toronto held on.

The Nuggets held a 90-82 advantage after Lyles knocked down a 3-pointer with 11:05 remaining in the contest.

But the Raptors ripped off a 15-2 run with Poeltl’s reverse layup giving Toronto a 97-92 lead with 6:20 left. A 3-pointer by VanVleet pushed the margin to 103-96 with 5:07 remaining and Poeltl’s tip-in made it a nine-point differential with 3:56 to play.

Another tip-in by Poeltl with 1:03 left made it 111-101 and the Raptors fought off the late Denver charge to improve to 31-7 at home.

Jokic had 17 points and 10 rebounds in the first half of a contest tied at 58 at the break.

Toronto’s Delon Wright nailed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from midcourt to give the Raptors a 25-23 lead after the opening quarter.

Denver used a 10-0 spurt in the second quarter to possess a 44-36 lead after a 3-pointer by Lyles with 6:20 left in the half. Toronto recovered and eventually tied the contest at 54 on a 3-pointer by Norman Powell with 2:11 remaining.

The Nuggets opened the third quarter with an 8-2 run to build a six-point lead.

—Field Level Media

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