VanVleet has 36, Raptors hand Nuggets 4th straight loss

Conference-leading Nuggets are winless since a March 6 home victory over the Raptors

Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray and Toronto Raptors forward Scottie Barnes (4) vie for the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, March 14, 2023, in Toronto.
Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray and Toronto Raptors forward Scottie Barnes (4) vie for the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, March 14, 2023, in Toronto.Frank Gunn (AP)

Fred VanVleet scored 36 points, O.G. Anunoby had 24 and the Toronto Raptors used a franchise-record 49-point first quarter to beat Denver 125-110 on Tuesday, handing the slumping Nuggets their season-high fourth straight loss.

Nikola Jokic scored 28 points, Michael Porter Jr. had 23 and Aaron Gordon had 18 for the Western Conference-leading Nuggets, who are winless since a March 6 home victory over the Raptors.

VanVleet shot 13 for 22 and made a season-high eight of his 12 attempts from distance as Toronto extended its home winning streak to five.

Jakob Poeltl had 12 points and 11 rebounds, Pascal Siakam scored 12 points and Gary Trent Jr. had 11 for the Raptors, who never trailed.

Jamal Murray shot 5 for 18 and scored 14 points and Bruce Brown added 12, but the Nuggets lost the opener of a season-high, five-game road trip.

After sitting out the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss to Brooklyn because of soreness in his left knee, Murray returned to the lineup to play his first game north of the border since December 2018.

Murray is from Kitchener, Ontario, about 65 miles west of Toronto. He missed the last part of the 2020-21 season and all of last season after surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee. Still, Nuggets coach Michael Malone said before the game that “there was no way (Murray) wasn’t playing.” Murray received a warm ovation when the starters were introduced.

Toronto led 88-64 after Siakam’s basket with 8:16 left in the third. Denver used a 28-10 run to cut the gap to 98-92, but the Nuggets couldn’t keep it up in the fourth.

Jokic had eight rebounds and seven assists. Shot 1 for 6 from 3-point range in both the first and second quarters. Denver finished 6 for 25 from long range. Made 14 turnovers, leading to 25 points.

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