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. added 23, and Aaron Gordon had 18 for the Western Conference-leading Nuggets, who are winless since a March 6 home victory over the Raptors.
“Right now, we’re just in chill mode, and you can’t be in chill mode with 13 games to go in the season,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “We’ve got to find a way to get our swagger back.”
Denver opponents have scored 100 or more points in five straight games and 120 or more in each of the past three.
“Maybe we’ve gotten a little soft with success,” Malone said. “We’ve been on cruise control for so long, No. 1 in the West since like December 15. I just told our players we’ve gotten away from who we are.”
Malone said several Denver veterans spoke up after the game, urging the team to play better. Asked whether he thought the Nuggets needed to hear those words, Jokic was clear, saying: “Yes.”
VanVleet shot 13 for 22 and made a season-high eight of his 12 attempts from a distance as Toronto extended its home winning streak to five.
VanVleet had seven assists, three steals and two turnovers in nearly 38 minutes.
“Freddie called an incredible game,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “He had us incredibly organized. He found a bunch of little wrinkles.”
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.
Denver guard 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.
The Raptors shot 20 for 28 in the first to lead 49-30 after one.
“We just dug too much of a big hole and couldn’t climb the mountain from there,” Murray said.
Toronto was up 88-64, its biggest lead of the game, 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.
“When you expend so much energy getting back in the game, you have nothing left to finish,” Malone said.
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