The Denver Nuggets entered Monday’s home game against the visiting Toronto Raptors looking lethargic and disinterested on defense. The Raptors leapt out to an early lead, and for the majority of the night, the Nuggets appeared to be going through the motions; plodding their way through a relatively unimportant contest in the NBA’s dog days of March. They looked primed to lose, until – suddenly – they didn’t.

Instead, the Nuggets did what contenders tend to do; hang around close enough to make it a game, put pressure on the visiting team, and pounce on any mistakes their opponents might make in the closing minutes. The Raptors were kind enough to oblige in what will go down as one of the worst losses of their season as the Nuggets clawed back from a six-point deficit in the final four minutes to win 118-113 and move to 30-4 on the Ball Arena floor.

Bolstered by the off-the-bench play of newly acquired, veteran guard Reggie Jackson – the Colorado high-school product put up 13 points to set a new career-high as a member of the Nuggets – Denver was able to keep the game from getting entirely out of hand despite abysmal defense in the low-post. Toronto’s Jakob Poeltl essentially did what he wanted down low against back-to-back league MVP Nikola Jokic, who notably avoided physical play on the defensive end, along with the majority of his teammates. Only Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who had two personal fouls on the evening, had more than one out of the Nuggets’ five starters. The Raptors, who shot 56 percent (33-for-59) from two-point range, were more aggressive on the glass for the majority of the game, but as the clocked ticked down in the final quarter, coach Nick Nurse’s charges lost their nerve.

Careless, unforced turnovers by Fred Van Vleet and Pascal Siakam – who otherwise, had solid performances – led to easy buckets in transition for the Nuggets, who continued to tighten the screws as they closed the game on what would become an eventual 20-8 run. “We move the ball like no other team,” Jamal Murray said after the game. “That makes us hard to defend.” Murray scored 24 points on 9-for-14 shooting, including five three-pointers on the night.

A foul by Poeltl with only 28 seconds left that led to a technical and an ejection for the Raptors’ Scottie Barnes all but iced the game for the Nuggets, as Barnes said something that referee Scott Foster took issue with, leaving Barnes and his teammates stunned and Nurse irate. Murray hit the technical, and the usually inconsistent Gordon hit both of his free throws to give the Nuggets a four-point lead that became insurmountable.

Jokic, who seemed to be playing a half-speed (at best) all game, nevertheless finished the game with 17 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists, while taking only eight total shot attempts. Michael Porter Jr. – who was considered questionable for the game with an illness – scored 20 of his own on an efficient, 7-for-11 shooting night, including a lethal 4-for-6 from behind the arc. Aaron Gordon had 19 points of his own as his on-court synergy with Jokic continues to build. Caldwell-Pope left the game with an apparent injury for a time, leading to Jackson’s heroics, but Caldwell-Pope was able to return and finish out the game, playing his usual, gritty defense. ‘KCP’ (+8) trailed only Gordon (+13) in plus-minus for Denver tonight despite a 3-for-10 night from the field.

It wasn’t pretty, but the win gives Denver a commanding seven-game lead in the Western Conference standings with only 17 games left to play. “We did what we needed to do,” Murray offered.

The Nuggets’ homestand will continue on Wednesday when the Chicago Bulls come to town, and on Friday, when Denver will host the San Antonio Spurs.