With both teams coming into Sunday night’s game shorthanded, the Denver Nuggets walked away victorious with a 95-86 victory over the Toronto Raptors.

It was Denver’s third-straight win and their 10th victory in their last 12 games. The win also gives the Nuggets a 20-9 record on the season, which is good for first place in the Western Conference. The Nuggets are now the fifth team in the NBA to reach the 20-win mark and are the only team in the West with single-digit losses.

In the two teams first matchup this season, the Nuggets were able to pick up a 106-103 victory in Toronto. That game featured a few more key players than we saw Sunday night as Gary Harris, Will Barton, and Paul Millsap remained out for Denver, while Toronto was missing Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and Joanas Valanciunas amongst others. Still, both teams came into the game first place in their respective conferences and looking for a big time victory.

Denver certainly came out of the gates strong as they began the game on a 5-0 run that was highlighted by a three-pointer from Jamal Murray. Toronto quickly answered with an 8-0 run of their own to really set the scene for what the rest of the night might look like. The runs did not last long though as both teams really picked up their defensive pressure, which the Nuggets had an early advantage on giving them a 16-14 lead with 3:50 remaining in the first quarter.

Toronto would end up leveling the score to close the quarter as the game was tied at 23 after the opening 12 minutes. Both teams shot under 50 percent from the field in the first, while the Nuggets were able to force five turnovers from Toronto. That defensive mindset was huge for the Nuggets after how poorly they shot the ball in the opening quarter. After shooting just 37.5 percent from the field in the first, Denver’s defense was able to keep them in the game while they went into the second quarter looking for more from their offense.

The Nuggets struggled to get the offense going to start the quarter though as Toronto opened the period on a 7-0 run to give them a seven-point lead with 10:25 left in the half. Denver would quickly find their offense though as they went on a 10-0 run that was ignited by a Nick Young three-pointer. Young’s three gave the Nuggets a 33-30 lead with 7:58 remaining in the second quarter and really kept the rhythm going for Denver offensively. That offensive rhythm rubbed off on Nikola Jokic, who hit an unreal reverse lay up with 3:06 left in the half to give Denver a 39-35 lead.

Just like they had done all night though, Toronto answered by closing the half on a 12-0 run to give them a 47-39 at the break. During the Raptors run, the Nuggets had no answer for Kawhi Leonard or Serge Ibaka, who both finished the first half with 10 points a piece. Denver’s leading scorer at the break also had 10 points (Jokic), while Mason Plumlee chipped in six points of his own. As a team, the Nuggets shot just 15-of-43 from the field in the opening half and were certainly looking for more offensive production in half number two.

Denver got that offensive production from Torrey Craig, who started the third with two big three-pointers to really set the tone for the Nuggets offense. The only issue was that Denver still had no recipe for how to stop Leonard as the Raptors were able to stretch their lead to double-digits early in the quarter. Two quick buckets by Jokic allowed Denver to cut that lead back down though as they trailed 56-49 with 7:56 left in the third quarter. The baskets by Jokic were the start of what ended up being a 9-2 run for Denver as they found a way to cut Toronto’s lead to four with 6:56 left in the third.

That deficit would not last long though as Toronto went on a 12-3 run to give them a 70-57 lead with just under four minutes remaining in the period. The game of runs would only continue as Denver followed with a 11-2 run to close the quarter and ultimately cut their deficit to 72-68 heading into the final 12 minutes. Denver’s latest run was sparked by Jokic, who had 22 points, seven rebounds, and three assists after three quarters of play.

After trailing by double-digits most of the third quarter, the Nuggets run to close the period allowed them to get within striking distance going into the fourth. Denver’s run would grow even larger as they began the fourth on a 7-0 run, which was capped off by a three-pointer from Murray to give the Nuggets a 75-72 lead with 9:50 left in the game. Another three by Murray just a few possessions later gave Denver an eight point lead as the Nuggets run grew to 23-2 and 12-0 to start the fourth quarter.

All the momentum Denver built up to begin the fourth only continued as the quarter wore on as the Nuggets still led 84-77 with 5:30 remaining in the game. That lead would get all the way up to nine points before a quick Raptors spurt cut the Nuggets lead down to three with 3:28 left in the game. Denver would continue to battle though as a Jokic floater gave the Nuggets a 92-85 lead with just under two minutes remaining in the game. A couple defensive stops and a few trips to the free-throw line was all the Nuggets needed as they found a way to pick up a 95-86 victory over Toronto.

Stat leaders for the Nuggets were Jokic, who had a sold night finishing with 26 points, nine rebounds, and four assists. Jokic did all that on an efficient 11-of-19 shooting from the field, while also chipping in two steals on the defensive end of the floor. Murray also had a big night for Denver with 19 points, while Craig and Monte Morris also added in 13 and 12 points respectively.

The Nuggets now have a day off tomorrow before they are back in action Tuesday night at home to face the Dallas Mavericks.