There was no way the Toronto Raptors were going to let the Denver Nuggets earn a comeback victory against them for the second time in eight days.
Fred VanVleet scored 36 points including a key three-pointer in the fourth quarter as Toronto withstood a late Denver charge for a 125-110 victory on Tuesday.
VanVleet stated that the victory came down to the Raptors keeping a positive mindset following a controversial ending to a 118-113 loss in Denver on March 6.
“We’ve seen a lot of leads come and go,” said VanVleet, who added seven assists and three steals. “So just keep moving forward.
“I think this time of the year where we are as a team, as a group, I think we just need to keep being positive no matter what.”
O.G. Anunoby’s smothering defense and 24 points helped the Raptors (33-36) snap a three-game losing skid.
Toronto’s losing streak started with the loss to the Nuggets last week, as Canadian guard Jamal Murray converted a free throw in the final stretch of that comeback victory after Scottie Barnes was ejected by referee Scott Foster on a controversial technical foul.
“A couple of tough losses definitely. A shot in the gut to your morale and your energy,” said VanVleet, who was fined $30,000 US by the NBA for criticizing officials following a 108-100 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers last Wednesday.
“I think from practice to shoot around to locker room, plane rides, whatever, we’ve just got to stay positive and keep pushing forward.”
MVP candidate Nikola Jokic led the Western Conference-leading Nuggets (46-23) with 28 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Michael Porter Jr. added 23 points and six rebounds as Denver lost its fourth consecutive.
“Oh, it’s definitely tough. Yeah, it’s tough,” said Anunoby with a rueful laugh when asked about defending Jokic all night. “He’s very versatile. He passes, he handles, he does everything. “You have to have your head on a swivel at all times, and communicate and just be on your toes, be ready.”