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Nuggets beat Raptors 95-86 in matchup of conference leaders

WATCH: Both the Raptors and the Nuggets had several key players on the bench due to injuries, but it was Denver that emerged victorious in a matchup of conference-leading teams.

DENVER, Colo. — Nikola Jokic scored 26 points, Jamal Murray had 15 of his 19 in the fourth quarter and the banged-up Denver Nuggets rallied past the equally banged-up Toronto Raptors 95-86 on Sunday night in a contest between conference leaders.

Trailing 70-57 in the third quarter, the Nuggets went on a 23-2 run to send them to their 10th win in 12 games and retain a slim lead over Golden State in the Western Conference. This marks the latest the Nuggets (20-9) have been in first place in the West since Dec. 18, 1984, according to information from Elias Sports Bureau.

Kawhi Leonard had 29 points and 14 rebounds for the Eastern Conference-leading Raptors, who finished 2-2 on their trip. They still own the league’s best mark at 23-9.

READ MORE: Toronto Raptors bested by Portland Trail Blazers despite Kawhi Leonard return

Murray led the charge with eight straight points early in the fourth. The defence stepped up, too, as the Raptors didn’t score their first field goal in the final quarter until Leonard’s dunk with 7:42 remaining.

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Toronto pulled to 86-83 with 3:28 left, but Mason Plumlee’s layup gave Denver some breathing room. The Raptors were four of 23 from the field in the fourth quarter, including one of 13 from three-point land.

Both teams had several key players on the bench due to injuries. The Raptors were without Kyle Lowry (thigh), Pascal Siakam (back), Fred VanVleet (back) and Jonas Valanciunas (thumb).

READ MORE: Raptors rout Warriors 113-93 without Kawhi

The Nuggets didn’t have Will Barton (right hip/core muscle surgery), Gary Harris (hip) and Paul Millsap (big toe).

Not that Nuggets coach Michael Malone gave it much thought.

“Teams look at us right now with players out, and they think they can show up and beat us,” Malone said. “We’ve shown teams no, that’s not the case. We have more than enough players that are going to go out there and battle and compete.”

READ MORE: Toronto Raptors suffer second straight loss in 104-99 defeat to Milwaukee Bucks

The Nuggets beat the Raptors 106-103 on Dec. 3 in Toronto. In that game, Jokic had 23 points, 15 assists and 11 rebounds.

Jokic was a handful again. He also had nine rebounds.

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The Raptors are set to host Indiana on Wednesday, Dec. 19, while the Nuggets will close out a four-game homestand on Tuesday against Dallas.

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