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Jokic, Nuggets tame Raptors

NIKOLA Jokic drops another triple-double performance to lead the Denver Nuggets to a 125-119 win over the Toronto Raptors in the NBA regular season. | BART YOUNG/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Nikola Jokic grabbed a 35-point triple-double as the Denver Nuggets staged a dramatic second-half fightback to defeat the short-handed Toronto Raptors, 125-119, on Monday.

Two-time Most Valuable Player Jokic produced a towering display to drag Denver back into contention after the National Basketball Association champions trailed by 22 points in the second quarter.

A fired-up Toronto looked poised to score a notable upset after starting strong to open up a double-digit advantage.

But Serbian star Jokic seized control of the game in the third, scoring 19 points as Denver outscored Toronto, 42-30, to trim the visitors’ lead to five points heading into the fourth.

Denver’s domination continued into the fourth and they finally took the lead midway through the final frame when Jamal Murray’s layup put them 108-107 ahead.

Denver outscored Toronto 32-21 in the fourth quarter to close out the win.

“In the first half they scored a lot and we didn’t play any defense,” said Jokic after completing his 21st triple-double of the season.

“We just needed to match and exceed their physicality and that’s how we turned the game to our advantage.”

“We were just fighting. The whole crew showed their character today. We’re not quitters.”

Jokic led Denver’s scoring while point guard Murray added 26 points with 12 assists and five rebounds. Aaron Gordon and Michael Porter Jr. finished with 19 points each.

R.J. Barrett led Toronto’s scorers with 26 points, with Kelly Olynyk chipping in with 24.

While Denver was forced to dig deep for their win, there were no such problems for Eastern Conference leaders Boston Celtics, who coasted to their 50th win of the season with a 121-99 blowout on the road against the Portland Trail Blazers.

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