Another stout defensive performance from the Denver Nuggets — a 95-86 win over the Eastern Conference-leading Raptors — where Michael Malone’s bunch held Toronto to a season low in points has Denver’s coach living on cloud nine. Not necessarily because the Nuggets have the best record in the West, but due to the fact that Denver has risen past the Warriors, Thunder, Lakers and Clippers to the top spot in the conference because of its defense.

“I think our guys have truly bought into the fact that we are a defensive team,” he said moments after the Nuggets, who were without three starters for a fourth-straight game, held the Raptors to under 40 percent shooting and captured their third-straight win.

The Nuggets are playing the type of basketball that Malone envisioned he’d bring to Denver 3 1/2 years ago when he signed up to coach a ragtag bunch that was full of potential but at best was treading water in the choppy Western Conference. At first, Denver made waves by playing the beautiful game, a full-scale offensive air raid built around Nikola Jokic that was capable of putting 130 points on the board without breaking a sweat. Denver in some ways is still that, as Jamal Murray is quick to say if you try and suggest otherwise, but its defense this season is why through 29 games, the Nuggets have been the best team in basketball.

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Harrison Wind is the Denver Nuggets beat reporter for DNVR Nuggets. Hear him every day on the DNVR Nuggets Podcast. Follow Harrison on Twitter - @HarrisonWind