Nets rally, but can’t close out Raptors
Suffer second straight heartbreaking loss at Barclays Center
The Brooklyn Nets are getting the Rodney Dangerfield treatment.
Undermanned, undersized and, by their own assertion, receiving no respect from the officials, the Nets once again found themselves on the brink of a breakthrough victory Monday night, only to have it slip through their fingers.
Spencer Dinwiddie scored 21 of his career-high 31 points during the fourth quarter and overtime, but didn’t get a key foul call in the waning seconds of the extra session as Brooklyn endured a brutal 114-113 loss to the Toronto Raptors in front of 13,681 fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
While most of the nation was focused on the epic college football title game in Atlanta, the Nets (15-25) were busy trying to shake off Saturday night’s 87-85 loss to the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics.
They appeared poised to do so when Dinwiddie, who has become the team’s go-to option down the stretch in tight games, drove the lane attempting to give Brooklyn the lead before the clock expired in overtime.
The 24-year-old Los Angeles native drew clear contact on the arm from Toronto defender Serge Ibaka, but there was no whistle as his bid for a second game-winning shot in three games didn’t come close.
Dinwiddie, who had previously complained of being fouled in similarly narrow losses, could be seen mouthing, “See, this is what I’m talking about,” in exasperation as the Raptors (28-10) walked off with the one-point victory.
“I think the statement is self-explanatory,” Dinwiddie noted when asked to confirm what he said on the floor by reporters following the game.
The Nets, who are still waiting for starting point guard D’Angelo Russell (left knee) to return from injury and were without key forward DeMarre Carroll (right knee) against the Raptors, have gone down to the wire in each of their last five games.
Brooklyn has had each of those contests decided by three points or fewer, the longest such stretch in the NBA since the 2012-13 season.
The Nets have won two of those games, including last Wednesday’s thrilling 97-95 triumph over Minnesota in which Dinwiddie hit the game-winning jumper.
But after Monday night’s loss to Toronto, they were still lamenting what could have been had the officiating, or overall health of the team, been more favorable.
“If these close losses turn into wins, we’re close to .500 ball,” said Dinwiddie, who also handed out eight assists, grabbed five rebounds and committed just one turnover in 42 scintillating minutes.
“We’re looking at the playoffs,” he added. “There’s a different morale, different vibe, instead of always coming in here feeling a certain way about whatever happened on the court.”
Allen Crabbe scored 20 points and rookie Jarrett Allen and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 14 apiece for Brooklyn, which fell to 2-2 on its five-game homestand, which concludes here Wednesday night against Detroit.
“This is an extremely heart-breaking [game] for us,” Nets reserve guard Caris LeVert said.
“We felt we fought hard and we deserved to win the game, but we’ve just got to play better down the stretch.”
Playing better and getting a bit more respect from the officials would likely go a long way toward helping Brooklyn back into the thick of the playoff race.
The Nets are six games behind Indiana for the eighth and final postseason spot in the East, but will be getting Russell back in the lineup within the next week or so if all goes well with his rehab stint with the team’s G-League affiliate on Long Island.
In the meantime, second-year head coach Kenny Atkinson will sit with his team and discuss how to better play out the final seconds of these ultra-close contests.
“We’re going to study it and figure out, ‘Hey, how can we close these games out?’” Atkinson revealed. “It’s the hardest thing to do in professional sports, is close out a game.”
Especially when the whistles aren’t going your way.
Nothing But Net: Russell, who has been out since Nov. 11, practiced for the first time earlier Monday with the L.I. Nets, and appreciated getting back on the floor and playing at full speed, even if it wasn’t with the franchise’s NBA squad. “Like I said, just getting that sweat again is what I’ve been looking for,” said Russell, who was averaging career highs of 20.9 points and 5.7 assists per game in his first 12 games with Brooklyn after being acquired from the Los Angeles Lakers last summer in the deal that sent all-time Net Brook Lopez to L.A. … Hollis-Jefferson pulled down a career-best 17 rebounds vs. the Raptors as Brooklyn held a 55-51 advantage on the glass … Shooting guard Nik Stauskas also sat out Monday night’s game with a left ankle injury. Both he and Carroll hope to be back when the Nets host the Pistons Wednesday before embarking on a two-game trip through Atlanta (Friday) and Washington (Saturday).
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