TORONTO — By now, the Nets are used to it. Bojan Bogdanovic described it as “the black hole” that often consumes them at crunch time when they have a chance to win.
For three quarters Friday night, the Nets played tough, leading by six points midway through the quarter and trailing the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors by one at the end of the period. But Toronto began the fourth quarter with a 21-2 run on its way to a 132-113 victory. It was the Nets’ ninth loss in a row and 15th straight loss on the road.
The Raptors hit their first five shots in the fourth and eight of 12 overall in their 21-2 outburst in a span of 4 1⁄2 minutes, including four three-pointers plus a conventional three-point play, and took a 111-91 lead with 6:52 left. In that stretch, the Nets shot 1-for-9 and committed a turnover.
“We did a great job for three quarters. We played great defense,” Bogdanovic said. “We missed a couple shots in the fourth quarter and we gave them many opportunities for fast breaks. That was the game . . . We got in a black hole at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Almost every game, we have three or four minutes where we permit the other team to make a run on us. We had many open shots. After misses, we have to get back and show our defense.”
The Nets aren’t the first team that has been victimized that way by Toronto’s stellar backcourt of DeMar DeRozan, who led the Raptors (26-13) with 28 points, and Kyle Lowry (20 points). DeMarre Carroll added 18 points and 11 rebounds, Cory Joseph had 16 points and seven assists, and Jonas Valanciunas had 14 points and 10 rebounds for Toronto, which scored 42 points in the fourth quarter and 78 in the second half.
The Nets (8-31) received 23 points from Bogdanovic, 20 from Brook Lopez, 11 each from Joe Harris and Justin Hamilton and 10 from Spencer Dinwiddie. But they couldn’t keep the Raptors out of the paint, where the home team enjoyed a 56-34 margin that helped them shoot 53.6 percent for the game.
The Nets hung tough for three periods with excellent three-point shooting (17-for-36), but when Toronto kicked it into another gear in the fourth, they couldn’t keep up.
“In the third quarter, it was rebounding,” Kenny Atkinson said. “They dominated us on the boards. In the fourth quarter, we missed shots and transition defense let us down.
“I loved our first three quarters. I thought we played really good basketball. The spirit was great, guys were sharing it and moving it . . . The fourth quarter was like an avalanche. They really pushed the pedal in the fourth quarter. We were toe-to- toe with them for three quarters. Why can’t we do it another quarter? It’s a shame the difference looks that great.”
Coming off a 104-95 loss to the Pelicans in which they were outscored 13-1 at the end, the Nets bounced back remarkably well on the second night of a back-to-back despite the fact that starting point guard Isaiah Whitehead was out with a left knee sprain.
The Raptors led 21-13 early, but the Nets’ second unit went on a 9-1 run at the end of the opening period. The teams traded the lead eight times in the second period before the Raptors emerged with a 54-53 halftime lead.
Third-quarter problems have been an issue, but the starting unit put together a 17-8 run that included eight points by Harris for the Nets’ biggest lead at 77-71. But once again, they couldn’t finish when the ball wouldn’t go down in the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t make shots,” Lopez said. “Absolutely, we didn’t respond. I didn’t respond.”