Brooklyn Nets' Mikal Bridges (1) uses a screen set by...

Brooklyn Nets' Mikal Bridges (1) uses a screen set by teammate Nic Claxton (33) during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks in New York, Saturday, March 23, 2024. Credit: AP/Peter K. Afriyie

TORONTO — The Nets’ latest fourth-quarter collapse started calmly on Saturday. Nic Claxton put up a lefthanded, turnaround shot that danced off the rim as they trailed the Knicks 82-80.

Over the next eight minutes, more misses piled up. Eleven in a row, to be exact, before Dorian Finney-Smith made a layup. By that point, the Nets were down 16 with 3:41 remaining and headed for a sixth straight loss.

It wasn’t the 22-0 closing run they allowed against the Clippers in January, but it was another stunning reminder of the team lacking what interim coach Kevin Ollie called competitive stamina to finish games.

“It’s frustrating just losing,” Claxton said on Saturday. “Being in the game, all the way up into the fourth quarter and just having them close out the game the way that they did, just leaves a bad taste in your mouth.”

The same could have been said last Thursday when the Nets rallied against the Bucks to tie the score with 4:13 left after trailing by 20 points in the second quarter only to lose. Or the previous Sunday, when they had a 10-point fourth-quarter lead against the Spurs and lost.

It’s just mounting evidence that late-game issues are another reason for their struggles as they headed into Monday’s game at the Raptors.

Starting with their Dec. 27 loss against the Bucks, the Nets have been outscored in the fourth quarter by 10.3 points per 100 possessions, the second-worst net rating in the league. Other fourth-quarter stats over that span are equally indicting.

They’re second-worst in shooting and rebounding, third-worst in opponent shooting (49.3%) and 26th out of 30 teams in defensive efficiency.

“Just the concentration and the mental aspect of just staying with it,” Mikal Bridges said Monday at shootaround. “I think that’s what we’ve all been struggling with. Tonight’s a good night to start it now.”

Perhaps it’s a side effect of too many losses. The Nets also just don’t have a strong closer besides Bridges, and there’s also a collective will that fades as missed shots add up.

Cam Johnson noted there’s lack of trust and connection down the stretch and it leads to not valuing possessions. Either way, it’s another problem that’s been talked about to death without any resolution.

“There’s got to be a line drawn in the sand,” Johnson said on Saturday. “It’s just one thing led to another that just piled up negatively and it’s something that we’re susceptible to. Something that happens to us often, but we don’t bounce back from it well.”

With 10 games remaining after Monday night, the Nets are on the edge of bouncing out of the play-in tournament race for good. If so, it’ll be just one more thing they couldn’t close in a disappointing season.

Injuries adding up

Johnson (sprained left big toe), Dennis Smith Jr. (right hip synovitis) and Keita Bates-Diop (right shin stress reaction) were ruled out Monday night due to injuries. All three didn’t travel to Toronto, but their statuses for Wednesday’s game at the Wizards remain to be determined. Johnson and Smith have each missed 17 games this season.

Bridges takes it to Hart

Knicks guard Josh Hart took a friendly jab at Bridges, his former Villanova teammate, before Saturday’s game. Hart used the cartoon “SpongeBob SquarePants” to contrast how much the Knicks have won with him, Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo, compared to the dismal season for Bridges and the Nets.

“It’s like that SpongeBob meme when Squidward is looking out the window and he sees SpongeBob and Patrick having fun,” Hart told the Daily News. “[Mikal] is Squidward.”

Bridges responded on Monday by calling Hart a goof who says “a lot of crazy stuff.” He took it in stride as he noted that having three college teammates play across town has been good for their friendship.

For now, that rivalry is one-sided with the Knicks having a five-game winning streak over the Nets, including three this season.

“They’ve been beating us and they had a little bragging rights, but you know, time will tell,” Bridges said. “All it takes is a little bit of time. So just can’t wait for that to flip one day.”

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