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Nets fight to finish, but fall to Raptors in overtime

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson #24 of the Brooklyn Nets puts

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson #24 of the Brooklyn Nets puts up a shot during the first half against Jonas Valanciunas #17 of the Toronto Raptors at Barclays Center on Monday, Jan. 8, 2018 in New York City. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Trailing by a point in overtime, Spencer Dinwiddie was covered at the three-point line by Raptors big man Serge Ibaka, who already had six blocked shots. Dinwiddie had driven past Ibaka to score on the previous play and decided to take that aggressive route again.

This time, Dinwiddie was tripped up on the way to the basket and wound up throwing a desperate heave skyward as he was falling. The ball went over the top of the backboard, and when the referees failed to call a foul, Dinwiddie sat on the floor and was caught by the television cameras, saying, ‘That’s what I’m talking about.”

He was referring to the Nets’ two-point loss to Boston two days earlier when he complained about a lack of respect by the officials toward himself and his teammates, and the gut-wrenching 114-113 OT loss to the Raptors Monday night at Barclays Center seemed to him like a case of déjà vu all over again.

Asked after the game if this was another case of the officials not respecting a young Nets team that dropped to 15-25, Dinwiddie, who scored a career-high 31 points and had eight assists with just one turnover, resorted to sarcasm. “You all saw the game,” he said. “All these plays, we have to do better as a unit because obviously that’s what it takes to win these games.

“I have to do better at keeping my balance. On the final play, I can’t lose my balance and fall down and throw the shot over the backboard. So, I’m going to get in the weight room, and I’m going to be better.”

The Nets now have played a franchise record five straight games that were decided by three or fewer points, losing twice to the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics and once to the 28-10 Raptors while defeating Orlando and Minnesota.

In this instance, Nets overcame a nine-point Toronto lead in the fourth quarter to force overtime when Allen Crabbe, who had 20 points, made a layup to tie the game at 107 with 9.3 seconds left before crashing to the floor and suffering a left shin injury that put him on the bench for all but the final 26 seconds of OT. Asked if he expected to get a whistle and a chance to go to the foul line for a potential game-winning foul shot in regulation, Crabbe just shook his head.

“Man, I already got fined $15,000 so I’m not trying to keep throwing away money,” Crabbe said of the prospect of being fined again. “At some point, it will turn around for us. At some point, our reputation has to be a young, gritty team. At some point, I feel the calls will go our way once we build that rep.”

The Nets showed plenty of grit in taking a four-point lead in OT, but they failed to score on their next five possessions before a Dinwiddie layup gave them their last lead at 113-111. With 26.1 seconds left, DeMar DeRozan, who led the Raptors with 35 points, hit a floater, stuck his arm out, got the whistle and converted what turned out to be the winning foul shot.

Now, the Nets have to live with the frustration of dropping 10 games below .500. “I think it’s going to take a lot of maturity,” Dinwiddie said. “These close losses, when they stack up — two, three, four, five in a row — they change the tenor of the season.

“If these close losses turn into wins, we’re close to .500 ball, we’re looking at the playoffs, there’s a different vibe for everybody in here. I would say [it’s] these close losses in a row that really hurt — they really hurt.”

New York Sports