Nets guard Caris LeVert is defended during the first half...

Nets guard Caris LeVert is defended during the first half of an NBA basketball game at Barclays Center on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Nets discovered their toughness gene two games earlier when they held the Raptors to 19 fourth-quarter points only to suffer a heartbreaking one-point loss. But the rematch was a different story as the Nets played four quarters of tough defense to snap the defending NBA champions’ franchise-record 15-game winning streak with a hard-nosed 101-91 victory Wednesday night at Barclays Center.

The Nets have had trouble closing against top teams, but they pushed their lead to 91-76 with 5:14 left after five straight points by Spencer Dinwiddie. The Raptors responded with a three-pointer by Serge Ibaka and a three-point play by Fred VanVleet to cut the deficit to single digits at 91-82 with 4:13 to go. But that was as close as they got before seeing their win streak end.

Before the rematch, Nets coach Kenny Atkinson emphasized physicality and said his team had to “pitch a perfect game” to win. “I thought our physicality, the things we were missing the last two games against them, I thought we just raised that,” Atkinson said. “Tonight was really a story about our defense. We’re a top-10 defensive team. Offensively, we have a ways to go. [Defense] looks like our identity right now…We’re starting to understand what physicality means against top teams. The veterans on this team understand what it takes. Those guys know how to bring it.”

Not surprisingly, the Raptors (40-15) were disappointed to see their winning streak end in such lackluster fashion, shooting 37.8 percent from the field, including 30.2 percent from three-point range (13-of-43), and getting outrebounded, 55-42. Ibaka paced the Raptors with 28 points, VanVleet added 22, and Kyle Lowry had 12 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists.

“We played kind of like walking zombies,” Lowry said. “Give them credit. They played their butts off and beat us.”

The win sent the Nets (25-28) to the All-Star break on a 7-3 roll of their own. Their toughness allowed them to overcome miserable 25.7 percent three-point shooting (9 of 35). Caris LeVert led the Nets with 20 points, Joe Harris had 19, Dinwiddie totaled 17 points and nine assists and Jarrett Allen had 10 points and 13 rebounds. Toronto’s winning streak is the longest any Nets team has ended in franchise history, surpassing a 1982 win that snapped a 12-game Seattle winning streak.

In their previous meeting with the Raptors Saturday night in Toronto, the Nets allowed 100 points through three quarters but only 19 points in the fourth but lost byy to lose by a point. That toughness carried over to a road win at Indiana and the streak-breaking win before the break.

“We were right there in Toronto when a last-second tip-in didn’t go our way,” said Harris, who missed the tip-in. “Tonight and especially against Indiana, we just did a better job contesting every shot, scrambling around. A lot of times the defense gets broken down, but it’s about second effort. We talked about trying to be the more aggressive team, especially when you play quality teams. That’s what dictates the game, who is able to establish as the aggressor early on.”

The chance not only for payback but also to snap the Raptors’ streak served as a major incentive for the Nets, who could be heard cheering and clapping in the postgame locker room from the interview room, which is at least 60 feet away.

“Obviously, it’s a bigtime collective effort,” Dinwiddie said. “We got enough stops and held a potent team that has a championship DNA. They’ve been down quite a few times in the win streak and would always come back.”

Describing the postgame celebration, Dinwiddie added, “It was just a collective team vibe, happy that we played well, happy that we closed out this stretch in a good fashion.”

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