Nets get hearts broken after going toe-to-toe with Raptors


TORONTO — The Nets went to the wire Monday against the Raptors. And once they got there — once D’Angelo Russell’s last-ditch corner 3-point attempt fell off the rim — they had another crushing loss, 127-125 at Scotiabank Arena.

And they had another defeat without Spencer Dinwiddie, as their skid without their injured point guard worsens.

Kawhi Leonard had a game-high 30 points, and the game-winning pull-up jumper with 4.4 seconds to play. Russell had 28 points and a career-high 14 assists, but couldn’t get his final off-balance shot to go under heavy pressure from Danny Green.

The Nets (29-29) have dropped six of seven since Dinwiddie’s Jan. 28 surgery for torn ligaments in his right thumb. It’s no coincidence that now is the time when coach Kenny Atkinson — who has steadfastly avoided even using the word playoffs — chose to talk about the importance of the Nets being square in the middle of the postseason hunt.

Atkinson would usually rather have a root canal or an IRS audit than even use the P-word. But losing to sorry Chicago on Friday — with only Wednesday at Cleveland before the All-Star break — prompted him to use some psychology on his players and send a message to his suddenly slumping team.

“Yeah, I think that’s fair. Definitely good observation,” Atkinson said. “[I haven’t said it] because I’m so obsessed with the process and game-to-game. That’s been our mantra. But I do think we have to be aware. The Chicago game was one that kind of woke me up. We have to be aware there are games we don’t want to leave on the table.

“Ed [Davis] said it the other day: We don’t want to look back and regret a certain loss that might impede our chance to be in the playoffs. I did say there was going to be a certain point where I was going to admit it. I think we’re far enough along. There are [23] games after the break. We’re there, but I think it’s going to be a dogfight to the end.”

While the Nets certainly haven’t looked toothless — they gave the Raptors all they could handle — they’ve been unable to overcome the loss of Dinwiddie.
Caris LeVert had six points against the Raptors in his second game back from a gruesome dislocated foot, and Allen Crabbe had 22 in his third game since returning from a sore knee.

The Nets were leading 92-88 after Shabazz Napier’s fadeaway with 31.9 seconds left in the third quarter. But they went cold and gave up a 13-2 run that spanned the periods. Brooklyn was 1-of-5 with three turnovers, and Marc Gasol had seven points in the run on three-of-three shooting. His 3-pointer left the Nets in a 101-94 hole with 9:03 to play.

Crabbe hit back-to-back 3s to knot it at 120 with 1:34 to go.

Joe Harris — who had 15 of his 24 points in the first quarter — sank a pair of free throws to put the Nets back ahead with 1:13 to play. Kyle Lowry knotted it with a jumper, but Russell untied it on a huge 3-pointer with 50.2 left on the clock.

Green tied it from the right wing. And after the Raptors closed out Harris hard and ran him off the line, he missed a mid-range pull-up. Toronto got the rebound, pushed and saw Leonard hit the go-ahead bucket with 4.4 seconds to go. Green’s defense on Russell made sure there was no overtime.

“We’ve had to deal with something, an injury shaking the lineup and had us readjust,” Dinwiddie said. “Now we’re finally getting healthy so that’s going to shake the lineup again. [Jared Dudley] is also going to come back soon. It’s just something we’re going to have to get in tune with. … It’s an embarrassment of riches, but that only gets to manifest itself if we can come together and as a unit.”

Dinwiddie didn’t offer a timetable, but experts told The Post he should be back in four to six weeks. He said he avoided needing a full reconstruction and made his decision on surgery partly based on using this week’s All-Star break to heal.