Avoiding the Bucks in the playoffs for as long as possible appears to be a wise goal for any team in the Eastern Conference.

The current seventh- and eighth-place teams in the East played with that sort of desperation Monday night, but the Nets had their cushion over No. 8 Orlando in the standings slashed to 1 ½ games by flushing a 19-point third-quarter lead and suffering a frantic 115-113 loss to the Magic at Barclays Center.

“It’s tough, we definitely wanted this game,” Jarrett Allen said. “At the end of the day, we threw the game away. I hate to say it like that. But they came back, the defense wasn’t there and they took it away from us.”

Spencer Dinwiddie led the Nets (26-30) with 24 points — albeit none in the fourth quarter — with Caris LeVert netting 19 and Garrett Temple adding 18 off the bench. Aaron Gordon paced the Magic (25-32) with 27 and Terrence Ross scored 13 of his 21 points during the final-quarter comeback.

The Nets, who also squandered an 11-point second-half lead Thursday in an overtime loss in Philadelphia, also had dropped their previous game this season against the Magic on the road in early January, with a third meeting slated for March 27 in Orlando.

Whichever team finishes seventh almost certainly will bypass a matchup with reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and top-seeded Milwaukee — on pace for 70 wins — in the opening round.

The Nets fell to the Magic on Monday night.
The Nets fell to the Magic on Monday night.Robert Sabo

“We’re just trying to get in. We’re just trying to make it,” coach Kenny Atkinson said when asked specifically about the Bucks before the game. “I don’t even think about those [scenarios]. It’s Orlando tonight. How do we get past this? A good team.

“I think that’s the mentality. I think as we get toward the end of the season it becomes more of a topic, but now the mentality is definitely not there.”

With 26 games remaining, Atkinson’s words should represent the proper small-view approach for the Nets. Especially since they will be without both of their star free-agent signings from last summer for the remainder of the season after Kyrie Irving announced last week he’ll undergo shoulder surgery to join Kevin Durant (torn Achilles) on the injured list.

Still, Brooklyn had won seven of its previous 10, including five straight at home since Jan 29. And since Irving was injured Feb. 1, the Nets ranked second in the NBA in defensive rating.

But their defense fully betrayed them after Dinwiddie poured in 14 points as the Nets led 54-41 at halftime, holding Orlando to 35.6 percent from the floor and 3-for-18 from 3-point range through two quarters. Brooklyn upped its advantage to 19 points three minutes into the third, before Orlando quickly slashed the deficit to six with a 19-6 surge.

The Magic netted the first seven points of the final quarter, seizing an 88-87 lead on a dunk by Ross with 10:34 remaining.

Gordon’s 3-pointer pushed the score to 115-111 with 1:12 left. Allen’s dunk drew the Nets back within two, but Gordon rejected a LeVert drive and Taurean Prince clanked a 3-point attempt with 9.6 remaining.

The Nets had life after forcing a turnover by Markelle Fultz, but Prince’s desperation shot fell short just before the final buzzer.

“We gave up 74 points [in the second half], I think that’s the story. That’s astronomical,” Atkinson said.

“We all know what happened, so there wasn’t too much to talk about,” Dinwiddie added. “It ain’t no secret sauce. I mean, s–t, we gotta play defense.

“We understand the importance of the game, so we’re obviously not happy with it. I think both teams recognized the importance of this game specifically, and I think they raised their level of play and made shots, and we didn’t do a good enough job stopping them.”