Kendrick Nunn scored 27 points and Jimmy Butler had 24 points and eight rebounds, leading the Miami Heat to a 96-94 victory over the host Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday in a rematch of last season’s NBA Finals participants.
Bam Adebayo had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Duncan Robinson chipped in 11 points with 10 rebounds for the Heat, who have won six of nine.
Kyle Kuzma had 23 points and LeBron James (7-for-21 from the field) added 19 points, nine rebounds and nine assists for the Lakers, who have dropped three of their last four contests. Montrezl Harrell hit 7 of 12 shots from the field to finish with 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 11 points.
Lakers guard Dennis Schroder missed his second straight game due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, while All-Star forward Anthony Davis sat out his fourth consecutive game while he remains out with a right Achilles tendon injury.
Both teams struggled in the fourth quarter. They combined for only 32 points. But two free throws by Butler with 12.4 seconds left were the difference.
Minutes before, a three-point play by Kuzma allowed the Lakers to cut the Heat’s lead to 94-92 with 1:28 remaining. After Robinson was called for an offensive foul with an elbow to face of Caldwell-Pope with 25 seconds remaining, Wes Matthews misfired on a 3-point attempt with 16.6 seconds left.
After Butler’s free throws gave the Heat a four-point advantage, Matthews converted a layup to slice the gap to two with 8.4 seconds left. But Alex Caruso, who failed to score in 20 minutes, missed a 3-pointer before the final horn.
A 14-4 run to open the third boosted the Lakers to a 66-63 edge after a 3-pointer by Matthews with 7:44 left in the quarter. However, Miami answered with a 13-0 surge for a 76-66 advantage after a pair of foul shots by Butler with 3:05 left in the third.
But Los Angeles sliced Miami’s lead to 81-77 at the end of the third.
The Heat, who led by as many as 15 points in the first half, led 59-52 at the break.