CHK Stock – Jimmy Butler, Heat Hold off LeBron James, Lakers for 96-94 Win | Bleacher Report
The Miami Heat jumped out to an early 15-point lead and held on down the stretch in a 96-94 road win over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on Saturday.
Miami led 96-94 and had possession of the ball with forward Andre Iguodala inbounding from halfcourt, but Lakers guard/forward LeBron James deflected a looping inbounds pass attempt to Heat forward Jimmy Butler.
Lakers guard Alex Caruso corralled the loose ball and tossed it to James, who dished it back to Caruso for a deep game-tying two-pointer from the right corner. The shot was off the mark, and the game ended.
Heat guard Kendrick Nunn led all scorers with 27 points, and Butler added 24 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals. Bam Adebayo and Duncan Robinson each had double-doubles for Miami.
For the Lakers, James finished one rebound and one assist short of a triple-double en route to 19 points. Kyle Kuzma led the Lakers with 23 points, and reserve Montrezl Harrell contributed a 18-point, 10-rebound double-double.
The Lakers were without forward Anthony Davis (right calf strain, right Achilles tendonosis) and guard Dennis Schroder (health and safety protocols). The Heat played without guard Goran Dragic (left ankle sprain).
The 13-17 Heat have won two straight. The 22-9 Lakers have lost three of their last four games and are now tied with the Los Angeles Clippers for second in the Western Conference.
Heat F Jimmy Butler: 24 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals
Heat F/C Bam Adebayo: 16 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists
Heat G Kendrick Nunn: 27 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals
Heat G Duncan Robinson: 11 points, 10 rebounds
Lakers F LeBron James: 19 points, 9 assists, 9 rebounds
Lakers C Montrezl Harrell: 18 points, 10 rebounds, 2 steals
Lakers F Kyle Kuzma: 23 points, 4 rebounds
Nunn, Butler Push Heat to Big Road Win
The Heat appear to be rounding into form after a 7-14 start to the year. Injuries and absences due to the league’s health and safety protocols hurt the Heat at that juncture, but Miami is starting to look like the team that won last year’s Eastern Conference title with wins in six of their last nine games.
Miami may have only beaten a shorthanded Lakers team by two, but the Heat controlled large swaths of this game, even leading by 15 points before the first quarter ended.
They had Kendrick Nunn to thank for that, as the left-handed guard scored 15 first-quarter points:
The same goes for Butler, who has four triple-doubles this month. He didn’t get one Saturday, but Butler’s efforts were instrumental in his team’s big road win.
The 10-year veteran dropped this right-handed hook to help Miami keep its distance:
Butler also ran the break and finished the job after Nunn stole a pass and found his teammate for two:
The two of them combined for four steals, and Nunn also contributed this key block on Kuzma:
Butler and Nunn ultimately combined to score over 54 percent of the team’s points on a low-scoring night. Coupled with their defense, the Heat were able to pull off the big win thanks to the duo, and they’ll look to carry that momentum into the remainder of their first-half schedule.
Shorthanded Lakers Nearly Overcome Offensive Struggles
The reality of the Lakers’ situation is that their team is severely understaffed without Davis and Schroder, who have combined to score 36.7 points, dish 7.3 assists and grab 12.0 rebounds per game.
No other player on the team outside James averages 14 or more points per night, and the Lakers have naturally struggled without two of their starters.
The second game featured cold shooting: L.A. shot just 39.3 percent overall and missed 32-of-45 three-pointers. It was a rare off-night for James, who went 7-of-21 (1-of-8 from three-point range).
Despite all this, the Lakers gave themselves a chance.
James did an excellent job setting up his teammates all night, finding Wesley Matthews for three:
The Lakers also made some clutch shots, with Kyle Kuzma beating the shot block buzzer and Marc Gasol nailing a three before half:
It ultimately wasn’t enough for the win Saturday.
Despite the loss, there isn’t much reason to panic. Yes, the team’s offensive struggles in its current shorthanded state is a concern, but the team is still tied for second in the Western Conference.
Davis and Schroder will eventually come back and hopefully be OK down the stretch as the Lakers look to win back-to-back N(BA) titles. For now, it’s all about taking things day-by-day for L.A. as it looks to weather the current storm and find some offense in the meantime.
Both teams will play on Monday.
The Lakers will host the Washington Wizards at 10 p.m. ET, and the Heat will visit the Oklahoma City Thunder at 9 p.m. in Chesapeake Energy Arena.