LOS ANGELES – Although the Miami Heat's road trip started slowly, Kendrick Nunn thinks they are picking up steam because of a team chemistry that is growing at every stop.
The Heat even kept it together to pull out a win over the defending NBA champions despite a fourth quarter that nearly went wrong.
Nunn scored 27 points, Jimmy Butler had 24 points and eight rebounds, and Miami held off the Los Angeles Lakers 96-94 Saturday night in an NBA Finals rematch.
Bam Adebayo had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Heat in the teams’ first meeting since the Lakers won their 17th championship with a six-game victory over Miami in the Florida bubble four months ago. The Heat scored only 15 points in the fourth quarter, but they held the Lakers to 17 and hung on when Alex Caruso missed a long jumper at the buzzer.
“You can tell that the chemistry is building,” said Nunn, who hit five 3-pointers. “We’ve been together for a week and a half, and it just gives us more of a feel for each other. We’re moving in the right direction now. We dropped a couple early, but we’re starting to give ourselves the best chance at the end of the game.”
The victory was Miami's second straight following a three-game skid during this seven-game road trip. The defending Eastern Conference champions (13-17) have been under .500 since Jan. 12, but their confidence is growing.
“We’re seeing progress the last few weeks,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I think our defensive mental toughness was better in this game to get some stops when we weren’t able to knock down some shots in the fourth quarter.”
LeBron James had 19 points, nine assists and nine rebounds as the champs lost their second straight game without starters Anthony Davis and Dennis Schröder.