The Los Angeles Lakers were behind by two points with seconds left in regulation. Lakers forward LeBron James stole the ball from Heat forward Andre Iguodala and sent the ball to guard Alex Caruso. The jumper Caruso shot missed its mark and the Heat survived the Lakers 96-94.
Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma led with 23 points and center Montrezl Harrell grabbed 10 rebounds. Heat forward Jimmy Butler scored 24 points and center Bam Adebayo made 10 rebounds.
The offensive effort of the reigning NBA champions did not live up to their consistent defensive campaign, but James noted how the team is willing to take on extra responsibilities since forward Anthony Davis and guard Dennis Schröder have been out.
“They are doing their part and more,” James said. “Every time we’re on the floor, we’re all trying to protect each other and bring each other up and out on the floor every single night.”
Schröder will miss two more games after he tested negative for COVID-19. The Heat also had a strong defensive effort with 49 rebounds and eight steals.
“We get back work the next day and try to be better,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I think our defensive mental toughness was better in this game.”
The Heat and Lakers traded baskets early in the contest, Miami found a nine-point run midway through the first quarter. Kuzma led the Lakers’ offense while the squad worked to contain the scrappy prowess of Butler.
Guard Kendrick Nunn found a scoring rhythm, contributing 15 points to give the Heat a 13-point lead.
As the Lakers struggled to defend Adebayo, James and center Montrezl Harrell scored baskets. The Purple and Gold could only get within 10 points, as the Heat had a more consistent offensive effort.
“I feel like this game, we’re making multiple efforts,” Adebayo said. “This is one of the games where we were rotating, communicating, getting out there on guys, trying to make them miss.”
With three minutes left in the second phase, Harrell and guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope created a five-point run. As Caldwell-Pope found his three-point shot, the Heat missed baskets and made turnovers. With a buzzer-beating three-pointer from center Marc Gasol, the Lakers went into the half seven points behind Miami.
“I think it’s huge for us to continue having good winning habits,” Kuzma said. “Everybody just contribute from winning good habits, we’ll be alright.”
Lakers guard Wesley Matthews poured in five points to start the third phase, three-pointers from Gasol and Kuzma tied the game at 63. Matthews made plays on both ends of the floor by forcing turnovers. Butler spearheaded an 11-point run.
Ball movement was an asset for the Lakers down the line, getting the Purple and Gold within four points of Miami at the end of the third quarter.
However, Nunn helped the Heat pull away from the Lakers. Different Lakers players made defensive stops and shots by Harrell kept the game close. While the Lakers had a strong defensive effort, they missed key shots that would have helped them win the game.
“Down the stretch, I feel like we [were] just not being patient enough. We tried to force a lot of things, even jumpers that try to get even or get in the lead,” Caldwell-Pope said. “Towards the end of the game, we were not playing Lakers’ basketball.”
On February 22, the Lakers host the Washington Wizards at 7:00P.M.