Los Angeles, United States (AFP) – Jimmy Butler and Kendrick Nunn combined for 51 points as the Miami Heat defeated reigning league champions the Los Angeles Lakers 96-94 on Saturday, in a rematch of last season’s NBA finals.
Nunn finished with 27 points and Butler had 24 and eight rebounds for the Heat, who have won six of their last nine contests.
Bam Adebayo tallied 16 points and 10 rebounds and Duncan Robinson added 11 points with 10 rebounds.
This was the first meeting between the two teams since the Lakers defeated the Heat four games to two for their record-equalling 17th league crown in October in Orlando, Florida.
The Lakers have now lost three of their last four games.
They were without injured all-star forward Anthony Davis, who sat out his fourth straight game with a right Achilles tendon injury, and guard Dennis Schroder, who missed his second straight game due to the NBA’s Covid-19 restrictions.
The Lakers got 19 points from 36-year-old LeBron James, who shot just seven of 21 from the floor.
Kyle Kuzma had 23 points, Montrezl Harrell finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 11 points.
After both teams struggled to score in the fourth, Butler made two clutch free throws with 12 seconds left.
Miami led by as much as 15 points in the first half and by halftime were ahead 59-52.
The Lakers took a 66-63 lead in the third before the Heat jolted back to life and went on a 13-0 surge for a 76-66 lead with just over three minutes left in the quarter.
Elsewhere, Terry Rozier hit the game winner at the buzzer, capping a game-high 36-point performance as the Charlotte Hornets returned from an unexpected break to beat the Golden State Warriors 102-100.
The Hornets hadn’t played since Valentine’s Day after two games were postponed because of Covid-19 measures.
Rozier shot eight-for-11 on three pointers and finished with his fourth consecutive 30-point outing.
P.J. Washington scored 15 points and Miles Bridges had 10 for the Hornets, who shot 20-for-40 on threes and outscored the Warriors 60-39 from three-point range.