With a minute and 28 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Kyle Kuzma made an and-one layup to pull the Los Angeles Lakers to within 94-92. Duncan Robinson committed his fifth foul on the play. On the other end of floor, Jimmy Butler missed a good look from 10 feet out. With 1:04 left, the Lakers had a chance to tie or take the lead.
But Kuzma missed a 3-pointer. The Heat milked clock on their subsequent possession, but it ended with Robinson fouling out on an elbow to the face of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. L.A. had yet another chance.
Wes Matthews missed an open look for a 3. With less than 24 seconds left, the Lakers had to foul. Butler made both free throws to put Miami up four with 12 seconds left. But L.A. had a final chance after LeBron James stole an in-bounds pass to Butler with five seconds left. Alex Caruso attempted a long two, but it also missed.
The Heat survived 96-94 in a game that saw little offense from either team in the second half — the score was 42-37 Lakers after halftime. The Heat improved to 13-17 on the season and 3-3 on their current West Coast road trip.
Miami was content to let Kuzma, Matthews and Caruso take the clutch shots — just as they were willing to let Danny Green take the open 3-pointer in Game 5 of the 2020 NBA Finals a few months back.
The Heat didn’t play well outside of an encouraging first quarter that saw Miami pick apart a Lakers defense without Anthony Davis with smart cuts and Kendrick Nunn score 15 points.
Just a fantastic read and a filthy cut from Duncan Robinson pic.twitter.com/EiS1T8qQtx— Orange is the New Openly Black (@NekiasNBA) February 21, 2021
Miami’s offense ground to a halt after that first quarter. Butler missed a number of layups and tip-ins that he usually makes. Matthews forced Butler into some turnovers. Robinson shot just 1-for-5 from downtown, and Max Strus was an abysmal 0-for-8 from 3. (And Strus only played after Tyler Herro suffered an injury in the second quarter and didn’t return.)
Even Bam Adebayo — who started the game so well, making nice shots around the rim and jumpers — missed those same shots in the second half.
There are some games when Bam, currently 6-of-6 at the rim, looks like he can't miss within 12 feet no matter how many guys are draped on him. Has a great shooter's touch on short shots in part because he shoots them sort of like how he shoots his jumpers. pic.twitter.com/UTK6lKl1PF— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) February 21, 2021
Adebayo ultimately finished with 16 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the field, 10 rebounds and six assists. He also had an unbelievable block on LeBron midway through the fourth quarter.
Bam doing Bam things pic.twitter.com/QaAHroA1BO— Joseph Beguiristain (@JoeBeguiristain) February 21, 2021
At times — especially in a third quarter that started horribly but ended fine — it appeared the Heat only held an advantage because LeBron complained to the referees after he drove to the rim and didn’t get a foul call. But hey, the Heat made enough plays to defeat the defending champions. After embarrassing losses to the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors earlier on this trip, getting this win feels good for Miami.
Butler finished with 24 points on 8-of-20 shooting from the field and 8-of-10 from the foul line. He added eight rebounds and five assists. Nunn led Miami with 27 points.
The Heat will finish their West Coast road trip Monday night in Oklahoma City.