The math wasn’t difficult. The Miami Heat got plenty of points on turnovers and almost played the entire game without giving up any.
That was the difference.
Jimmy Butler scored 27 points, Bam Adebayo added 23 points and 14 rebounds, and the Heat topped .500 as they beat the Los Angeles Lakers 112-98.
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Miami led the Lakers 31-2 in points on turnovers, having forced 26 while committing just six despite the absence of point guard Kyle Lowry, who was absent for personal reasons.
“Certainly ball control was a big positive tonight,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
LeBron James, who led the Lakers with 27 points, couldn’t have agreed more – albeit from a different perspective. The turnovers led to a 92-77 gap in field goal attempts, that number obviously in favor of Miami.
“That’s pretty much the game here,” James said.
The Lakers fell to 14-21. It is James’ second-worst record of any team in 35 games; Cleveland started 11-24 in their 2003-04 rookie season.
“I don’t want to end my career playing at this level, from a team perspective,” James said. “I still want to be able to compete for championships because I know what I can still bring to any ball club with the right parts.”
Tyler Herro had 18 points and nine assists for the Heat (18-17). Caleb Martin scored 13 points and Gabe Vincent added 12 for Miami, which has won six of its last eight.
James, playing the second straight night, also had nine rebounds and six assists for the Lakers.
Russell Westbrook and Dennis Schroder each had 15 for the Lakers.
The Heat led by 22 points at one point, their third-biggest margin of the season and the biggest since Oct. 26.
And the final 14-point margin was also Miami’s third-biggest win of the season, though it didn’t come easy in the end.
The Lakers cut the lead to seven late in the fourth, before Herro connected on a left wing three-pointer with 2:01 to restore a double-digit lead.
Miami got a stoppage on the Lakers’ next possession, and on the ensuing Heat trip, Butler took the lane for an easy layup with 1:15 remaining and it sealed the victory.
“We kept the lead,” Adebayo said. “That was the most important thing.”
It was James’ last game at age 37; he will turn 38 on Friday.
James has averaged 30.1 points in games played at age 37, by far the most in NBA history. Karl Malone averaged 23.2 at age 37; it’s the second best now.
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