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At this point in his brief NBA career, it isn’t surprising for Kendrick Nunn to play at a high level immediately after returning to the Miami Heat’s rotation.
Such has been the case for the third time this season over the past two weeks in the wake of Victor Oladipo being sidelined with knee soreness, leading to Nunn being back in the Miami Heat’s starting lineup for the past nine games after completely being out of the team’s rotation in the previous six games.
“That’s what pros do — you stay ready,” Jimmy Butler said of Nunn, who recorded 22 points, five rebounds and two assists in the Heat’s 106-101 win over the Chicago Bulls on Saturday at AmericanAirlines Arena. “You know your time’s going to be called sooner or later. I don’t want anyone to get injured, but they happen.
“He has stepped right back into the role he had and he’s performed extremely well for us. He’s learned all the right reads. He’s taking all the right shots. When the kid’s locked in on defense, he’s a player that you really have to pay attention to.”
Since rejoining the team’s rotation on April 11 against the Portland Trailblazers, Nunn’s averaged 16.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists on 50.9 percent shooting from the field (12 attempts per game) and 41.9 percent on 3-pointers (6.9 attempts average).
And he’s been even more prolific during the Heat’s 4-1 stretch, with averages of 19.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 0.8 steals across 34.3 minutes — second only to Butler — in the team’s past five games.
He’s shot 51.4 percent from the floor during the aforementioned stretch, including making half of his 3-point attempts (21 of 42 — 8.4 attempts per game).
“That thing look like the ocean right now,” Nunn quipped to Bally Sports Sun host Jason Jackson, with the Heat set for a rematch against the Bulls on Monday. “I’m making some open shots. Guys finding me around the perimeter when I move — just locked down, focused and knocking them down.”
Making Nunn’s time on the floor even more effective? Him taking care of the ball, which has been a struggle for the Heat at times this season, with Nunn averaging 0.8 turnovers over the past five games.
“That’s something I take pride in as a guard,” Nunn said.
Nunn could see a change in the team’s disposition during its win against the Bulls after falling to an Atlanta Hawks team without Trae Young and Clint Capela on the road the night before in a matchup that had playoff-seeding implications.
The Hawks were 1.5 games ahead of the Heat in the Eastern Conference standings as of Sunday and own the tiebreaker over Miami after winning the season series, 2-1.
“We were disappointed by [Friday] night,” Nunn said of the loss to the Hawks. “A game we should’ve won got away from us. [Saturday against the Bulls], we got up big — it wasn’t 100 percent the game we liked but we pulled it through and got the W. That’s what matters.”
Nunn’s recent play will only make the decisions more difficult for coach Erik Spoelstra when it comes time to trim the Heat’s rotation once again — presumably once Oladipo returns.
For now, Nunn — along with the rest of the Heat — are focused on having a steady finish in the Eastern Conference’s playoff race.
“Just being consistent throughout 48 minutes of a game and throughout the season,” Nunn said when asked what’s the Heat’s driving force over the season’s final 11 games. “We’ve had some ups and downs here and there. That’s what we’re working on as a better. We’ll get better at [it].”