After Miami pulled out their sixth straight win after crushing Atlanta 109-99 on February 28, and before the two teams face off again on March 2, Heat guard Kendrick Nunn has a strong message for Hawks star Trae Young.
It was an impressive win for the Heat on Sunday night considering they were playing without their superstar Jimmy Butler. Without the team’s leader, Nunn stepped up in a big way and scored a team-high 24 points. “It was huge for us to be able to step up and get this win without Jimmy on the floor,” said Nunn.
A huge part of the Heat’s success came from their ability to keep Young to just 15 points, who only hit 3-of-14 shots. For measure, Young, who currently ranks 10th in the league in scoring, is averaging 26.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per game this season, and Nunn is keenly aware that the 22-year-old former first-round pick out of Oklahoma is going to come back with vengeance on Tuesday night.
“We’ll definitely see a different Trae next game,” Nunn said.
The “different Trae” is the guy who notched 50 points against the Heat back in February. Despite the Heat’s focused defense on Young, he still notched a game-high nine assists and eight rebounds.
Young gave credit to Heat’s defensive performance on Sunday night. “It’s tough when they’re trapping and they’re mixing up their defenses and we’re calling something and then they kind of switch it up and then it’s late in the shot clock and we’re just out there.”
“It’s tricky,” Young continued. “They got a bunch of different types of defenses that they switch to during the game and, I mean, if you’re not aware of it, you’re not reading it, you can get out of sorts and out of character on offense.”
Nunn Is Looking to Make a Big Statement After Getting Snubbed for Rookie of the Year
To say Nunn doesn’t agree with his second-place rank under Ja Morant for the 2019 Rookie of the Year award would be an understatement. After not receiving any first-place votes, he’s looking to prove to all the doubters that they made a mistake.
“I’m an All-Star player. I’m a Hall of Famer,” Nunn told Alex Kennedy, as reported by Basketball News in January. “That’s my goal and I know that’s what I’m going to reach.”
Nunn, whose position in the NBA Draft dropped after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor battery charge following an altercation with an ex-girlfriend in 2016, was an incident that “changed his life,” said Oakland coach Greg Kampe in February 2018.
Nunn transferred to Oakland after University of Illinois’ basketball dropped him amid the allegations. Kampe said:
A lot of times with kids like him that have been projected to be so great, it takes something in life to make them understand how hard they have to work to accomplish what they really want. It takes something in life to wake them up and bring them to the reality of ‘if I’m going to get to where I need to be, I need to work and get single-purposed,’ and this young man has done that.
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Coach Spo Loves Nunn’s Intense Dedication & Drive
Heat’s head coach Erik Spoelstra agrees Nunn is a serious go-getter. Coach Spo told reporters in January, “K-Nunn has an incredible competitive character. He really does. He has a grit and a perseverance to him, that not only do you have confidence that he’ll be able to respond from this kind of adversity, but you respect him so much, that you’re like really rooting for him, and you really want it for him.”
Bam Adebayo also loves the energy Nunn brings to the team. “We always are happy for our brother. We enjoy each other’s success,” Adebayo said. “[There were] times where K. Nunn wasn’t playing, and he was enjoying my success, Duncan’s success… it’s his turn now, so we’re just going to enjoy his success and just keep feeding off of that.
“He’s a spark for us,” Adebayo continued. “It’s good to see him out there and getting back to himself.”