Kendrick Nunn is enjoying the best start of any undrafted player in NBA history.
The rookie is taking the Miami Heat along for the ride.
Nunn scored a career-high 28 points to add to his record-setting start and Miami beat Atlanta 106-97 on Thursday night, giving the Heat two wins over the Hawks in three days.
Nunn’s 112 points are the highest total through the first five games for any undrafted player in NBA history. Connie Hawkins of the Phoenix Suns scored 105 points in his first five games of the 1969-70 season.
“It’s surreal a little bit,” Nunn said. ”… All I needed was the opportunity.”
Nunn, a 6-foot-2 guard from Oakland University in Michigan, scored 14 points in the third quarter. He began his career with 24 points against Memphis on Oct. 23, and he has kept shooting. He has scored at least 24 points three times in Miami’s first five games.
“He can shoot it,” Hawks rookie Cam Reddish said. “I have a lot of respect for that guy.”
Another record-setting rookie, Tyler Herro, had 17 points. Herro scored 29 points off the bench in the Heat’s 112-97 win over Atlanta on Tuesday night to set a franchise record for a rookie reserve.
The rookies have helped Miami (4-1) enjoy a strong start.
Nunn and Herro are feeding off Jimmy Butler, who had 11 assists while scoring only five points. He added nine rebounds, six steals and blocked three shots.
The Heat had 29 assists with only 13 turnovers.
“To tell you the truth, that was winning basketball today,” Butler said.
Nunn was impressed by Butler’s play, especially the assists.
“That’s huge, for your star player to be unselfish like that,” Nunn said.
Butler had 21 points in his Heat debut on Tuesday night, but said he doesn’t have to score big to do his job.
“I’m not here to score 50 points or whatever. … If we win, I’m good.”
Reddish filled in at point guard for Trae Young, who was held out with a sprained right ankle.
Jabari Parker led Atlanta with 23 points. DeAndre Bembry had 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
Miami held a lead of 18 points, but Atlanta made a late comeback attempt.
Bembry’s steal and basket cut Miami’s lead to 94-88 midway through the final period. Following a timeout, Meyers Leonard sank two 3-pointers for Miami, followed by a Nunn layup, for a 102-88 lead. Leonard had 16 points.
Reddish had nine points with four assists and only one turnover. Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said Reddish had a good start before crossing the “fine line between playing with good pace and playing too fast.”
Reddish, who joined De’Andre Hunter as rookie starters, said “I feel like I learned a lot tonight, especially at that position. I’ve got to slow down and let the game come to me.”
Heat: F Justise Winslow (lower back stiffness) did not play. … The Heat took the lead with a string of 3-pointers late in the opening period, including Bam Adebayo’s fourth career 3 and first of the season. … Coach Erik Spoelstra made a successful challenge of a charge call against Adebayo in the second period. … Miami made 14 of 37 3s, including four of six by Nunn.
Hawks: Young, who suffered the injury on Tuesday night, did not appear to be limping when seen walking before the game. … Playing behind Reddish, Tyrone Wallace helped spark a 10-1 run late in the first half. Wallace had six points in the second quarter and 12 overall in his second game after being claimed off waivers on Oct. 23. … The Hawks transferred Brandon Goodwin from their new College Park G League franchise in metro Atlanta.
Parker’s points came off the bench. He had eight rebounds and played 25 minutes. “I think he’s going to have an opportunity to be a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, and we’re going to use him that way,” Pierce said.
The Heat will play host to Houston on Sunday night.
The Hawks continue a stretch of four straight home games when they face the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night.