The Heat are optimistic about Jimmy Butler‘s status for the rest of the Eastern Conference Finals even though he wasn’t able to play in the second half of Game 3, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN. Coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters that Butler won’t have to undergo another MRI, but his availability for Monday night hasn’t been determined.
Butler is experiencing inflammation in his right knee, a problem that has plagued him since Game 4 of Miami’s first-round series against Atlanta. Spoelstra said the team’s training staff decided at halftime Saturday that he shouldn’t try to keep playing through it.
“He didn’t have his, like, normal explosive burst,” Spoelstra explained. “He’s been able to manage this. I think the next two days will be really important, obviously. At halftime, really, the trainers made the call. Just feel like we’ve been in this situation a lot with a few of our guys. We almost have to restrain them. We get it, and we love it about them, how they are wired. But we also don’t want to be irresponsible.”
There’s more on the Heat:
- One of the biggest shots of the night was hit by Max Strus, a former G League player who was waived by the Celtics in 2019, per Joe Vardon of The Athletic. After Boston closed to within a point, Strus drained a three-pointer with 2:16 remaining to swing the momentum back to Miami. He said the play was suggested in the huddle by Kyle Lowry. “In the timeout, Kyle said: ‘Let’s run a pin-down for Max. Let’s get him open,’” Strus said. “So when he said that, I had all the confidence in the world to step up and make a shot. Just shot my normal shot. I got two great screens from Bam (Adebayo) and P.J. (Tucker) and hit a wide-open jumper.”
- Although there are health questions about Butler and Tyler Herro, who appeared to suffer a quad injury, the Heat were briefly at full strength on Saturday as Lowry returned from an injured left hamstring, notes Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Lowry, who has played 78 total minutes over the past month, had 11 points and six assists and provided a strong defensive presence as Miami built a large early lead.
- With Butler unavailable, the Heat got the performance they needed from Adebayo, observes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. The big man had a 31-point night, including eight in the fourth quarter to help hold off the Celtics’ rally. “When Jimmy was out in the second half, he just stabilized us,” Spoelstra said. “It got a little gnarly out there and when it did, we were able to get the ball to Bam and just get something coherent.”