The Miami Heat survived Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals agains the Boston Celtics, but just barely. Miami managed to build a 26-point lead, but it evaporated over the course of the second half in part because the Heat were playing at less than full strength. Star forward Jimmy Butler had to sit out the final two quarters due to knee inflammation.
While we don’t know exactly what caused that inflammation, Butler was involved in one particularly notable play in the first half. In the second quarter, he was fouled by Celtics guard Payton Pritchard, who grabbed his leg from the ground. While he didn’t attribute Butler’s injury directly to that play, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was upset about the incident and argued that it was not a basketball play as he spoke with reporters on Monday.
“We don’t know. It could’ve had an effect,” Spoelstra said. “It was not a basketball play. We’re not really sure why it was determined as a basketball play, or if that was a legal play or if that was a safe play. We’re not gonna say it’s bigger than it was because we don’t know if that’s what triggered Jimmy’s injury but regardless it should be two separate examples. We don’t need it. We don’t care. The league doesn’t have to do anything. We’re not begging for s-h-i-t.”
Here’s a look at the play in question:
It should be noted that knee inflammation is not a new problem for Butler. He missed time with it during the regular season and earlier in the playoffs, when he sat out of a game against the Atlanta Hawks in the first round. Butler’s toughness is well-known in the NBA, but he misses games fairly frequently due to recurring injuries like this. There is no way of knowing what part, if any, Pritchard played in Butler’s injury, but something caused his knee to flare up on Saturday.
Butler is expected to return to the floor for Game 4 on Monday, but he, like many of his teammates, is not completely healthy. This Eastern Conference Finals series has been one of the most physical matchups in recent postseason history, and Miami is going to need Butler if it plans to escape this series and reach the NBA Finals.