The Miami Heat (1-1), following an embarrassing 127-102 loss against the Boston Celtics in Game 2, was on absolute fire in the first half of Game 3 on Saturday, May 21, entering halftime up 62-47.
With the momentum swinging hard in the Heat’s favor, Miami was delivered an unexpected blow before the start of the third quarter. The official Heat’s Twitter account reported, “Jimmy Butler left tonight’s Game 3 with right knee inflammation and will not return.”
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Losing Butler, who’s been the unquestionable leader of the Heat’s roster throughout the playoffs, is an obvious gut punch for Heat Nation.
It’s not yet clear how or when exactly Butler, 32, injured his knee, but Yahoo Sports! reporter Chris Haynes tweeted positive news during the fourth quarter: “Jimmy Butler’s knee injury isn’t being considered serious and there’s a strong possibility it doesn’t cause him to miss a game.”
Thankfully, it seems an MRI won’t be needed. Heat’s head coach Erik Spoelstra said of Butler during the postgame conference, “He didn’t have his normal explosive burst,” per Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson. “He’s been able to manage this. The next two days will be really important. His competitiveness will overtake everything. At halftime, the trainers made the call for him not to play.”
The wing previously missed Game 5 of the Heat’s first-round playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks due to knee inflammation. Miami proceeded to eliminate Atlanta from the playoffs with a 97-42 win.
Before exiting the game at the TD Garden on Saturday night, the six-time All-Star scored six points with three rounds, two assists, and two steals in 19 minutes of play. In Game 2, Butler scored 29 points with six rebounds, three assists, and one steal. During the Heat’s dominant 118-107 win over the Celtics in Game 1, Butler put 41 points, nine rebounds, five assists, four steals, and three blocks.
Immediately following Butler’s absence in Game 3, the Heat’s offense took a big hit. With 2:39 left in the third quarter, the Heat’s lead went down to 10, which is not great considering Miami was ahead by 25 points at the start of the half.
Ultimately, the Heat never lost the lead, with All-Star center Bam Adebayo putting up 31 points. Miami nabbed a road win against Boston with a 109-103 victory.
Luckily for the Heat, Point Guard Kyle Lowry Returned to Play in Game 3, As did Forward P.J. Tucker
While losing Butler could be insurmountable, the Heat were lucky enough to have starting point guard Kyle Lowry return to the starting lineup on Saturday night. Lowry missed eight of the last 10 playoff games — his last appearance took place during Game 4 against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Celtics starting forward Grant Williams told ESPN of Lowry’s return before Saturday night’s tilt in Boston, “Kyle brings shooting, he brings intensity when it comes to the defensive end. He uses his body in great position; you don’t necessarily want to post him up, he does a great job taking charges, kind of flailing, getting the referees into the game.
“He’s a vet that you have to take out of the game because he provides a scoring push for them, as well, and they play a lot more in transition when he plays. He kicks the ball ahead, he’s willing to pull up in transition 3s, flying off of actions. So it gives them a different dynamic. It’s going to be fun to have him back because you want every team to be fully healthy so you can compete at the highest level, and hopefully P.J.’s knee is good too, so we all can kind of go out there and kind of play our best game of basketball.”
P.J. Tucker, who exited Game 2 with a left knee contusion, was able to return for Game 3 against the Celtics. Tucker put up 15 points, seven rebounds, three steals, and one block in 38 minutes of play.
Heat/Celtics Playoff Schedule
Following Game 3 in Boston, here’s the full schedule for the Heat/Celtics series:
Game 4: Monday, May 23, TD Garden, 8:30 p.m., ABC
Game 5*: May 25: FTX Arena, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Game 6*: May 27, TD Garden, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Game 7*: May 29: FTX Arena, 8:30 p.m., ESPN