Erik Spoelstra Slams Celtics Guard for Dirty Play on Heat Star

Erik Spoelstra, Payton Pritchard

Getty Miami Heat's head coach Erik Spoelstra (L) gets heated discussing Celtics guard Payton Pritchard's (R) actions in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Miami Heat (2-1) enter game Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics with momentum following their dominant 109-103 win in Game 3, however, the team will not be at full health.

During Game 3 on Saturday, May 21, at the TD Garden, Heat guard Tyler Herro went down with a groin injury and was officially ruled out from Game 4. As for Heat star Jimmy Butler, who missed the entire second half of Game 3 due to right knee inflammation — he will warm up with the intention to play.

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Heat Nation breathed a sigh of relief learning Butler will be back in action on Monday, May 23, as he’s been the team’s driving force throughout the postseason. While the six-time All-Star was great during the regular season, averaging 21.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 5.5 assists in 57 games, he’s been on a different level during the playoffs, averaging 28.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 2.2 steals.

How or when Butler injured his knee remains unclear, but there was a highly questionable play involving Celtics guard Payton Pritchard about halfway through the second quarter of Game 3 that Heat’s head coach Erik Spoelstra sounded off on Monday afternoon.

With the Heat up 54-33 with 6:15 left in the half, Pritchard falls while trying to guard Butler, and before getting back on defense, grabs the Heat win’s right knee while he was trying to drive toward the basket.

A slo-mo video of the controversial collision appears to show Pritchard’s action was intentional. “It was not a basketball play,” Spoelstra told Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson. “We’re not sure why it was determined it was a basketball play, or that was a legal play or that was a safe play.”

While Spoelstra believes Pritchard’s grab was illegal and should’ve been a flagrant foul, he stops short of placing the blame for Butler’s injury on the Celtics guard. “We don’t know [if that contributed],” Spoelstra said. “It could have had an effect.”

Coach Spo noted that the Heat won’t be filing an official complaint to the league office. He said, “They can do whatever they want. That has nothing do with us trying to compete.

“We’re not going to say it’s bigger than it was, because we don’t know if that’s what triggered Jimmy’s injury. We don’t need it. We don’t care. The league doesn’t have to do anything. We’re not crying. We’re not begging for anything.”

Pritchard’s Dirty Play was Compared to Jordan Poole’s Knee Grab That Injured Ja Morant

It’s not just Spoelstra upset with Pritchard grabbing Butler’s knee, analysts and fans across the league couldn’t believe the refs didn’t take proper action, and compared the dirty play to another ugly incident that took place during the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies playoff series.

During Game 3 of the Western Conference playoffs between Golden State and Memphis, Grizzlies star Ja Morant suffered a knee injury that kept him for the remainder of the series.

A slo-mo video of the incident appears to show Warriors guard Jordan Poole intentionally reaching for Morant’s knee. As with Butler, the refs didn’t call a flagrant foul.

Butler didn’t speak to the media on Monday. When Spoelstra asked how the 32-wing felt about Pritchard’s play, “It doesn’t matter,” he said.

Heat/Celtics Playoff Schedule

The Heat will look to do something they’ve never done in this postseason thus far, win two road games in a row. Here’s the full schedule for the Heat/Celtics series:

Game 4: Monday, May 23, TD Garden, 8:30 p.m., ABC
Game 5: Wednesday, 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

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