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Butler, Dragic expected back for Heat, as Butler-Warren rematch looms vs. Pacers

Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel on

Published in Basketball

As the stakes increase for the Miami Heat so do the options for coach Erik Spoelstra.

Forward Jimmy Butler and guard Goran Dragic returned to practice Sunday at Disney World, in the wake of injuries that have the Heat on a two-game losing streak going into Monday night's playoff-seeding showdown against the Indiana Pacers.

Butler has missed the past three games with a sore right foot, with Dragic missing the past two with a sprained left ankle. In addition, guard Kendrick Nunn is back in the Disney bubble after briefly leaving for a personal matter, but now must quarantine for at least four days amid the NBA's attempt to avoid COVID-19 infection in its controlled setting.

For the Heat, the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference is hanging in the balance over their final three "seeding" games ahead of the Aug. 17 start of the NBA playoffs. The Heat enter Monday tied with Indiana at 43-27, but have clinched the tiebreaker by virtue of being a division champion. The Heat could fall as low as No. 6, which would mean a first-round series against the Boston Celtics.

"We had a great day today," Spoelstra said after Sunday's practice. "Our team, that's a great quality about this group -- come back to work and just work on things we need to get better at."

Monday's game is the first of two this week against the Pacers, with a rematch Friday. The Heat's other remaining regular-season game is Wednesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

 

For Butler, there will be added spice to the mix against the Pacers, who stand as a likely Heat opponent in the best-of-seven first round of the playoffs.

The last time the teams met, in early January, Butler and Warren had several contentious confrontations, episodes that included Warren ejected for a middle finger directed at Butler and then Butler blowing a kiss in Warren's direction.

"He's trash," Butler said shortly after the Heat's 122-108 Jan. 8 victory at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

"He's soft. He's soft," Butler continued at the time, adding a profanity at the end of that comment.

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