Dave Hyde: Jimmy Butler goes down and Heat can't hold up without him

Dave Hyde, South Florida Sun-Sentinel on

Published in Basketball

The blow that ultimately turned out the lights on the Miami Heat on Wednesday, and probably beyond, came late in the first quarter and not those final, frantic seconds at the end of the game. Jimmy Butler went up for a shot then under the basket and landed awkwardly on the extended leg of Philadelphia’s Kelly Oubre.

Butler lay like a fallen oak on the floor in pain that was mirrored on the televised faces of Heat president Pat Riley and its vice president of scowling, Alonzo Mourning. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, looking for some karmic justice, asked the refs what happened there in harder language.

Butler got up and tried to limp off the injury. He made some big plays off his basketball smarts as the Heat built a 13-point lead at the half. He tried to tough through the second half. But, well, there was no hiding the truth of the injury when the Heat sunk in the final minutes.

Playoff Jimmy was Peg-leg Jimmy.

“He could still move a little bit in the second quarter, but as the second half went on he was more limited,’’ Spoelstra said after the 105-104 play-in loss to Philadelphia. “But we have no idea. ... We’ll see when we get back to Miami.”

There’s no crying over this. Not when you let your season come down to one night. Not when you’ve had the good fortune of opposing injuries in recent years (Giannis Antetokounmpo in Game 1 last year, Jayson Tatum in Game 7).


It’s just unfortunate Butler got hurt to go with Duncan Robinson and Terry Rozier. And instead of going on to play the New York Knicks in the first round of the playoffs the Heat return to Miami on Friday night for another play-in game to see if they make the playoffs.

And then would play top seed Boston, the lone great team in the East.

“We’ll do this the hard way,’’ Spoelstra said. “That has to be the path right now.”

The shame is they were right there, too. Their first half made this team look whole in a way they hadn’t much all season. Oh, it started ugly enough. Ugly seems to be part of their story.


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