Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Report: Jimmy Butler expected to miss rest of Celtics-Heat series with 'severe MCL sprain'

Jimmy Butler may have played his last game of the 2023-24 season for the Miami Heat, despite initial expectations of a possible return in this first-round series against the Celtics from an MCL injury.

The All-Star hurt his right knee in the team's loss to the Philadelphia 76ers during their first Play-In game. Butler went on to miss the Heat's next matchup against the Chicago Bulls, where they officially clinched the eighth seed last Friday night.

Fast forward to over the weekend, Butler missed Miami's 114-94 loss in Game 1 at TD Garden and according to Shams Charania, the Heat will be without their best player for the entirety of the best-of-7 series against the Celtics -- as he's looking at a "month or two of rehab" when it comes to what is now being called a "severe MCL sprain."
"He is not gonna be back in this series," Charania said on FanDuel TV's 'Run it Back' Monday. "This is a rehab that's gonna go at least one month. It's seriously remarkable to me that he played three quarters on this injury."
While Butler is lucky that the injury sustained wasn't a torn ACL or meniscus, he has already begun the process of rehabilitating his knee and it'll be an uphill battle for the Heat -- who are already shorthanded as is with former Celtics guards Terry Rozier (set to miss second straight game Wednesday with a neck injury) and Josh Richardson (season-ending shoulder surgery) both out.

Butler was Miami's only hope of making this series against the Celtics -- a rematch of last season's Eastern Conference Finals -- somewhat interesting and competitive. With Butler's absence, Boston's talent and depth is just superior to that of the Heat's as it was evident in Game 1 this past Sunday afternoon.

The Celtics haven't forgotten how their season ended a year ago at the hands of Butler, Erik Spoelstra and the Heat, but while getting past Miami via a sweep or otherwise would be getting ride of a monkey off their back from last May, they have other goals to focus on in the shape of the Larry O'Brien trophy come June.

Coach Joe Mazzulla has his task cut out for him of keeping his team on track, especially following Caleb Martin colliding into Jayson Tatum in the final minute of Game 1, as if the Celtics needed any more ammunition heading into Game 2.
"Better is just doing what we did with higher intensity and higher physicality -- I think that's what Game 2s call for," Mazzulla said in his post-practice presser Tuesday. "The first adjustment is to do what you did with a higher level of intensity and a higher level of physicality. The small details we can get better [at] on at both ends of the floor. [We] worked on that today, but I think the first step is what mindset [and] what physicality we're coming in with."
Boston looks to take a commanding 2-0 best-of-7 series lead tonight when they host the Heat in Game 2. TNT has the tip-off at 7:00 pm ET. 

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of USA Today

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