Will Jimmy Butler play Game 3? Here’s where things stand

As the Miami Heat prepare to face the New York Knicks in Saturday’s Game 3, there is optimism that Jimmy Butler could return from a sprained right ankle that sidelined him for Miami’s Game 2 loss.

Unsurprisingly, the Heat are playing coy, unwilling to divulge too much ahead of Saturday’s 3:30 tip with the series tied 1-1.

“Jimmy’s working. We’ll see. I’ll probably have an update for you probably around 2:15 [Saturday],” coach Erik Spoelstra said in an attempt to dodge a question about Butler’s availability. “We know what his intentions are. We’ll see.”

Butler was present for the Heat’s Friday afternoon practice but it’s unclear what his level of participation was. Bam Adebayo said that Butler told the team, “he feels good, and we go with that.”

When asked point blank if he expects Butler to play, Bam hedged. “Uhh, I don’t know.”

Even Butler’s teammates have a hard time reading him. When Butler says he feels fine, they know to take it with a grain of salt.

“Jimmy is a different character,” Adebayo said. “I feel like, the will of him, he’s not gonna say exactly how he feels. … He’s a warrior in that aspect because he won’t tell you how he truly feels. He has that will to win, so he’ll go out there 50%, 60% and he’ll tell you he’s fine.”

The Heat can use Butler even at 60% capacity. The Heat are 5-1 in games in which Butler played this postseason. He was averaging 35.5 points on 58.5% shooting, 6.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists in 38.5 minutes before sustaining a rolled ankle at the end of Game 1. He was ruled out for Game 2, but has now had five full days of treatment and recovery.

During that time, Butler has posted pictures to his Instagram account of his right ankle and videos of late-night workouts at the Heat’s facility. His teammates talk about Game 3 as if he’ll be a part of it. As Spoelstra said, we won’t know if Butler will play until about an hour before tip-off, but the Heat are hopeful.

More injury updates

Max Strus, who left Game 2 with a back injury but later returned, said he feels fine now and practiced Friday with no limitations. He expects to play Saturday.

I’m good,” he said.

After Caleb Martin left Game 2 late with a lower back injury, after Friday’s practice he had a wrap around his back and abdomen. He told All U Can Heat, “I feel solid, man. I feel good.”

Martin sustained the injury with about a minute left in Tuesday’s loss when he dove for a loose ball and slid out of bounds. He remained in the game for a little while longer while holding his lower back before being subbed out with 24 seconds remaining.

“I’m going to do everything in my power to play in the next game and I feel confident that I’ll hopefully be able to,” Martin said, adding: “It’ll really be my decision.”

Adebayo isn’t dealing with health concerns but did say this is the most physical playoff series he’s he’s been a part of since playing the Lakers in the 2020 Finals in the bubble.

“I got hurt in the Finals. That was probably the most physical series I’ve been in,” Adebayo said. “But I can put this one right up there to it. They got guys that crash the glass. They look to assault the rim.”

After getting out-rebounded 50-34 in Game 2, the Heat want to do a better job boxing out and matching New York’s physicality on the glass.

“Physicality don’t really start until the ball goes in the air,” Adebayo said.

In such a physical series, the Heat can expect more bruises. Fortunately for them, they had a long break between games during which players could recover and coaches can make adjustments following a loss.

“You got guys that are banged up, so three days to really get their body together and really get back healthy,” Adebayo said. “It’s a good time to watch film. You got three days to watch it and get better.”


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