Ahead of the Miami Heat’s first game against the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals, Jimmy Butler acknowledged on Wednesday that an ankle injury he suffered in the playoffs has affected him physically.
“I’m still expected to do my job at a high level if I take the floor, which I will,” Butler said ahead of Thursday night’s Game 1. “We’re going to be OK. We’re going to get the job done, bum ankle or not.”
Butler turned his right ankle in Game 1 of Miami’s second-round series against the New York Knicks, an injury that forced him to miss Game 2 of that series. Butler returned and helped the Heat advance to the East finals. Against the Celtics, however, Butler slowed as the series went to seven games. In Game 6, he scored just nine points in three quarters before muscling in 15 points in the fourth quarter.
In Game 7 in Boston, Butler appeared to tweak that ankle and was seen limping throughout much of the game despite finishing with 28 points.
How Butler holds up physically will be an important factor in these NBA Finals against the Denver Nuggets. When dealing with the injury, Butler has not had as much lift or explosiveness when driving to the rim. Any lack of explosiveness could make it difficult for him to score over a large Denver defense, and scoring will be important against the Nuggets’ top-rated offense.
An eventual return of Tyler Herro could help, too. Herro, sidelined since fracturing his right hand in Miami’s first playoff game, has been ruled out for Game 1. Herro has been cleared to begin basketball activities, including dribbling and shooting and reports indicate he could return at some point in the series, perhaps as soon as Game 3 in Miami.
“I’m not a math guy, so I’m not good with percentages,” Spoelstra said when asked about the chance of Herro’s return. “He will not play [Thursday].
“We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves right now. He’s still just starting this process. We do have a few days here just to continue his work. I can’t even make any kind of proclamation until he takes these next important steps, and that’s with contact and doing things more on the court live.”