Injured Jimmy Butler limps out of Miami Heat's play-in loss to 76ers

A brutal second-half collapse, coupled with a Jimmy Butler knee injury, puts the Miami Heat in the worst possible situation.
Miami Heat v Philadelphia 76ers - Play-In Tournament
Miami Heat v Philadelphia 76ers - Play-In Tournament / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

The Miami Heat's play-in loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, setting up a win-or-go-home scenario on Friday, may be the least of their problems. Right now, all eyes are on Jimmy Butler's knee injury.

While under the rim at the end of the first quarter of Miami's 105-104 loss on Wednesday night, Butler pump faked and 76ers forward Kelly Oubre Jr. jumped in the air and landed on Butler's right leg. Butler crumpled to the court, grabbed at his right knee and screamed in pain. But Butler shot his free throws and remained in the game, playing nearly 40 minutes in the loss. By the fourth quarter, Butler was grimacing and grabbing at his knee while spending most of the Heat's possessions standing in the corner.

After the game, Butler was seen by reporters wearing a protective sleeve on his right knee and badly limping through the Heat locker room. He told reporters that he thinks it is a knee sprain and will undergo an MRI on Thursday. Charania later reported that it could be an MCL injury, and there's a fear that Butler could be sidelined for "an indefinite period."

But even with Bam Adebayo in early foul trouble and Butler hobbled, the Heat managed to build a 56-43 lead in the second half in large part due to their zone defense that had the 76ers offense looking lifeless and without answers.

But in a sequence where two missed Caleb Martin free throws led to a Nic Batum three and free chicken for Philadelphia fans, the momentum completely flipped.

Now, the Miami Heat find themselves in the second play-in game for the second consecutive season, but this time there is a good chance the Heat will be without Butler.

A brutal second half collapse coupled with a Jimmy Butler knee injury puts the Miami Heat in the worst scenario possible.

Miami had full control of the game from the end of the first quarter to midway through the third quarter because of their defense. But as the case has been all season, the Heat's offense was in the mud with poor execution in transition and their three best players either not being involved or missing shots. Because of that, Miami had multiple chances to grow their lead even more, but the 76ers hung around.

Once the Batum barrage from three busted the Heat's zone, the leaks began to grow in the Heat's defense who suddenly had no answers in stopping Philadelphia's offense. And despite all of the issues described above, the Heat held a five-point lead going into the fourth quarter. But questionable decision making by Erik Spoelstra along with bad offense contributed to Miami's unraveling in the final period.

To start the fourth in a must-win game to claim the seventh seed, there was no Bam Adebayo or Jimmy Butler for almost the first three minutes. Butler's injury definitely had to factor into his minutes and it's understandable to see why he did not play the entire quarter. But to not have your two best players in at any point of a game where momentum flipped is definitely head scratching.

There was also a crucial possession where the replay showed the ball hitting off of Paul Reed after Batum missed a three, but the initial ruling on the floor was 76ers basketball. Spoelstra decided to not use his challenge and it resulted in Batum hitting a three to make it a two-possession game.

With the new rule regarding challenges where a team can use another challenge given that the first one is successful, there is no doubt Miami would have won that challenge and instead of falling down by two possessions, the Heat would have had the ball back down one with a chance to take the lead and also having another challenge at their disposal.

Spoelstra has spoken out about not being a fan of the coach's challenge, but this would have been a great instance to use one where the Heat needed every extra possession with their struggles offensively.

With Butler compromised, Terry Rozier out with a neck injury and Duncan Robinson an available scratch because of a lingering lower back injury, the Heat had no choice but to run the offense through Tyler Herro.

Herro had his moments in the fourth quarter but missed 18 of his 27 shots overall and was blocked by Batum on a game-tying three-point attempt.

The Heat had one of the hardest and most improbable runs to the Finals as the eighth seed last season. Still, now with a real possibility of not having Butler against the Chicago Bulls and potentially against the Boston Celtics if they advance, the challenge might be too much to overcome for Spoelstra and the Heat.

"We will do this the hard way. That has to be the path right now," Erik Spoelstra said. "We're going to bring a hell of a game on Friday night lights."