Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler left Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics with knee inflammation, the team announced. Butler played 19 minutes in the first half but did not come out of the locker room after halftime.
It’s not clear if there was any specific instance that caused the flare-up, but Butler has been dealing with a knee problem throughout the playoffs. He previously missed Game 5 of the Heat’s first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks due to knee inflammation. In general, this has been an injury-plagued season for Butler. He only played 57 games due to a wide variety of issues including ankle, tailbone, toe and shoulder issues.
At this point, it’s far too early to know how long Butler may be sidelined. Last time his knee flared up he only missed one game, but every situation is different. Regardless, this is not good news for the Heat, as Butler is by far their best player and most consistent shot creator.
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He almost singlehandedly won Game 1 of this series by putting up 41 points, nine rebounds, five assists, four steals and three blocks. For the playoffs he’s averaging 29.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game, while shooting 54 percent from the field.
The Heat may wind up surviving Game 3 because of the initial lead they built up, but if Butler misses any extended time it would be a real problem for them.