Miami Heat guard Jimmy Butler will have MRI Thursday, may miss play-in game Friday

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Miami guard Jimmy Butler will have an MRI on his right knee Thursday, with the Heat bracing for the strong possibility that he may miss Friday’s elimination play-in game against the Chicago Bulls, a person with knowledge of the situation said.

No final determination will be made until after the MRI is read sometime in the late afternoon, said the person, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither Butler nor the Heat had revealed specific details publicly.

Even if diagnosed with a sprain, the likelihood would be that Butler misses several weeks, at minimum. It only adds to Miami’s major injury issues, with point guard Terry Rozier out with a neck strain and shooting guard Duncan Robinson bothered by a back injury. Robinson was cleared to play Wednesday but did not appear in Miami’s 105-104 loss to Philadelphia.

Butler was hurt late in the first quarter of that game against the 76ers when he tried to fake out Kelly Oubre Jr. on a bucket. His knee buckled and he fell to the court. Oubre appeared to land on the Heat star, who led the franchise last season to the NBA Finals.

“I fell, he landed and my knee just didn’t do well, I guess,” Butler said Wednesday night. “I don’t know. It’s not a good feeling, I can tell you that.”

Butler sank the free throw, exhaled and missed the second one. He remained in the game and scored 19 points, but the Heat wasted what was a 14-point lead and now face Chicago in a win-or-else game on Friday. The winner gets the No. 8 seed and a first-round matchup with the top-seeded Boston Celtics in a series that starts Sunday.

“We just need to get one and then we’ll worry about the next one,” Butler said.

Butler’s agent, Bernie Lee, told Sirius XM NBA on Thursday that there had been no determination yet on the injury’s severity because the MRI had not yet been performed. The Heat landed in Miami around 2 a.m. Thursday after the game in Philadelphia.

“It felt like I couldn’t do too much, which sucks with the timing of the game and everything,” Butler said after the game. “I hope that I’m fine. I hope that I wake up tomorrow and can still stick-and-move. Right now, I can’t stay that’s the case.”

Whether Butler plays or not, the Bulls expect to have a tough time against the Heat.

“Jimmy being out for Miami, they have a culture,” Chicago guard Ayo Dosunmu said. “Whoever steps up in his spot, I know they’re not gonna bring everything he does. He’s an All-Star, a great player in this league, but Miami is one of the teams when you play them, you know what to expect. They play hard. They play physical. They don’t quit. They always keep coming, they keep bringing energy.”

Butler, a former Bull and Sixer, scored 20.8 points in 60 games for the Heat. The 34-year-old Butler said he stayed in the game because he thought the “adrenaline would kick back in” and he would feel healthy enough to play at his usual level.

Butler was 5 of 18 from the floor overall but scored just two points in the fourth, when the Heat collapsed in the quarter.

“It just wasn’t the case,” he said. “I wasn’t able to do anything on either side of the ball. I think I hurt us more than I helped us actually.”

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AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba

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