How do the Heat Adapt Without Jimmy Butler? Joe Mazzulla Weighs in

Apr 17, 2024; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) reacts vs. the Philadelphia 76ers.
Apr 17, 2024; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) reacts vs. the Philadelphia 76ers. / Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Near the end of the first frame of the Miami Heat's 105-104 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers in Wednesday's play-in tournament tilt, the former's hopes of a return trip to the NBA Finals took a significant hit when Jimmy Butler sustained an MCL injury. It occurred after an awkward landing following a layup attempt, with Kelly Oubre falling on the afflicted area. 

Despite the six-time All-Star's absence, Miami bested the Chicago Bulls 112-91 on Friday, punching their ticket to the playoffs. There was only one lead change and two ties, and the defending Eastern Conference champions staged a 19-0 run in the third quarter to break the game open. 

Tyler Herro nearly had a triple-double in the win. He finished with 24 points and nine assists, both game-highs, plus a team-best ten rebounds. Jaime Jaquez Jr. produced 21 points, six rebounds, and six assists. Kevin Love provided 16 points and seven rebounds off the bench.

Starting Sunday afternoon at TD Garden, the Heat will face the Boston Celtics for the seventh time in the postseason since 2010. It is the most common playoff series in that span.

Unfortunately for Miami, the expectation is Butler is out for multiple weeks, per a report from Shams Charania of The Athletic. If there is a Game 5, it will be exactly two weeks from when his injury happened.

The Heat registered a +214 point differential with the five-time All-NBA selection on the court. That figure plummetted to -89 with him off the floor. 

But no team flips the proverbial switch once the playoffs arrive like Erik Spoelstra's squad. Friday's dominance of their victory vs. the Bulls reflects that.

As the Celtics prepare for Sunday's series opener, knowing Butler is sidelined, Joe Mazzulla shared his outlook on what's different about how the Heat operate without their star forward.

"They obviously play a little bit more shooting, so they have different identities that they can go to," conveyed Boston's bench boss. "And then, anytime someone's out, other guys are going to take on the responsibility of playing, so their DNA is still the same – their team might look a little bit different, but their DNA is still the same."

Further Reading

'I Knew It': Jaylen Brown Discusses Celtics Drawing Heat in Round 1

Brad Stevens Addresses Potential Extension with Derrick White

Brad Stevens Notes Crucial Element of Celtics' Title Pursuit: 'Bigger Than Themselves'

After Career Night, Reflective Payton Pritchard Discusses NBA Journey and His Ultimate Pursuit

Jrue Holiday on Celtics Extension: 'Try to Get More Banners, Get More Rings'

Jaylen Brown Shares What Latest Milestone Means to Him

Celtics Embracing Challenge to Go Beyond Most Talented

Jayson Tatum Opens Up About Sacrificing in Celtics' Title Pursuit: 'It's a Process'

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Bobby Krivitsky


Bobby Krivitsky's experiences include covering the NBA as a credentialed reporter for Basketball Insiders. He's also a national sports talk host for SportsMap Radio, a network airing on 96 radio stations throughout the country. Additionally, he was a major-market host, update anchor, and producer for IMG Audio, and he worked for Bleacher Report as an NFL and NBA columnist.