With the Miami Heat assured of participating in the play-in tournament, the team is likely playing it safe with star Jimmy Butler by sitting him out of the regular season finale.
Heat injury update for 1 p.m. vs. visiting Magic:
— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) April 9, 2023
Even with a win over the Orlando Magic on Sunday, the Heat wouldn’t be able to catch up to the sixth-seeded Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference standings. As such, it makes sense for Butler to rest and get ready for the play-in game versus the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday. He also sat out Miami’s loss against the Washington Wizards on Friday.
It has been a somewhat disappointing season for the Heat, especially considering they made the Eastern Conference Finals last year and were a couple of shots away from making it to the championship round. But the injury bug has proven too much to overcome for the proud franchise in the 2022-23 campaign.
Butler himself has missed plenty of games this season, appearing in just 64 games. In those appearances, he recorded 22.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists per contest. While his production has been up to standard, it is his efficiency that has turned a lot of heads this year. The six-time All-Star is shooting a career-high 53.9 percent from the field.
Even without Butler on Sunday, Miami should still approach the bout against the Magic with a mindset of wanting to come away with a victory. Even if it doesn’t have any bearing on their regular season standings, the Heat should look to enter the play-in tournament with momentum on their side.
Despite Miami holding home-court advantage over Atlanta, its opponent can still prove to be dangerous. After all, the Hawks have Trae Young, who can catch fire at any moment, and Quin Snyder, who is widely regarded as one of the best coaches in the league today.
Another incentive for the Heat to defeat the Hawks is the No. 7 seed in the playoffs. Securing that spot will match them up against the second-seeded Boston Celtics, the team that eliminated them last year in the conference finals.
A loss to Atlanta wouldn’t be the end of the season for Miami, though, as it would still have one more chance to enter the playoffs by besting the winner of the Toronto Raptors-Chicago Bulls play-in contest.