ASK IRA: Is Heat’s approach to regular season now exacting an ultimate toll?

Q: Ira, I’m going to approach you in a different way, now that Jimmy Butler is hurt. If the Heat did more during the regular season, they would have had a better seed and been able to survive this. I mean, if the Heat were playing Orlando, would everyone be in the same panic, even if Jimmy was out? – Elliot.

A: First, I would be surprised if the Heat could survive being without Jimmy Butler, Terry Rozier and Duncan Robinson in any playoff matchup. That’s a third of your rotation. But to your greater point, it’s as if every year the Heat make it harder on themselves with all the games missed and opportunities frittered away. They could have had this entire week off. They could have been playing the Magic, Cavaliers or other beatable teams in the first round. Even against the Knicks last season, Jimmy was able to take a game off, with the Heat surviving and advancing. Now there is all-or-nothing on Friday night and then, if they survive, the only true powerhouse in the East. Boston is not a team you beat without a single rotation player, let alone three. Yes, injuries happen and can be random, But you also can build a strong enough infrastructure to survive. Or not.

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Q: Don’t understand why Jimmy Butler stayed in the game after the breakaway steal and dunk? At that point and even before that, you could tell Butler continuing to play was taking a toll. I understood him staying in the game last year against the Knicks, but him as a decoy made sense then but not here. Since he wasn’t going to help us win this game, why not rest him there for the next game?– Kris, Oceaside, Calif.

A: Because through it all, with Jimmy Butler on the court, the Heat were right there at the finish. And it’s not as if the Heat were going to put Terry Rozier or Duncan Robinson in the game in his place. You ride with your superstar if he is able. The NBA is replete with examples of hobbled players still coming up with a play when needed most. If anything, turn it around and consider that Jimmy Butler, even looking like he did, was willing to be out there to do whatever possible, even if it ultimately wasn’t much.

Q: So sit Jimmy Butler on Friday and get him ready for the playoffs? – Chris.

A: I received several versions of this question as well as the question above. In this case, Jimmy Butler’s body will dictate. But, no, you cannot have the arrogance of getting Jimmy ready for the Celtics series when you have no guarantee that there will be a Celtics series. As Erik Spoelstra said, it has to be all hands on deck, or at least all ambulatory hands (and knees and backs and necks).