Jimmy Butler expected to miss extended time as Heat await results of MRI on knee

MIAMI — In the wake of a knee injury that left him a shell of himself by the conclusion of Wednesday night’s costly road play-in loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler is expected to miss extended time in a Heat season that might not have extended time remaining.

An MRI on Butler’s right knee is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Thursday, a day before the Heat will be playing for their season in a Friday night’s winner-take-all Eastern Conference finale against the Chicago Bulls at Kaseya Center.

Wednesday night, as he sat by his locker while scanning a quiet room in Philadelphia, Butler found himself in a single moment talking about himself and his team.

“It’s not a good feeling. I can tell you that,” he said.

The comment was about the knee strain sustained when he took the brunt of the body weight of 76ers forward Kelly Oubre during a first-quarter collision. But he also could have been talking about the Heat’s situation, to either advance Friday to the best-of-seven first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs against the top-seeded Boston Celtics or fall to the ignominy of the NBA draft lottery.

In many ways, the Heat have become the embodiment of a team limping to a possible finish line.

— Butler was scheduled for a Thursday exam that could determine the fate of his postseason and the Heat’s, but an NBA source close to the forward confirmed the initial diagnosis was a knee strain.

— Guard Terry Rozier, added in January to provide the type of offensive boost often lacking in Wednesday night’s 105-104 loss at Well Fargo Center, has missed the past four games with what the team is listing as neck spasms.

— Guard Duncan Robinson was listed as available for Wednesday night, but was held out for the fifth consecutive game due to left facet syndrome, the ongoing back issue that has sidelined him for 10 of the past 15 games.

Rozier remains an unknown, having last played in a dreary April 7 road loss to the Indiana Pacers that helped drop the Heat into this desperation of the play-in round, limited to four points that night.

Robinson was listed as active on Wednesday night, with a clear difference in being active and being able.

“Every day that he gets, he’s going to make progress,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of holding out the Heat’s lone remaining 3-point specialist. “And that’s really what it was. We don’t have a whole lot of time for ramp up, so he hasn’t had those opportunities.

“I think each step he’ll feel better, and we’ll take it from there.”

Asked if Robinson was playable in Philadelphia, Spoelstra said: “These are tough decisions. I can’t answer that right now. But he’s definitely making progress. That’s what’s encouraging.”

Both teams will enter ailing, with Chicago Bulls defensive stopper Alex Caruso dealing with an ankle issue that sidelined him at the close of Wednesday night’s home victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

“Just kind of tweaked my ankle a little bit,” Caruso said, “that same one I was dealing with for the last couple weeks of the season that we were managing and figuring out.”

But when it comes to injuries, all eyes are on the status of Butler, who missed 22 regular-season games. The Heat 13-9 went in his absence.

Butler said he knew something was wrong in the moment of the collision with Oubre, when he was fouled during a drive in the closing seconds of Wednesday night’s first quarter.

“I mean, I feel, he landed and my knee just didn’t do well,” he said.

While Butler played on to the finish, closing with 19 points in 39:39, he acknowledged he wasn’t the same player.

“Honestly,” he said, “I thought the adrenaline would kick back in and I would be able to move, and it just wasn’t the case. I wasn’t able to do anything on either side of the ball, and I think I hurt us more than I helped us, honestly.”

No, he wasn’t the same.

“I mean, it felt like I couldn’t do too much, which sucks, with the timing of the game and everything,” he said. “But we had a little bit of a tweak and we’ll see what these tests go.

“I hope that I’m fine. Right now I can’t say that that’s the case.”

Teammates appreciated the perseverance.

“I’m sure the way he was limping and how he reacted to his fall that he was in pretty bad pain,” guard Tyler Herro said. “And he continued to play through it just to give his body to the team. Obviously we all know how much this year means to him and getting into the playoffs.”

Friday will decide if there is more time for Playoff Jimmy.

“It really stiffened up on him in the second half,” Spoelstra said of the knee. “He was able to still move a little bit in that second quarter after it. But then as that second half went on, it started to limit him a little bit more, just the movement. But we’ll see.”