Heat’s Jimmy Butler ruled out vs. Raptors because of neck injury

The Miami Heat will be without star Jimmy Butler when it takes on the Raptors in Toronto on Tuesday night.

Butler, who first appeared on the injury report for the game on Tuesday morning, has been ruled out for the contest because of neck soreness.

Heat’s Yurtseven ‘embracing’ challenging season. Also, the masked Zeller and Lowry update

Tuesday marks the first game that Butler has missed since sitting out a Jan. 24 win over the Boston Celtics because of lower back tightness. He played in 26 straight games during that span.

But the Heat has experience playing without Butler from earlier in the schedule. Tuesday represents the 16th game he has missed this season, with 14 of those absences coming in the first 37 games.

The Heat entered its matchup against the Raptors with an 8-7 record in the first 15 games it has played without Butler this season.

Butler, 33, has been among the NBA’s best players this season, averaging 22.8 points on a career-best 53 percent shooting from the field to go with six rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.9 steals per game in 60 games (60 starts).

Butler has been even better since the All-Star break, averaging 25.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.5 steals per game while shooting 59.6 percent from the field, 11 of 21 (52.4 percent) from three-point range and 84.6 percent from the foul line on 10.9 free-throw attempts per game in 16 games.

The Heat is in the middle of an important road back-to-back set, with another critical game on Wednesday night against the Knicks in New York. The hope is that Butler will feel healthy enough to play against the Knicks, but the expectation is that Heat guard Kyle Lowry will miss Wednesday’s contest after playing Tuesday against the Raptors as he continues to ease his way back from a left knee injury.

The Heat, which enters Tuesday’s game in seventh place in the Eastern Conference and in danger of having to qualify for the playoffs through the play-in tournament, will also be without Jamal Cain (G League), Nikola Jovic (back spasms) and Orlando Robinson (G League) against the Raptors.