Health remains a factor in these Eastern Conference Finals, with two key Heat players and two Celtics starters hoping to be healed enough to play in Monday’s Game 4 in Boston.
The Heat listed Jimmy Butler (knee inflammation) and Tyler Herro (groin strain) both as questionable for Game 4. Erik Spoelstra said earlier Sunday that he had no update on their status. The team had a meeting but no practice on Sunday.
The Heat training staff decided to hold Butler out of the second half of Saturday’s game after the knee became inflamed. There was cautious optimism - but not certainty - on Sunday that he would be able to play in Game 4, barring a setback, and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported that Butler intends to play on Monday.
Butler missed Game 5 in the first round against Atlanta with the same injury.
“He didn’t have his, like, normal explosive burst,” Spoelstra said Saturday night. “He’s been able to manage this. I think the next two days will be really important, obviously.”
As for Herro, he left for good with the groin injury with 8:11 left in the fourth quarter.
“Tyler had to come out just so the trainers could see what it was,” Spoelstra said Sunday.
Spoelstra opted to keep Victor Oladipo in the game instead of turning back to Herro, a decision that Spoelstra said was fueled by Herro’s injury and Oladipo’s strong play.
Was Herro cleared to go back in?
“Depends on who you ask,” Spoelstra said. “If you ask Tyler, yes. The trainers didn’t say definitively no; they were working on [him].”
Groin injuries often take time to heal, depending on the severity. The fact the Heat listed Herro as questionable - and not out or doubtful - was seemingly a good sign regarding the severity of his strain.
Herro shot 4 for 15 and 0 for 6 on threes; he has now missed 21 of his past 23 three-pointers.
Kyle Lowry (hamstring strain) was listed as questionable for Game 4, but he said late Saturday night that he felt fine after his first game back from missing four in a row with that injury.
PJ Tucker (knee irritation), Max Strus (hamstring strain) and Gabe Vincent (hamstring strain) are also listed as questionable but are expected to play in Game 4.
Meanwhile, the Celtics said they aren’t sure whether guard Marcus Smart or center Robert Williams would be available for Game 4. Both were listed as questionable.
“Marcus has some swelling in his ankle,” coach Ime Udoka said Sunday. “He took a pretty bad sprain, finished the game, will feel it a little more today. We’ll see how it feels [Tuesday]. Rob is a little better than [Saturday]. We’ll see how he feels in shootaround.”
Williams missed Game 3 with knee discomfort.
Jayson Tatum, who left Game 3 briefly with a stinger, is fine, Udoka said.
While Butler and Herro work to get back for game 4, Lowry said his hamstring felt fine in his first game back after missing four in a row (and eight overall) in this postseason.
He played 12 minutes in the first half and 17 in the second half, finishing with 11 points, 6 assists and four steals.
Spoelstra said “there is no definitive minutes restriction. We just have to be mindful of it and give him breaks during the game so he’s not running past exhaustion… Definitely talking to trainers on that. I’m in constant communication with Kyle. The plan was to be a lot more conservative in the first half to leave us with a little more leeway down the stretch and it turned out that way.”
Spoelstra said Lowry “definitely looks healthy. He hasn’t played in playoff games with this kind of intensity so that will have an impact. His savviness, his toughness, showed itself times 10 last night. It’s the confidence he gives everyone. Screaming and encouraging Bam when he had opportunities to score. He set up that [critical three-pointer that stretched a one-point lead to four] for Max [Strus] at the end. The quarterback position gets people organized and inspires a higher level from everybody, and Kyle does that as well as anybody in this game.”
Lowry said: “I feel fine. I’m out here playing. You know, this has been a process for me. It’s been a long journey with this type of injury. My training staff, our training staff, our coaches, our organization, we have been on the same page and communicated with everything, team doctors. That’s the most important thing is that we are all on the same page.
“And going forward we are going to continue to have open dialogue, open communication and just continue to find ways to help me be on the floor.”
After a reporter noted that Tucker - who has battled through a knee contusion and other issues - seemed in discomfort walking down two stairs after postgame interviews, Spoelstra said: “He’s cut from a different cloth. He was built for the 90s, could play in that era, but oddly enough in this spread game and modern game of speed, quickness and threes, he’s able to fit right in to this as well.
“He’s defined by competition. Defensively, he’s a great individual and team defender. But offensively, he’s one of our more important players in terms of helping facilitate our offense.”