The win, however, may have come at a pretty significant cost.
Heat star Jimmy Butler sprained his right ankle in the final minutes of the seven-point win. While he didn’t leave the game early, Butler was very ineffective down the stretch — and was clearly in pain after the Game 1 win.
“[It feels] like a rolled ankle,” he told ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth.
— Cassidy Hubbarth (@CassidyHubbarth) April 30, 2023
With just more than five minutes left in the game, Butler rolled his right ankle hard while trying to drive to the rim against Knicks guard Josh Hart.
Butler drew a foul on the play, but remained on the ground for quite some time before making his way to the free-throw line. He hit both free throws, and remained in the game the rest of the way.
Jimmy Butler hurt his ankle with 5:05 to go. He stayed in for the rest of the game to stand in the corner and do nothing as a decoy.
The Knicks lost those minutes by four points. 😳pic.twitter.com/AKWqwWHRGq
— Ahaan Rungta (@AhaanRungta) April 30, 2023
Jimmy Butler limped to the free throw line after rolling his ankle.
He made both. pic.twitter.com/Obfa4NBqEC
— ESPN (@espn) April 30, 2023
Butler, however, didn’t do much from then forward. He largely stayed in the corner and tried to limit his movements as the Heat closed out the Knicks. Those free throws marked his last points of the day. He finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds after shooting 8 of 16 from the field.
“He sprained his ankle several times with us,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I know him, I know when I can look in his eye and he assured me he wasn’t going to be a liability and he wanted to stay in there and make sure we get this win. That’s the most important thing, we have a lot of chaos and a lot of things going on, but the main thing being the main thing, we have to secure the win. We’ll find out what happens in the next 48 hours.”
As for who else he’d leave in the game in that situation, Spoelstra struggled to answer.
“I don’t know. Udonis Haslem, probably,” Spoelstra said. “I don’t wanna get beat up on national TV.”
The Heat, after trailing by seven at halftime, surged ahead in the second half and mounted a large defensive stand that limited the Knicks to just three field goals in the final almost five minutes of the game to take the win.
Gabe Vincent added 20 points in the win for Miami, and Kyle Lowry finished with 18 off the bench. Bam Adebayo put up 16 points and eight rebounds. The Heat, who stunned the Milwaukee Bucks to make the semifinals, have now won four straight.
“We’re just playing great basketball,” Butler said on ESPN. “We’re together at home, on the road, through good and through the bad. We believe that we can do something special. We’re going to continue to play as such, and we’re going to see where we end up in the end.”
R.J. Barrett led the Knicks with 26 points and nine rebounds, and Jalen Brunson finished with 25 points. The Knicks, who won their first playoff series in a decade to reach the semifinals, haven’t won a Game 1 in a semifinals series since 1999.
While Butler didn’t have to leave early, it’s still unclear how the injury will impact him going forward. Spoelstra hoped to have a better idea of Butler's status on Monday. What is clear, though, is that the Heat can’t afford to lose him for very long, if at all. Butler averaged 37.6 points in their 4-1 series win over the Bucks, and dropped a wild 56 points in Game 4. He had a tip-in bucket to force overtime in Game 5, too, before leading the Heat to the two-point win. If Butler isn't at full strength, the Heat could find themselves in trouble quickly.
Game 2 of the series is set for Tuesday night in New York.