Neck injury sidelines Heat’s Jimmy Butler vs. Raptors; Kyle Lowry still on minutes restriction – Boston Herald

A muddled Miami Heat injury outlook took another turn into the unknown when Jimmy Butler was ruled out at midday for Tuesday night’s game against the Toronto Raptors due to what the team listed as neck soreness.

Butler was not at the Heat’s morning shootaround at Scotiabank Arena, apparently after a restless night of sleep following the Heat’s Monday arrival to Toronto.

“Sometimes backs, necks can be a little unpredictable,” coach Erik Spoelstra said pregame. “He’s just not able to go.”

While Butler had missed 15 previous games this season, mostly due to a sore right knee and related injury management, Tuesday marks his first absence since he missed the Heat’s Jan. 24 home victory over the Boston Celtics due to back tightness. He then had appeared in 26 games before this latest setback, including both ends of the Heat’s most recent back-to-back sets.

Tuesday’s absence comes with the Heat in the midst of a back-to-back road set that concludes with a Wednesday night game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. An injury report for that game will be issued at midday Wednesday.

Asked if Butler might be able to return in New York, Spoelstra only offered, “no idea.”

Prior to Tuesday, the Heat had played only one game over a five-day span, losing 129-100 Saturday night to the Brooklyn Nets at Miami-Dade Arena. Butler, 33, played 32:41 in that loss, closing with 18 points, five assists and one rebound

Lowry limited

Kyle Lowry confirmed Tuesday that he remains on a minutes restriction in his third week back from a month off due to knee pain, which is expected to have the veteran Heat point guard out Wednesday.

Speaking ahead of Tuesday night’s game Lowry said the decision was not his.

“No, doctor’s recommendation,” he said.

Having turned 37 Saturday, Lowry said it is a case of having to put aside his strong-willed approach.

“Strong willing has kind of gotten me into the situation I’ve been in right now,” he said, having logged heavy early-season minutes before succumbing to the pain in his left knee. “So I’ve got to be smart about this one and with the organization. I think we’ve been on a great page and we’ve been on the same page with everything I’ve been doing, coming off the bench, the minutes and the timing and everything, and just kind of making sure I’m available, and being able to be me when I’m in the game.”

Lowry has played as a reserve since his March 11 return, with Gabe Vincent starting in his place, Vincent, though, was dealing with back spasms Tuesday.

“For me, it’s just continue to try to get better,” Lowry said. “I’m in a different role and I’m still on a minutes restriction. So it’s just kind of making myself available to play the minutes I’m allotted right now, to make sure I’m healthy and can be effective in those minutes.”

Spoelstra said Lowry missing a game on this two-game trip was anticipated.

“This is all still a part of the plan,” he said.

The Heat have one additional back-to-back set in the regular season, when they play next week in Philadelphia and then Washington. Spoelstra said no determination has been made about that approach with Lowry.

“We have not decided yet on the other one,” Spoelstra said.

There are no back-to-back sets in the play-in round or playoffs.

“He means a lot,” Spoelstra said of Lowry. “You need the veteran experience going through this.”

Zeller back

Veteran center Cody Zeller acknowledged at the morning shootaround that he is pushing the envelope in his return from a broken nose sustained in that March 11 overtime loss in Orlando.

Because of the severe swelling, Zeller was unable to undergo surgery until March 17.

“They weren’t able to fix it quickly, obviously. It was a pretty good break,” he said. “I think they said if it was anyone else, they said it’s supposed to be two weeks after surgery. . . . So to be 10 days out and to be able to play is pushing the envelope a little bit.

“But I feel good. It’s not like a knee injury or a shoulder or anything else where you kind of have to ramp up. It’s basically as long as my nose doesn’t bleed, I was able to do everything. I was able to ramp up a little bit. I feel good. If anything, I was able to take advantage of extra time off and my body feels good.”

It is the third time in the NBA that Zeller, 30, has broken his nose, having also done it while with the Charlotte Hornets and Portland Trail Blazers. He was able to get the Blazers to ship him the mask he wore last season.

“The Portland guys were great about sending it,” he said. “Two days after I broke it, the Portland guys had the mask from last year.

“So I’m a little bit used to wearing it just because I wore it a lot last year”

While accepting the accompanying risks.

“It takes six weeks for a bone to heal,” he said. “So if I just push on it too hard, it will shift back. So that’s what the mask is meant to kind of keep the pressure on your cheek and your forehead. So we kind of pushed the envelope a little bit. But if I’m anywhere near being able to play, ‘I’m going to play.”


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