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Erik Spoelstra Called Payton Pritchard Grabbing Jimmy Butler’s Knee In Game 3 ‘Not A Basketball Play’

After a dominant first half, the Miami Heat led the Boston Celtics by 15 at the break in Game 3, but coming out of halftime Victor Oladipo replaced Jimmy Butler in the starting lineup. Due to right knee inflammation, Butler was ruled out for the remainder of the evening and the Heat were able to hold off Boston’s late charge to earn a 109-103 win, despite the star wing’s absence.

Butler missed Game 5 of the Heat’s first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks with a similar injury and he’s often been listed as questionable throughout the playoffs while dealing with this ailment. As for when Butler’s knee got aggravated, the Heat believe a mid-second quarter play involving Payton Pritchard could have played a role. Pritchard stumbled to the floor, which gave Butler a lane to the paint. From the ground, Pritchard intentionally tripped up Butler to commit a foul and stop Butler’s drive.

Somehow, this is the second time this postseason we’ve had a controversial knee grab, as Memphis accused Jordan Poole of foul play when he pulled on Ja Morant’s knee in the Grizzlies conference semis loss to the Warriors. On Monday, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra was unsurprisingly not pleased after the team noticed Pritchard’s grab and said Pritchard’s foul was not a basketball play.

Pritchard’s foul strikes me as an unnecessary one, yet a deeper investigation by the league also seems unnecessary. If the officials had opted to review it in the moment, it would’ve been justified as a possible Flagrant 1.

Nonetheless, Spoelstra’s frustration is also understandable, given Butler’s importance to the Heat’s title hopes and Pritchard’s play certainly seeming questionable at best. Hopefully, Butler, who is listed as questionable Monday, is ready to go for Game 4 and doesn’t experience further knee inflammation.