On Thursday, Miami Heat star forward Jimmy Butler received an MRI that confirmed an MCL sprain he suffered in the team’s Play-In game against the 76ers. He has already been ruled out for the team’s game against the Bulls on Friday and is expected to miss several weeks, jeopardizing the team’s dwindling playoff hopes.

Butler sustained the injury and exited the game near the end of the first quarter Wednesday, and though Miami went on to extend its lead on Philadelphia at the half, the 76ers wore the team down and won 105-104. The Heat can still advance to the playoffs as the eighth seed with a win Friday over Chicago, but doing so will be easier with Butler.

As the eighth seed last season, Butler led the Heat to an appearance in the NBA Finals after the team defeated the Bucks, Knicks and Celtics in shocking Eastern Conference upsets. “Playoff Jimmy” was in rare form, carrying the team almost singlehandedly at points against the best teams in the NBA.

Butler’s injury timeline will be irrelevant if the Heat cannot get past Chicago and nab the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. However, if Miami wins, his absence will continue to be an issue if he misses multiple weeks, as The Athletic‘s Shams Charania reported. The Heat would only have a short rest before a matchup with the first-seeded Boston Celtics, a well-rested team with a 64-18 record this season in search of revenge for last year’s Eastern Conference Final.

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Barring some improbable circumstances, Miami will not be able to defeat Boston without Butler. The team is hardly a playoff contender anyway and only advanced as far as it did last year because of his heroics. The Bulls may still be beatable with a mediocre 39-43 record. Still, the road from there goes from prohibitively tricky to practically impossible if Butler is on the sideline in street clothes.

After last season, many picked Miami as a sentimental underdog candidate again this season; fans outside Boston hoped that the team could make the first round somewhat interesting. The odds of another Cinderella run just dropped precipitously, however.

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