Heat’s Butler returns from 7-game absence


BOSTON — Miami Heat All-Star Jimmy Butler returned to the court Friday night against the Boston Celtics after missing the prior seven games with soreness in his right knee.

“We’ll just figure it out as we go,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said pregame, when asked if there would be any sort of minutes restriction on Butler in his return. “He’s not going to play 15 minutes, but I don’t have a set time limit. I won’t play him 45 minutes.

“Hopefully there will be a healthy balance somewhere in between.”

The Heat have gone 4-5 in the nine games Butler has missed this season, including Wednesday’s 134-121 loss to the Celtics at TD Garden in the first of two consecutive games between these teams.

Butler, who is averaging 20.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6.1 assists, has averaged 35.7 minutes per game through the 13 games he’s played this season for Miami — up nearly two per game from where he was the past two seasons with the Heat.

Miami enters Friday night’s game tied with the New York Knicks for 10th in the Eastern Conference with a 10-12 record. This after coming within a Butler-missed 3-pointer in the final 30 seconds of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals this past spring against these same Celtics making it to the NBA Finals for a second time in three seasons.

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