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Heat coach Erik Spoelstra objects to Celtics guard Payton Pritchard grabbing Jimmy Butler’s leg: ‘It was not a basketball play’

Heat star Jimmy Butler left Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals after Celtics guard Payton Pritchard grabbed his leg.

Which means it’s time to play the game sweeping through the 2022 NBA playoffs: Dirty or not dirty?

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra on Payton’s swipe, via Ira Winderman of the South Florida SunSentinel:

“We don’t know [if that contributed],” Spoelstra said Monday of Butler’s ailment. “It could have had an effect. It was not a basketball play. We’re not really sure as to why it was determined as that was a basketball play, or that was a legal play or that was a safe play.”
“We’re not going to say it’s bigger than it was, because we don’t know if that’s what triggered Jimmy’s injury,” Spoelstra said of Saturday’s play. “But, regardless, it should be two separate examples. And we don’t need it. We don’t care. The league doesn’t have to do anything. We’re not begging.”

A legal play? Nobody thinks it was. Pritchard got called for a foul.

A safe play? Not really, though far from the least safe plays. Playing basketball, to varying degrees on different plays, carries risk.

A basketball play? Yes. Pritchard fell then fouled Butler to stop him from attacking the rim unimpeded. That’s a common basketball play. As J.J. Redick noted on the above clip, it looked like Pritchard caught Butler above the knee – not a particularly susceptible spot.

It’s unfortunate Butler got hurt, and it’d be unfortunate if it were on that play. But Pritchard didn’t appear to cross the line.