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Will Manso: Heat fall short of goal but give fans an amazing ride

Miami Heat guard Andre Iguodala celebrates with teammates Kendrick Ninn and Duncan Robinson after scoring against the Los Angeles Lakers during Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
Miami Heat guard Andre Iguodala celebrates with teammates Kendrick Ninn and Duncan Robinson after scoring against the Los Angeles Lakers during Game 5 of the NBA Finals. (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

What a run!

The Miami Heat just completed an improbable run to the NBA finals, falling two wins short of their ultimate goal.

So why does it still feel so great today as a Heat fan, despite losing to the Lakers in Game 6?

Don’t get me wrong, losing stinks. To get this close to a championship and not being able to win isn’t fun. But, there was something so magical about this team that you can’t help but smile.

Erik Spoelstra was in tears after the game, and it wasn’t just because his team lost. For Spoelstra, and the entire team, the 96 days they spent inside the Orlando bubble were grueling. They were mentally challenging. But most of all, they were moments they’ll cherish forever and likely never have again.

Oh, many of these players will be on the Heat again next season, but the way they came together this season to achieve things so few people expected can’t be duplicated.

From the arrival of Jimmy Butler and all the questions on whether he would be a good fit in Miami, to the development of players like Bam Adebayo, Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn and finally the stoppage of the season and uncertainty surrounding Covid-19.

The Heat entered the bubble playoffs as the 5th seed in the East but telling anyone who would listen that they were built for this kind of setting. The bubble was a place where you needed to be focused and disciplined daily.

When I chatted with Spoelstra during the Milwaukee series, he told me the nights were the hardest part. Those were the moments, alone in your room, where you really missed your family and got an understanding of how mentally taxing this process was.

But, Miami charged on. From sweeping Indiana, to taking down the league MVP and the top seeded Bucks to fighting hard to knock off the Celtics.

Every step of the way, the Heat kept silencing their critics. That is until the Lakers arrived in the NBA Finals, Adebayo and Goran Dragic suffered injuries in Game 1 and Miami just couldn’t muster enough to take down LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Yet, they fought. They fought hard. So many expected a sweep after the first two games and the Heat ended up extending the series to 6 games. Dragic could barely move and Bam could barely lift one arm and they still played in the decisive game. Like everything else they did all season long, this team wasn’t going down without a fight.

These players and staff genuinely love each other. The pictures and videos on social media, the joking around each other and even the $20 Big Face coffee were all from the heart.

As a fan, you always felt and appreciated that. I’m not sure even the most optimistic of fans expected a finals run this season. Most fans understood that the trade for Butler was just Step One in building to be a champion again. Instead, the Heat won the Eastern Conference title for the 6th time in team history and made it deep into the NBA Finals.

Most would say they overachieved. The Heat would say they were right where they belong.

So why do Heat fans smile today even after losing?

Because most understand this was just the first step of the journey. We got an unexpected treat. It was an incredible run during a very difficult time for everyone. They gave us over three months of fun and excitement that we’ll never forget as fans.

Now we get to sit back and watch the rest of the journey with the confidence that this team will keep growing, keep adding key parts and will accomplish that ultimate goal sooner than later.


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