Unless your team wins it all, there's no way to escape the inevitable pain that comes with being eliminated from a playoff run. It's like being tapped in the nuts with a ball-peen hammer. It's a dull, implacable pain. It's not fun. It sucks, even. Yet that's exactly how Miami Heat fans feel today, after the 116-89 drubbing at the hands of the Toronto Raptors in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
The season is over. Poof. Just like that. It's really quite a bummer. And it's a finality that leaves a vacuum in our Heat-basketball-loving hearts.
But that emptiness can be filled by reflection, by looking back at the good times. That's because no matter how you cut it, the Heat's 2016 playoff run was really quite remarkable on multiple levels.
So while it may feel like someone put a cigarette out on your asshole, it's time to look back and reflect on just how this postseason was a successful one for the Heat.
Seven reasons, in fact:
1. The Heat overcame the kind of crap that would end most teams, let alone get to within one win of a conference final.
Think about this for a second. The Miami Heat lost its most important player, not to a knee issue or a foot issue or a broken bone. They lost their most important player to frickin' blood clots. BLOOD CLOTS. Despite his many efforts, Chris Bosh simply could not find a consensus from medical experts to allow him back onto the court for these playoffs. So he was relegated to wearing snazzy suits on the bench and give the occasional tip to his teammates and clap when things were great. But nothing can compare to having his ability to knock down his silky-smooth jumpers, his talent to crash the boards, and his magnificent dinosaur rawr.
Then there was the fact that the Heat lost Hassan Whiteside to an MCL sprain in the middle of the series against the Raptors. To be sure, this wasn't an injury to just some dude coming off the bench. It was Whiteside — a man who basically took over the Most Important Player mantle with Bosh out.
Yet despite losing two key starters, the Heat was one game away from getting to the Eastern Conference Finals. That's bananas.
Most other teams would implode and be sucked into another dimension if they had lost their two most important players. The Heat thrived.
2. Playoff Hassan Whiteside was the balls.
Hassan Whiteside had himself quite the roller-coaster season. Things began rocky for the seven-footer, with him disappearing at times early during the regular season and overall acting like a kid who had his phone taken away. You ever see a kid have his phone taken away? It's like his heart was ripped out of his chest through his asshole.
But then the All-Star break came around, and Hassan was suddenly transformed into a shot-blocking cyborg who occasionally destroyed skyscrapers whenever Dwyane Wade threw up an alley-oop for him. In the end, Hassan averaged 14.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 3.7 blocks per game, which eventually bled into the playoffs. Despite being dinged up, Whiteside obliterated the Charlotte Hornets in the paint in the first round, meeting Al Jefferson toe-to-giant-toe and coming through. And he was well on his way to doing much of the same against Toronto until he was derailed by that MCL strain.
There's no doubt, had Hassan not suffered that injury, the Heat would have had him feast against Bismack Biyombo in this series, and we could very well be talking about how he would match up against the Cavs. Instead, we're here. And though Hassan is a free agent this summer and will likely demand the max — something the Heat will have to wrestle with — there's no doubt that seeing him in action in the postseason was cool as shit. Stupid MCL strain.
3. Rook 1 and Rook 2 brought the ruckus.
Traditionally, NBA rookies morph into a bucket of piss when playoff time rolls around. It's just the law of the land. The playoffs are for the big boys, and rookies are relegated to the bench to watch the action like the rest of us mortals. But Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson took that notion, rolled it up into a ball, and punted it into the sun.
The rookies had their rookie moments, to be sure. But most of their time was spent denting opposing ass on both ends of the floor. Winslow, in particular, continued to display the kind of defensive prowess a ten-year All-Star veteran shows — at age 20. When he was called on to play center, he showed up, kung-fu-chopped Biyombo in the larynx, and commenced to show the Raptors just how large his balls are.
Richardson, meanwhile, played with a bum shoulder yet still knocked down timely threes and rammed it into Biyombo's face to literally show him how large Richardson's balls are.
These guys will be wrecking shit for years to come for the Heat. It was fun watching them break on through.
4. Playoff Goran was magical.
Like Whiteside, Goran Dragic had a rough start to the regular season. But it was only a matter of time before the Dragon got his groove back and began to obliterate opposing defenses. He showed how tough he was by getting his face rocked by opposing players, causing him to spit teeth and blood. But when he found his groove, Goran spit hot fire and turned the Heat offense into a blowtorch.
Goran had some up-and-down moments in the playoffs as well. But when he decided to get aggressive, he was pretty unstoppable. Dragic rose to the occasion against the Hornets' guards and really got jiggy with it in Game 6 of the Raptors series.
The Heat still need to figure out a way to play his style of basketball more often — where he dominates the ball and dictates the pace. But we got to see glimpses of just how lethal the offense can be when he's full-on dragon.
5. Udonis Haslem is still a bad mother.
Udonis Haslem is not the player he once was. Age will do that. As will the wear-and-tear of having to beat jackasses into a pulp over the years.
But when UD was called into action during these playoffs, the man reminded us that he's still the baddest mofo to ever wear a Heat uniform. Whether it was taking charges or sizing up fools, Haslem proved he was ready and able to stick a foot into someone's rectum when needed.
And then there was this:
Heat Lifer. Heat legend. Nuff said.
6. You can all finally shut up about Erik Spoelstra being a bad coach.
Sure, he almost mauled Luol Deng that one time. And, yes, he can be a little stubborn with certain lineups that don't quite gel. But these playoffs showed the world once and for all what a badass Filipino Spoelstra really is.
The man was dealt an abhorrent hand. The basketball gods decided not only would his best player not play because of a deadly medical issue, but also the foundation of his team's defense would suffer an MCL sprain. Yet Spo was able to lead his team to within one game of the Eastern Conference Finals. All with a mangled team being held together by duct tape and bubblegum.
Facing impossible odds, Spoelstra time and again showed his prowess as a basketball mind. When Whiteside was lost, Miami was forced to go small-ball. And the Heat nearly pulled it off. When the Hornets guards were having their way with Miami, the Heat's adjustments to its pick-and-roll defense was key to getting the team over the top.
Time and again, Fate tried throwing a monkey wrench into the Heat's playoff runs. And time and again, Spo kicked Fate in the nuts so hard it puked out its own spleen.
There will always be Spo detractors. But the guy is every bit the protégé Pat Riley promised he would be.
7. Dwyane Wade. Icon.
No matter how this ended, the Heat's 2016 playoff run will always be remembered for the way Dwyane Wade reminded the world that he is the living embodiment of LIT.
D-Wade played on a whole other level during this postseason.
When he wasn't wrecking asses with his game, Wade was doing it with his in-game speeches.
There was Game 4 versus the Raptors, where he basically destroyed them all by himself.
There was Game 6 versus the Hornets, where he obliterated Charlotte's chances at eliminating Miami while murdering some insufferable schlub in a purple shirt:
Then there was his newfound three-point stroke, which basically had the entire NBA-watching world witnessing the power of a fully armed and operational Dwyane Wade:
The Heat was a shell of a team last season. Miami lost arguably the best player in the world and then lost Bosh to blood clots. Yet not only did the team manage to overcome that problem this year by making the playoffs, but also it overcame more issues and almost became a part of the NBA's final four.
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A lot of that success is due to the Heat's will to kick ass as a team.
But most of the credit for Miami's going this far goes to Dwyane Wade being pure, unadulterated awesome.
D-Wade is an icon. And we got to see him perform his magic these past few weeks (again).
That statue outside American Airlines Arena should be a thousand feet high.