After making the Finals in the bubble last season, the Miami Heat unceremoniously exited this year's playoffs in the first round, getting swept by the Milwaukee Bucks.
Hopes were high for the Heat following their loss in the finals to the Los Angeles Lakers. Despite injuries to Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic, the Heat pushed the Lakers to six games. In the previous series, the Heat also got a massive push from the sudden emergence of their young shooters in Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson. Heat Culture was their gospel and Jimmy Butler was their surly prophet as Miami steamed past all their opponents in the playoffs.
But in the following season, reality was too brutal for Heat Culture to overcome. Miami barely got two months for an offseason. Combine that with the condensed schedule and strict COVID-19 protocols, the Heat never fully recovered from their exhausting bubble experience. For every win streak came a string of losses. Every time a star returned, another exited.
Even the young stars that popped off in the playoffs seemed to plateau. Adebayo had a solid season, but didn't get to add much to his game with the short offseason and injury recovery. Herro, who looked like a future All-Star in the bubble, was largely inconsistent. The Heat tried to retool at the trade deadline by acquiring Victor Oladipo, but he also
got bit by the injury bug months before the playoffs.
Still, hopes were high for Miami entering the postseason. The Bucks beat them thrice in the regular season, but all those games didn't feature Butler. Despite being the sixth seed, the Heat were still considered favorites.
Game One was ugly, but everyone thought the Heat's stars would get it together in the following games. What followed was three straight obliterations. Butler never found his shot. Adebayo’s limited offense was exposed. If there was any hope in the Heat's final three games, it was buried beneath 30-point defeats and a torrent of Milwaukee Bucks 3-pointers.
The Heat left behind many hopeful fans. This team can still keep more of its core intact with Butler and Adebayo committed to the team well into the future. The Bucks exposed plenty of their weaknesses, so Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley have plenty to work on.
With one of the most flexible cap space situations heading into the offseason, the Heat may only need one fun guy to rebuild Heat Culture. For now, Butler can work on franchising Big Face Coffee.