Seventeen days ago, on March 24th, was the last time everything felt right for the Miami Heat.
They were in reach of the sixth seed. Dwyane Wade just won the Eastern Conference Player of the Week award. Miami had a record of 32-37, going into a game against the Milwaukee Bucks. Miami was so close to that sixth seed, the team started to be labeled as the "Dark Horse" in the East. The Heat were so hot at the time, people were anticipating a possible first or second round series against LeBron James, the only match up in the East that would be worth watching. Yes, everything before that Bucks game on March 24th gave Heat Nation a sense of excitement.
It's crazy how much can change in the span of less than a month right?
Including that stunning loss against the Bucks, Miami has gone 3-7 and just about eliminated from the playoffs. Though the team is mathematically still in the playoff hunt, it's probably best to give up that hope. Sure anything can happen, but the Heat NEEDED to win every game in this homestand and rely on other teams losses. Instead they aren't giving themselves a chance to begin with.
Everything you saw in Thursday's first half against the Chicago Bulls was the potential Miami had, and the collapse you witnessed in the second half was the reality of what Miami is. There was a fighting spirit in the first half that made everyone in Miami forget the trials of this season. That second half hurt more than any other collapse Miami has had this season, because you knew by the end, Miami's season was wouldn't have a post season. A feeling last experienced in 2008.
The national headlines today will be about a comeback, not only for Derrick Rose but for the Bulls rallying from a 52-31 deficit and turning it into a 89-78 victory. Yet again, Heat fans looked to the potential of next season, because it was the only to escape from the reality of this one. The potential of Hassan Whiteside having his way with a front line but the reality that he desperately needs Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts. The potential of Goran Dragic and Wade being a dangerous back court, but the reality that they need more time together and could use another wing off the bench that could take the burden off them to score as much. The Heat have yet to officially post the 2014-15 season Team Photo but the only thought you will take away from it is 'Potential vs Reality.'
Unfortunately, this season may be coming to an end sooner than anyone expected. Last night's collapse was just another memory to forget in this forgettable season. Maybe the early exit will fuel everyone for next season. When it's all officially over, yes there will be the silence of defeat. But it will followed by a sigh of relief. The reality that this season is over. The potential of next season awaiting.