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Heat take life lessons from unexpected run to NBA Finals

The Miami Heat fell to the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals. Photo: Garrett Ellwood / NBAE / Getty Images / Getty Images via AFP

Whether it was toughness through adversity or bonding the teammates, the Miami Heat took some life lessons from their unexpected run to the NBA Finals.

The Heat, only the second eighth seed in NBA history to reach the best-of-seven series, lost 94-89 at Denver on Monday to fall 4-1 in a disappointing end to a magical run as a play-in team.

“I learned so much,” Heat star Jimmy Butler said. “I wish I could have got it done for these guys because they definitely deserve it. But the one thing I’m going to take from it is how grateful I am to be able to compete with them.”

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was able to shake off the disappointment to put Miami’s play-in win and elimination of NBA regular-season leader Milwaukee, New York and Boston in long-term perspective.

“Our guys will be able to take that quality the rest of their careers — that grit, the perseverance, the toughness, the ability to compete and put yourself out there for everybody to judge and to be able to handle adversity,” Spoelstra said.

“Even though it’s sport, you can learn lessons of life from this game — that you can persevere, you can handle what people may view as mini-failures along the way and become stronger from it and overcome things.”

The Heat lost in the finals for the third time in 10 years but just reaching the championship series was a shocking feat.

“We would have liked to be able to climb the mountaintop and be able to get that final win,” Spoelstra said.

“But I think this is a team that a lot of people can relate to, if you ever felt that you were dismissed or made to feel less than. We had a lot of people in our locker room that probably have had that, and there’s probably a lot of people out there that have felt that.

“But also the way this team handled setbacks and adversity… hopefully these are lessons that will transcend this beautiful game, that we can pass along to our children.”

‘Willed our way through’

Miami’s Kyle Lowry, who won a title with Toronto, praised Butler and the special bond among teammates but was still hurting too much from his title dreams ending in heartache.

“It’s a special bond with this group. We were led by one of the best basketball players on this earth, and he instilled confidence in us,” Lowry said of Butler.

“We don’t know how we’re going to feel right this moment, but we’ll look back at some point and say it was a great year, great run. But right now, just can’t even think about that.”

Bam Adebayo, who had 20 points and 12 rebounds in defeat, said force of will had dragged Miami to the brink of the championship.

“We willed our way through ups and downs. We willed our way through the things that people said we couldn’t do,” Adebayo said. “I just take these lessons and I apply them to the next season. Whenever we go through adversity, I’m always going to look back and be like, we’ve been through adversity before.”

Butler said he was confident the Heat have what it takes to win an NBA crown.

“I’ve had some helluva teammates come through and compete with me and give us the opportunity to win a championship, which I still believe, with everything in me, that we will do,” Butler said. “Came up short, but I’m blessed. I’m fortunate.

“I think we’ll be OK.”

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