Miami Heat, 2023 NBA Playoffs
The Miami Heat are the Eastern Conference Champions of the 2023 NBA playoffs after staving off the Boston Celtics in Game 7. Bleacher Report/Twitter


  • The Miami Heat fell victim to the Denver Nuggets' dominance in the 2023 NBA Finals
  • Jimmy Butler's Herculean efforts to bring them there effectively tired him out
  • Their "Heat Culture" was ultimately not enough to beat an uber-talented Nuggets team

The Miami Heat find themselves on the outside looking in after the Denver Nuggets went on to claim the 2023 NBA Championship in a hard-fought Game 5, and a multitude of factors arise as to why it went down that way.

One was Jimmy Butler ultimately running out of gas.

When his team needed him most, Butler failed to show up after logging 21 points on a horrid 5-of-18 shooting night from the field.

However, he cannot shoulder the blame by himself as he produced some of the most spectacular performances in this year's playoffs.

Against the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round, Butler went nuclear for the five-game series by averaging 37.6 points, six rebounds, and 4.8 assists while also logging a 56-point masterpiece in Game 4 and a 42-point outing in Game 5 to boot the Bucks.

Butler did it again in the second round versus the New York Knicks as his prowess on both ends of the floor produced a six-game series victory to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals and a rematch with rival Boston Celtics.

The Heat neared a highly unlikely sweep of the Celtics after surprising them with big comebacks in the first two games, only for Boston to force a Game 7 where Miami poured out a 19-point beatdown to meet the Nuggets.

It is that Herculean effort to carry the team that would prove to be his downfall in the NBA Finals as he struggled mightily with his shot, thanks in no part to the stout defense played on him by Aaron Gordon.

Losing both Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo to season-ending injuries would only add to the pressure that was already on Butler's shoulders as he had to carry their loads while also having to rely on the hands of backups Gabe Vincent, Caleb Martin and Duncan Robinson.

Full credit goes to head coach Erik Spoelstra for pulling out the best out of his players to produce one of the most memorable postseason runs in NBA history with them becoming the first eighth-seed since the 1999 Knicks to reach the NBA Finals.

Duncan Robinson, Miami Heat
#55 Duncan Robinson of the Miami Heat during Game 2 of the 2023 NBA Finals. Barstool Sports/Twitter

But therein lies the problem for the Heat moving forward.

The vaunted "Heat Culture" that prides itself on working hard both on and off the court might work to buoy them in the 82-game regular season, but the lack of talent to match up with a well-rounded team that features two-time league MVP Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray in a playoff setting is not going to bode well.

Miami has no shortage of heart and effort on their side as evidenced by their five-game drubbing of the Bucks, who are just two years removed from their championship run, and the near-sweep of the Celtics in the conference finals plus an almost-victory in Game 5 after leading the game entering halftime.

But on that note, the Heat sorely need improved roster depth as well since Butler, Herro and Bam Adebayo cannot be expected to explode every single game.

Factor in the potential for unforeseen circumstances like injuries and their chances of winning drastically go down despite the energy they put on both ends of the floor.

Even if they had Herro and Oladipo on the floor, it likely would not have been enough for them to contend with the Nuggets' other pieces like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Bruce Brown and Christian Braun.

"Luck is where the crossroads of opportunity and preparation meet" is a quote often attributed to Roman philosopher Stoic Seneca, and it perfectly describes the Heat's 2022-23 season.

The argument can be made that the Heat's luck ran out at the worst time possible for them as they had the opportunity to win a title but were ill-prepared, ill-equipped, and just simply overmatched against a more talented Nuggets team.

Heat president Pat Riley is the type of front-office executive to keep his eyes on always putting together a competitive roster.

After seeing his current lineup squeeze out tough wins, the Heat will likely show a lot of activity in the offseason.

Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo
#13 Bam Adebayo and #22 Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat hype up their home crowd at the Kaseya Center. Mat Issa/Twitter