What wasn’t supposed to happen happened for the Heat this season, then it ended the way it wasn’t supposed to end

The Miami Heat’s James Johnson and Goran Dragic, left, greet Dion Waiters (11) as they lead in the fourth quarter against the Charlotte Hornets at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Wednesday, March 8, 2017. The Heat won, 108-101. (Pedro Portal/El Nuevo Herald/TNS)

MIAMI — What wasn’t supposed to happen happened for the Heat this season.

It started in July when Dwyane Wade shocked the NBA world by leaving the Heat after 13 seasons to sign with the Bulls in free agency. It continued when Chris Bosh failed a preseason physical due to ongoing blood clot issues and was not cleared to play.

And that’s just the months leading up to the season.

It continued once the games began, too. Miami lost 30 of its first 41 games to reach the midway point with the NBA’s second-worst record.

But what wasn’t supposed to happen continued to happen for the Heat. In fact, something historic happened.

After an 11-30 start, the Heat bounced back to record a 30-11 record over the second half of the season to finish 41-41. Miami became the first team in league history to go from 19 under to finish the season at .500.

Somehow, it wasn’t good enough to push the Heat into the playoffs.

“We believe in magic, we believe in karma,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We believe in those things that you can’t define and we just felt we would have the momentum. By no means did we think we were a perfect team, but we thought we had the energy and the momentum going in the right direction that we would find a way. Looking back on it, if you told me that we could be .500 at any point during the season, you would think that would be good enough to get in the playoffs.”

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But what wasn’t supposed to happen happened for the Heat and Miami missed the postseason.

Miami’s 30-11 run was the NBA’s second-best record since Jan. 17 behind just the Warriors. Yes, the Heat posted a better record than the Spurs, Celtics and Cavaliers during this time.

“We proved everyone wrong,” Heat backup center Willie Reed said. “A lot of people thought we couldn’t be in this position from 19 games under .500 to finishing the season .500. I’m so proud of this team. I love this team so much.”

The Heat also posted the NBA’s second-best net rating — one of the most reliable team performance measures — during this time. Miami recorded a net rating (difference between a team’s offensive and defensive ratings) of 6.4 since Jan. 17 with the Warriors owning an NBA-best 12.1 net rating during this stretch.

So the Heat basically played Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs basketball over the second half of the season with a roster that did not include an All-Star and missed an NBA-high 328 games due to injury or illness.

“This is probably the closest team of guys who are like me,” Heat team captain Udonis Haslem said. “The teams I played on, you might have a couple guys like me. But we had seven or eight guys who are pretty much cut from the same cloth as me. There is no coincidence we were able to finish the way we were able to finish. 70 percent of this league don’t play hard. The 30 percent that plays hard might not have the talent. We were fortunate enough to play hard and have talent. So when we were able to put it together in the second half of the season, you saw the results.”

Even more surprising, the Heat made their historic second-half run with seven new faces on the roster. On top of that, two key contributors (James Johnson and Luke Babbitt) were on expiring contracts and another three key contributors (Dion Waiters, Wayne Ellington and Willie Reed) have options in their contracts that could turn them into free agents this summer.

Spoelstra and his coaching staff found a way to keep a locker room that could have gone its separate ways together despite a very rough start.

“That was the biggest thing we were thinking about and planning for as a staff coming out of training camp,” Spoelstra said. “How were we going to get a bunch of strangers and guys on free agent contract years, guys with every reason not to buy into a team, and a lot of departures from people that knew what our culture was about — how were we going to get a group together that would really care about each other and play for each other?”

In the end, this Heat team was one of the best symbols for this organization’s hard-working and no excuse culture.

“You really start to get to know people when things aren’t going your way and we started to really see what every guy was made of,” Spoelstra said. “I loved seeing the character of guys in that locker room when they were pushed against the wall and most guys would start to bail. That’s where the term, they’ve used it all the time, ‘We come from the jungle.’ Meaning guys that come from the D-League, guys that come from getting the door shut on them, guys that failed but kept persevering and developing a grit and a character.”

But Miami never got a chance to carry its hot second half into the playoffs. The Heat missed the postseason by one game, as the Bulls took the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot despite having the same 41-41 record because of the head-to-head tiebreaker.

“That’s why it just feels so off right now,” Spoelstra said. “It feels like we could do some damage in that postseason. We feel like we can be playing for a while, but we just weren’t given that opportunity.”

An opportunity that the Heat wanted as much as anybody else.

“We’re a confident bunch, we’re a stubborn bunch,” Josh Richardson said when asked if the Heat could have had success in the postseason. “So it didn’t matter who we were going up against, we would have felt like we had a great chance to win it. That definitely sucks.”

Maybe what wasn’t supposed to happen in the playoffs would have happened for the Heat. Instead, the season ended the way it wasn’t supposed to end.

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