Granted, it was earned, particularly after all that was endured during the first Big Three season, including the unraveling against the Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals.
For as much as the Heat had accomplished in recent months, on second glance perhaps Monday's series-opening 93-86 loss to the Bulls was no surprise at all.
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- 601 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami, FL 33132, USA
The eight-game winning streak to close the regular season? More Miller, Lewis and Jones than hardcore rotation.
The 4-0 first round sweep of the Bucks? Preseason in the postseason.
No, we're not going to go where Joakim Noah went after the teams' previous playoff series, when, in 2011, the Bulls center so famously called the Heat, "Hollywood as hell."
But comeuppance might be a dish best served now, when there is time to react, overcome, return to the desperation that so fueled last season's championship run.
But pain was back at 601 Biscayne.
"There's nothing," forward Shane Battier said, "like the morning after a playoff loss. When I retire from this game, I'll never forget this feeling. It's not a fun feeling. It's not a fun feeling for anybody, for my dogs, for my kids, for my wife, for my teammates, for the coaches."
So they watched the mistakes on video, then took to the court to reposition themselves.
Unlike last week, there were no post-practice shooting games, no penalty pushups.
Yet there also was, perhaps, a sense of being more alive than during the numbing series of victories that have dominated these past three months.
"You can't get to where we want to go," Battier said, "without having this feeling."
So here the Heat are again, just as they were for the final three matchups of last season's championship run, trailing in a playoff series.
The formula worked last season and could provide enough of an eye-opener to again return similar focus to this postseason.
Because there has to be more than hero-ball 3-pointers from Wade, more than matador defense from Mario Chalmers, and more than Bosh solely on the perimeter.
"We've been in tough moments. We've lost games before. We've lost first games of a series. We lost a lot of games before," Wade said. "We understand how to make the adjustment. It's just something that we haven't done in while here, in about three months."
Defeat is never necessary. But the Heat needed to feel what they felt late into the night Monday, and needed to feel it now, before a Game 7 against the Pacers or Knicks, before a champions-versus-champions moment against the Spurs.
"We haven't lost in a while," Wade said, "so it was very different, to come in here and have to deal with a loss, and to deal with in the playoffs, at home."
The mood Tuesday was visceral. Arrogance, cockiness, hubris had, for at least one day, left the building.
"The playoffs," Spoelstra said, "are all about revealing who you are. And it's either a win or a loss."
Some tried to offer solace. The Heat won four straight each of the previous two times they lost a series opener in the Big Three era. Then there were the series comebacks against the Pacers, Celtics and Thunder to close out last season's playoffs.
Spoelstra wasn't having any of it.
"Well, we've been there. Our experiences have taught us a lot of things," the Heat coach said, "but that does nothing for us right now. We have to fight for our playoff lives right now, play a much harder and much more committed game together."
Good. The game again has their attention, the score the ultimate showcase, instead of LeBron's first-half sneaker display.
Tuesday, the Heat got back to work, got back to grit, sought to get back to the formula that made resilience the byword of last season's championship run.
For the first time since losing Feb. 1 in Indiana, before a good regular season was about to turn into a great regular season, the Heat find themselves dealing with adversity.
That's a good thing. That's a Heat thing.
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