2020 NBA Finals - Miami Heat v Los Angeles Lakers
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There are several reasons it's premature to write off this Miami Heat team, even if, ultimately, they do fall to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.

But the most important of them heading into Game 2 is this one: That stinging, bitter taste of defeat LeBron James shoved down the throats of Jimmy Butler, Erik Spoelstra, Pat Riley and the practitioners of the Heat Way on Wednesday in that Game 1 drubbing.

Domination can be damning in the NBA. But it can also be a catalyst forward. 

Turning that thumping into something worthy of a shot at a title will be harder to pull off now that both Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo are doubtful for Friday's Game 2. Dragic's injury in particular presents the real chance he could miss much or all of the series. 

Yet the law of writing off teams, in the NBA and beyond, because of a single early outcome is wrought with problems. Momentum happens. Stars on the opposing team get hurt. Shots fall. Pride kicks in.

In the NFL, Atlanta Falcons fans know this -- know the biting pain of 28-3 transforming from a halftime lead into a touchstone of the power and possibility of impossible comebacks and collapses. Cubs fans know it, too, on the happier end, having beat back a 2-1 series deficit in the NLCS in 2016 against the Los Angeles Dodgers -- only to fall behind 3-1 in the World Series against the Cleveland Indians and then, somehow, win three straight to claim their first World Series in more than 100 years.

LeBron James knows it, too, from that same year, 2016, when he led the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first NBA championship. They'd also fallen behind 3-1, in this case to the Golden State Warriors, and the details then were uglier than they are right now for the Miami Heart: A 15-point loss in Game 1, and then a 33-point indignity in Game 2. 

The Cavs were written off. Unable to catch up. Were clearly in the midst of being steamrolled by the 73-win Warriors. LeBron and his teammates were footnotes to history, already. Nearly every prognosticator, expert, former player, talking head and gossiping NBA source outside of Cleveland said so. I remember. I was among the media members certain the series was over.

You better believe LeBron James, as the world said he and his guys were clearly outclassed and destined for defeat, seethed before he seized control of that series.

We know what happened. How the uncertain magic of sports -- why gambling and rooting and guessing is so much fun -- unfolded. A Cavs comeback for the ages.

A few more fun facts, proof that one-game or two-game sample sizes are not exactly Nostradamus-esque insights into the future: If the Lakers win this series -- as, again, most of us believe will happen -- it will be LeBron James' first championship in which he and his team won Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

And this one: The Miami Heat, in all three of its NBA titles, failed to win Game 1. Just like they have here in 2020.

No, this Heat team does not have what that Cavs team had. LeBron James is not among them. And no, there is no home-court advantage waiting back in Miami to help stem the tide and maybe turn it altogether.

But it's also true the NBA bubble has been a petri dish of possibilities, something new and still largely unexplored, for the NBA and the teams within it. Of the 13 successful comebacks in NBA playoff history for a team down 3-1, two of them -- Denver over Utah and Denver over the Clippers -- happened in Orlando.

There are many things the Heat can do differently to try and take most of that first quarter Wednesday night and extend it over the course of 48 full minutes. Bring the defensive energy that got them here. Not blink, doe-eyed, in the face of the Lakers physicality. Hell, give it back to them.

Perhaps Duncan Robinson will actually hit a shot going forward. Maybe even several. Feels plausible.

Maybe Tyler Herro, who was targeted by the Lakers when he was on defense and equally overwhelmed on offense, will find that steely resolve and muster some of that swagger that helped his team get here. Certainly seems possible.

Maybe Bam will be healthy, and find a way to best -- or at least meet -- the challenge of the Lakers length and interior defenders. Wouldn't shock me.

Maybe Jimmy Butler, his banged up ankle and all, will take over a game or two.

Maybe the Heat will hit a bunch of 3s, something they did at a torrid rate in the regular season and these playoffs.

Maybe the players around LeBron James and Anthony Davis -- the Alex Carusos, Markieff Morris', Danny Green's and Kentavious Caldwell Popes -- won't be reliable as big-shot makers and big-moment meeters every single key moment of this series.

If, if, if, if -- there's a lot of them in there. But that's what sports are -- the great big competitive "If" -- every time anyone steps out there to try and claim greatness and titles. We tend to forget how severely the pendulum can swing, how momentum is its own fickle force, how this particular moment is not the long term. We write off the unlikely as impossible, until the Cubs come storming back, Tom Brady and the Patriots pull off the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, LeBron and his guys wipe those smiles off the lips of Steph, Klay, and Draymond.

Are the Heat among those rare, resilient teams? We don't know. Which is the point. There's a long way to go.

"We've just got to be tougher," Erik Spoelstra told reporters in Orlando, and he's right. Which brings us back to that humiliating way to lose, and how the bile of embarrassment might bring out something much more ferocious and worthy of who the Heat had to be to get here in the first place.

Human pride has to be taken into account. It can't be measured, and the degree to which it can be an elixir against superior forces -- especially when those forces are led by LeBron James in an NBA Finals --  is an imperfect science at best, more alchemy than certainty. Dragic's absence, in particular, is no small thing.

But pride is powerful. Don't doubt LeBron James saying he was "pissed off" for the perceived slight of receiving only 16 first-place MVP votes was his own trick to tap into that feeling.

Jordan did this. Isiah Thomas and the "Bad Boys" of that Pistons team reveled in it. Steph Curry and the Warriors, hearing Steph was overrated and 3-point shooting teams were an illusion, did, too. Kobe Bryant summoned the notion of disrespect wherever he could find it. And so on. It's a time-honored trick, and it shouldn't be hard for the Heat to tap into that same sensation of embarrassment, disrespect, and the power that can come from responding to it.

There's no guarantee it'll work. Maybe it won't. But the Miami Heat are here for a reason, crafted by a prideful man in Pat Riley; a prideful coach in Erik Spoelstra, who had to grind his way out of the video room and into this job; and a prideful leader in Jimmy Butler, who was a two-star college recruit doubted at every single step of his journey.

It's never over until it's over. The last few years have taught us that. And the Miami Heat, banged up and overmatched though they may be, are tailor-made to try and add their names to the list of reasons we have to stop trying to call these contests after they've just begun.