We are finally here. The Heat, led by LeBron James, versus the Mavericks, led by Dirk Nowitzki, for the NBA championship.
Very intriguing matchup, great storylines, lots of drama. We couldn't have asked for a better matchup with contrasting styles.
You have the hated Miami Heat, that most people are hoping lose, led by the poster child for their hate, LeBron James. Since "The Decision," he and the Heat have incurred the wrath of basketball fans across the country.
They rejoiced when the Heat went through tough times during the season. They said no way could they jell quickly enough to win a championship.
No way Bosh could carry his weight of being part of the big three. No way is LeBron clutch enough. No way is their bench good enough.
Here we are, in spite of what most people thought, with the Miami Heat on the cusp of another world championship. Can LeBron do the unthinkable?
I wouldn't bet against him because he is doing just about everything else—scoring, assisting, rebounding, leading, creating, defending. What we are seeing from LeBron in these playoffs is the greatest evidence of him being the best player and leader in the NBA.
Not only is he stuffing the stat sheet, but he is playing the point on offense and shutting down the Derrick Roses of the world on defense.
As a basketball fan, you might despise the Heat, but you can't deny that the big three, especially LeBron, have lived up to the hype so far. This could be one of the biggest stories of redemption if LeBron and Co. can pull this off.
Dallas is a pretty big story in themselves. Dirk and his crew were an afterthought when the playoffs began. Everyone, including myself, expected them to fold as in years past.
The poster boy for all their past failures was Dirk. He was labeled as soft, non-clutch, unable to put a team on his back and more.
Nowitzki is one of the most skilled big men to ever play the game. Whether it is inside or outside, he has proven that he is unguardable.
Even though he has done everything in his power, a championship has eluded Mark Cuban and Dirk. It is true that he let one get away when they played the Heat in 2006.
He was unable to put his team on his back then, and we can debate whether that is fair or not, but he has redeemed himself in a big way this years playoffs.
He and his partners in crime have one hurdle to leap before they shock the world. If that happens it will be vindication for Jason Kidd playing so long, for Cuban believing in his core, but most of all for Dirk.
All the negative labels will disappear and he will take his place among the all time greats with championship rings if he can lead his team to victory against the Heat.
You don't know how many opportunities you will get at this, so both teams need this championship in the worst way. Let's see what the matchups say.
Mike Bibby vs. Jason Kidd
Even though Bibby can hit the three, his effect on the game is pretty negative if he doesn't get opportunities to hit open shots. He is pretty much a defensive liability and will be hard-pressed to keep up with Kidd.
Kidd on the other had will have a huge effect on the game from a play making stand point. He doesn't look for his own offense, but will find the teammate with the best shot.
He can also get hot from three point land on occasion, so you can't just ignore him. Still, the Heat will have to make him an unwilling scorer to keep him from what he does best.
If Kidd is doing what he does best and getting in transition, that is bad news for the Heat.
Edge: Jason Kidd
Dwyane Wade vs. DeShawn Stevenson
This is a good matchup because Stevenson is one of the best defenders on the Mavs. Wade has struggled and is a little banged up, but it is vital that he put up points on the offensive end.
If he doesn't, Miami is toast. Dallas doesn't need for Stevenson to score to win, but they need him to be tough against Wade.
Wade showed what he can do at the end of game five against the Bulls. Stevenson job will be to make sure that doesn't happen again. He will have, and need help.
Edge: Dwyane Wade
LeBron James vs. Shawn Marion
This is one of the key match ups of the series, which goes without saying. Marion is an energy player at this point in his career, and can do damage in transition, and off the offensive boards.
He will try to pressure LeBron and keep him from getting to the basket unhindered. The problem with that is that LeBron has been clutch with his jumper in key situations.
Marion does have size and quickness, and he will have help from the bigs if LeBron does get to the hoop in the half court.
One thing Marion will not be able to stop is Lebron setting up his team mates. LeBron can beat you by being a facilitator as well. The Dallas defense will have to scramble well when he finds open players.
LeBron has upped his game in the playoffs and is the best player left—no disrespect to Dirk. He is a game changer, and Dallas will win if he doesn't play at the level he has been.
Edge: LeBron James
Chris Bosh vs Dirk Nowitzki
Toughest matchup for the Heat. No way Chris Bosh can guard Dirk. They don't have a big on their roster that can effectively guard him.
Bosh's best defense may be to be an offensive force. His confidence and aggressiveness have grown, and he looks more relaxed on offense.
Miami's team quickness on defense will have to come through against Dirk. They shut off the lane quickly when you try to go one-on-one.
Their challenge will be the kick-outs to open shooters, and Dallas has a lot of them. Dirk will be a willing passer if they decide to take him away. Either way, Dirk will put up numbers.
Bosh may be playing against Chandler, so scoring won't be easy, but he will have to make a significant impact on offense so they have a post presence on offense. Here is where Bosh earns his money.
Edge: Dirk Nowitzki
Joel Anthony vs. Tyson Chandler
Chandler's job is to play effective defense and rebound. He can run the floor well too and will get points in transition. Joel Anthony is not a threat offensively, but must be kept off the offensive boards.
His specialty is post defense and shot blocking. Anthony will have to play big, because the Heat are not big as team, and Dallas has bigs to bring off the bench.
Both of these big men play their roles well. Their value won't be measured on the stat sheet all the time. I will give the edge to Chandler because it will be easier for him to do his job on defense than it will for Anthony, depending on who they match up with.
Edge: Tyson Chandler
Many people think the series will be decided here. Jason Terry and JJ Berea will be a hand full for the Miami bench.
They provide scoring and playmaking off the bench that Miami just can't match. Throw in Stojakovic and Brendan Haywood and you have as deep a bench as there is in the league.
Udonis Haslem's return to the rotation is a big deal for Miami, as his defense and hustle in the front court helped them beat Chicago. Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers will have to be big off the bench so the Dallas bench doesn't stretch leads when the starters are out of the game.
Chalmers has been inconsistent, and Miller has not been a factor on offense, but both of them have contributed on defense. If they don't step up, it could be a short series.
This is Dallas' biggest advantage.
The Mavericks beat the Heat both times this season. The matchups favor them, so that should mean a Dallas victory, correct? Not so fast. Chicago had an edge in the matchups as well.
Miami has the intangibles, and the best player on the planet, along with Wade. I just have a hunch that they will carry their team to victory and win an improbable championship. We will see starting next Tuesday.