When odds to win the NBA Finals were released, the Miami Heat were a heavy favorite after acquiring LeBron James and Chris Bosh to team with Dwayne Wade.
But the season started off a bit shaky and the Heat struggled at times through the season before getting hot at the right time, beating the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls in 5 games each, earning the right to represent the Eastern Conference and a shot at the franchises 2nd Larry O’Brien trophy.
Already one of the most eye-opening teams of the playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks will represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals after sweeping the Lakers and taking out the Oklahoma City Thunder in 5 games.
If any see this as a rematch of the 2006 NBA Finals, there are few who are still with their respective teams.
Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry are the only two holdovers from that finals appearance, and
Dwayne Wade and Udonis Haslem are the lone two left on the Heat.
But even as these two teams have only seen each other in the finals, history will play no part in determining who will walk away with the 2010-11 NBA Championship.
What this series will come down to is matchups: How the Heat plan on matching up with the Mavericks size, most notably Dirk, and how the Mavericks plan on matching up with LeBron or Wade.
Ask the Lakers, or the Thunder, or the TrailBlazers.
Not one team this postseason has been able to stop Dirk. He is averaging 28.4 points per game, and dropped 48 in game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on 12-of-15 shooting. He did not shoot a single 3-pointer that night.
The Heat will have their hands full trying to guard Dirk, and if they send a double-team, there waits Terry, or Jason Kidd, or a plethora of other viable shooting options the Mavericks have relied on this postseason, and each of them have produced as asked.
Defensively, Dirk will most likely be assigned to guard Bosh, as Kidd, Terry and DeShawn Stevenson will be asked to guard the speedy and shifty Wade.
The matchup the Mavericks will have the most trouble with is LeBron. Shaun Marion and Peja Stojakovic will be asked to slow him down, but as seen before, LeBron is capable of working his way through minimal space and attacking the basket.
But if fans learned anything from the conference finals, it is that anything can happen.
The Heat were killed on the boards due to lack of size against the Bulls in game 1, but adjusted and won 4 in a row to stamp their trip to the finals.
The Mavericks dropped game 2 to the Thunder when James Harden came off the bench to ignite the Oklahoma City offense, but Dallas did not have many problems with the young Thunder after that.
But one things the Mavericks will not have to worry much about is the Miami bench.
As the season and playoffs have worn on, the Heat bench has proved to be one of the leagues worst, while the Mavericks bench has proved over and over it is one of the leagues best.
Come Tuesday, both Rick Carlisle and Eric Spoelstra will be put in the spotlight for the next two weeks, asked what adjustments they need to make, and what matchups they feel will help their team raise the Larry O’Brien trophy either for the second time, or in the Mavericks case, their first.
For one player on both teams, this might just be the last stop for Jason Kidd.
The 38-year-old Kidd has proven a lot of critics wrong, stepping up and helping Dirk lead the Mavericks back to the finals in his fourth year back with the team. Kidd was drafted by the Mavericks out of Cal-Berkeley in 1994.
And this is a series that Mavericks guards can put their own stamp on, as the Heat do not have a point guard who can match up with Kidd, or even his backup, Jose Barea.
As for Tyson Chandler, he came into the league as a very hyped young prospect in 2001 and found his niche with the New Orleans Hornets and Chris Paul before getting shipped off to Charlotte for Emeka Okafor.
The Mavericks started the season off as one of the best in the NBA before ending the season in third behind the San Antonio Spurs and the Lakers.
The Heat, who have home-court advantage when the series starts Tuesday (9 P.M. EST ABC), finished the season second in the east behind the Bulls.
My prediction: Dallas in 6