Here are the five factors I think are important in this matchup.
1. Who wants it more? Dirk needs a ring to validate his career, unfair or not. James needs a ring to even enter the discussion of "Who is the greatest player of all time?" Jason Kidd has little to no time left before he retires; you know he'll give everything he has. Wade has less motivation than some, but Wade at 80% motivated is better than Jason Terry at 100% motivated.
But still, Wade and Haslem have titles. No one in Dallas has one, and that counts for a lot. And it's not like there will be first-Finals jitters for the Mavs, either. Dirk, Terry, Kidd have all been here before, and they know how intense the pressure is and how bright the spotlights are. Most importantly, they know how bitter it is to come this close and go home losers.
2. Dirk vs. The World: Dirk has been unstoppable this postseason, scoring 28.4 points per game while shooting 51.7% from the field, 51.6% from deep and 92.9% from the line. Those numbers are ridiculous all the way around. Great FG% for a center. Amazing FG% for a 3-point specialist. Free throw shooting in the realm of Larry Bird.
Which is not to say he hasn't been defended well. Often he's shooting with a hand in his face, fading away on one leg, as that's the only position the defender has given him. And it still goes in. A lot. The question is: can anyone on the Heat slow Dirk down, and, if they cannot, do they just let Dirk get his 30 and stop everyone else?
I think we'll see the Heat switch between using LeBron, Haslem and maybe even Joel Anthony in a one-on-one matchup against the German. I doubt we'll see a zone, as Dirk has been doing well finding open shooters and the Mavs are hitting 38% from deep this postseason. I'm not sure any of these players will slow Dirk down, but I think LeBron has the best chance. He's too quick for Dirk to get around, has good height and a great vertical. After watching him destroy Derrick Rose in conference finals, I think James may do okay here.
But in the end, I bet they just let Dirk get his and focus on making the rest of the Mavericks take difficult shots.
Advantage: Dirk. Long-term advantage: Heat.
3. Battle of the old point guards. Jason Kidd has 18 years of NBA experience under his belt. Mike Bibby has seen better days and has been around for 13. These guys will be guarding each other a lot, which should lead to some questions. "Is Bibby scoring 15 ppg in the Finals after averaging 3 ppg in the previous 15 games due to his newfound offensive prowess? Or is it because Kidd can't stop anyone from doing anything these days?"
In short, whichever old dude can get it done will be a huge contributor to his team. Both of these teams are good defensively, and an extra 3 from Kidd or layup from Bibby here can be huge.
Kidd may be older, but he's playing better (10 points, 7.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds per game) than Mike (3.6 points, 1.2 assists, 1.2 rebounds per game) these days. I'll give the edge to him hitting some clutch 3's and stripping Bibby for a crucial turnover or two.
4. Does Barea run wild? In 17.5 minutes per game, he's scoring 9 points and dishing out 3.5 assists. He's hitting 43% of his shots overall and 31% from deep. I give you these numbers to show A.) He's not as amazing as you may think from watching ESPN and B.) There's a reason he only plays 17 minutes per game. That said, he provides a big boost off the bench and can really frustrate defenses while providing a spark to the Mavs as a whole.
Do the Heat just stick LeBron on him and say "Go for it, little man?" Again, watching him shut down Rose was eye-opening, and if he can stay in front of the MVP, he should be able to stay in front of the best pickup player ever in the history of mankind.
Sorry, Jose, your days are numbered.
5. Who stops the three-headed monster? I imagine Chandler will work on slowing Bosh down, which is fine, except Bosh plays outside the paint, which will drag Tyson away from the hoop, giving LeBron and Wade free reign to waltz in for a dunk whenever they feel like it.
And why are these two waltzing into the paint? I answer your question with another questions: Who does Dallas have that can remotely slow down either of these guys on the perimeter? Can Shawn Marion do it? Okay, let's say he can keep one of them in check. Who handles the other? Jason Terry? DeShawn Stevenson? Peja? I don't see it happening. What this boils down to is either Wade or LeBron getting a green light to attack the hoop for pretty much the entire game.
Dallas may try a zone and dare James Jones and Mike Miller to beat them, but while Miller is hitting a whopping 21% of his deep attempts (27% against Chicago), Jones is a blistering 45% from downtown in the playoffs. Considering Miller will likely be shooting against Peja or Kidd, I think his numbers will improve, meaning a zone is an invitation to a barrage of 3's the likes of which helped Dallas sink the Lakers.
In the end, it's been a rare game where Bosh, Wade and James all have bad performances at the same time. This was the case in Game 5 against Chicago, but the Heat's defense kept them in it long enough that some game-saving heroics were possible at the end.
For them to have four games of stinkitude? I can't believe it will happen.
Final Finals prediction: Heat in 6. Weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth commence from people who had no problem with Boston winning the 2008 title.