How the NBA title will be won and lost
We take a look at the key factors which will decide the destiny of the NBA title.
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How do the Heat stop Dirk Nowitzki?
The seven-foot (2.13-metres) German has been the game winner for the Mavericks in the playoffs, he is averaging 28.4 points a game and made 40 or more points twice in the Western Conference series against Oklahoma City. The Heat have no single obvious solution to covering Nowitzki, they will double-team when they can and expect to see Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and LeBron James himself, take on the task. How well they cope with that duty will go a long way to determining the outcome of these finals.
How do the Mavericks top Dwyane Wade and LeBron James?
When Miami's two most potent offensive threats both get into their stride on the perimeter, especially in the fourth quarter, they are a combination that few teams have been able to master. Everygreen 38-year-old Jason Kidd did a great job on Kobe Bryant in the series against the Lakers and Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals but he will need help against the double-pronged threat of Wade and James. Tyson Chandler is a strong presence in the Mavericks defense but former Heat forward Shawn Marion will need to be at the top of his game if the Mavs are to keep the Heat's scoring down.
Who has the better bench?
The cliche about the Heat is that they have no bench, they are a team built around three big names and a modest supporting cast. But the return of Haslem and Mike Miller from long-term injury problems has given coach Erik Spoelstra more reliable options. Less consistent though is Mario Chalmers - capable of moments of brilliance but also a turnover risk, while James Jones and Eddie House have seen limited use in the post-season. Dallas has Jason Terry, who is their second top scorer behind Nowitzki and Peja Stojakovic, J.J. Barea, Corey Brewer and Brendan Haywood offer a good range of choices for Rick Carlisle. "We've got a deep bench and we have shown that we can adjust to a lot of line-ups," said Nowitzki.
Mavs offense v Miami defense
For all the talk of key individuals, this is a team game. Dallas has one of the most potent offenses in the league, they are in the top three shooting from the field (46.3 percent) and in the three point range (38.8 percent). But Miami's defense has improved throughtout the year - they have held teams to 41.9 percent in the playoffs and Joel Anthony has grown as a shot stopper alongside James, Wade and Bosh.
Who wants it more?
This is what makes this final such a fascinating battle. This is no meeting of a richly successful, possibly complacent team against a plucky challenger. Both teams have real hunger for this title. The Mavericks have never won a championship while there are only two members of the current Heat team from the 2006 triumph who are still on the roster. The two big personalities in these finals are desperate for victory. Nowitzki has never won a ring, nor has James. On this front, there is nothing to choose between the teams.