Kobe and Phil came up short, and Doc and K.G. found a repeat trip to the Finals wasn't in the cards.

Instead, the Miami Heat and their big trio are playing for the Larry O'Brien trophy, but few predicted the Mavericks would advance this far.

The two meet teams meet in South Florida on Tuesday night, with both coming off speedy runs through the playoffs.

The Portland Trail Blazers took the Mavericks to six games, but Dallas unexpectedly swept the Lakers, and the Thunder were only able to manage one victory, despite many experts thinking it would be a lengthy series.

The Heat went to five games with all three of their opponents: the Philadelphia 76ers, the Celtics, and the Bulls. Many believed the Heat to either fall to the veteran Celtics, or the upstart Bulls, but Miami proved to be more resilient than many thought.

In some ways, this series has the element of a one-on-one duel between two very different elite players.

Dirk Nowitzki might be the best player in the NBA right now. At 7'0, Nowitzki is a very difficult player to defend, due to his height and excellent outside shot.

On the other hand, LeBron James has been the Heat's most dependable player. He has shown little sign of fatigue, and has been able to come through in the later part of games.

The series might come down to how well each star player performs.Miami will use a combination of Chris Bosh, Joel Anthony, and Udonis Haslem to guard Nowitzki.

The problem with that scenario, is that Bosh might get tired of jumping to contest Nowitzki's outside shots, and Anthony lacks the foot speed to keep up with Nowitzki. That leaves Haslem, who may have trouble lasting 30 minutes after coming back from his foot injury, and keeping up with Nowitzki is no easy task.

As for Dallas, Shawn Marion will mainly be assigned to James. The Mavericks' small forward is 33 years old but he remains capable of defending athletic players. The Mavs don't have a bench player that can defend James, so should Marion get into foul trouble, Dallas might be in for some major headaches with James's ability to penetrate and create his own outside shot.

Of course, both James and Nowitzki may find themselves guarding one another at certain points of the game, as well.

An important player for the Mavericks will be Tyson Chandler. The Heat are thin at big man, and Dallas is very good at creating alley-oop opportunities for their light-footed center. Also, Chandler is an intimidating defender who alters opponents' shots.

For the Heat, a key player could be Mario Chalmers. Jason Kidd is 38, and Chalmers is capable of having good shooting nights, and finding his own shot. He's also deceptively quick, and plays good defense.

The Mavericks won both regular season games, but those games involved Mavericks' forward Caron Butler who is inactive for the series.

The Heat are defensive minded, while the Mavericks can score in bunches. The Finals will likely be determined by how well the Heat defend, and how well the Mavericks score.

PREDICTION: The Mavericks have a red hot player in Nowitzki, and Jason Terry is capable of going on a major scoring run on any given night. The Heat, however, have James, and though he hasn't hit any buzzer beaters, he has done a great job closing games. This series should be tightly contested and leans slightly to the Mavericks simply because of veteran leadership and the Heat's problems guarding Nowitzki.