MIAMI – Following his standard routine, Dirk Nowitzki(notes) shot mid-range jumpers, and caught and dribbled the ball with his left hand during Wednesday’s practice. The abnormality of that scene was the splint that he wore on the middle finger of his left hand, a cause of concern for the Dallas Mavericks.
Nowitzki suffered a torn left tendon on that finger late during the Mavericks’ 92-84 loss to the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night. The All-Star doesn’t expect the injury on the non-shooting hand to be an issue the rest of the Finals and he is slated to play in Game 2 on Thursday night.
Soft passes, dribbling and catching weren't an issue for Nowitzki in practice, but it's unclear how he'll respond to much harder contact during games.
“I don't think it's going to be necessarily bothering me on the shot,” Nowitzki said before Wednesday’s practice. “Obviously, on the shot you only hold the ball with the left hand. It's not like you do anything crazy with it. It's going to be other stuff, dribbling, passing, catching, swiping down, stuff like that. I think it will be OK."
Nowitzki suffered the injury with 3:44 left in the fourth quarter of Game 1 when he swiped at the ball from Heat forward Chris Bosh(notes) and was whistled for a foul. Nowitzki said he didn’t initially feel pain, but eventually noticed something wasn’t right after he shot free throws 36 seconds later.
After his finger was straightened out and athletic trainer Casey Smith put tape on his hand, Nowitzki made a 16-foot jumper and all four free throws attempted while also dishing an assist and grabbing a rebound. The only miscue came on a 6-foot missed fade away jumper with 1:08 remaining.
“It was like four minutes to go when Bosh slipped on a screen and roll and came toward me at the basket,” Nowitzki said. “I stripped him, I felt, clean. And, yeah, I was kind of talking to the referee about the play, and the next thing you know I run on offense after two free throws and I'm looking down and my finger was bent. I couldn't straighten it.
"It was a freakish play. I ran over to the sideline and showed our trainer. He knew right away what happened. We just taped it and went from there.
“So it didn't affect me afterwards. It didn't get as sore as I was anticipating last night. So it should be all right.”
Nowitzki's injury surprised Bosh.
“I had no idea," Bosh said. "You never know how those things go. Adrenaline is pumping. It’s the Finals. Everybody wants to do well. He’s a good player. He’s not going to let something like that slow him down.”
Nowitzki finished the night with 27 points on 7-of-18 shooting from the field and 12-of-12 shooting from the free-throw line in 40 minutes. With previous shooting-hand injuries in mind, Bosh believes Nowitzki can be affected by it.
“It affects you because sometimes someone is going to smack down on it whether they know it or not,” Bosh said. “It’s painful. But as ballplayers we all go through it one time or another.”
Said Carlisle: “He's not going to complain. At this point, anything short of a compound fracture, you play.”