MIAMI (AP) — As if losing the opener of the NBA finals wasn’t bad enough for the Dallas Mavericks, now they have to deal with an injured Dirk Nowitzki.
It’s only a torn tendon on the middle finger of his left hand, his non-shooting hand. And he can protect it with a splint.
Still, after the way the Mavericks shot in the opener, anything else that might throw off their aim could be trouble.
Dallas made a postseason-worst 37.3 percent of its shots on the way to a 92-84 loss to Miami in Game 1 on Tuesday night. The misses came on everything from layups to open 3-pointers, from starters and backups.
Nowitzki scored a team-best 27 points, but was far from dominant.
He made his first shot, then went 18:40 before making another, missing five in a row. He had a nice stretch just before halftime and hit a long jumper early in the third quarter to put the Mavericks up by eight. Once Miami took control, Nowitzki wasn’t able to get Dallas back ahead.
Tight defense by Udonis Haslem slowed Nowitzki, and a strong team effort kept the Mavericks from getting into any rhythm. They scored just 16 points in the first quarter and 17 in the third.
“That’s not our style of basketball,” Jason Terry said. “They did a good job of playing their tempo, and they finished at the end when they needed to.”
The game was still close midway through the fourth quarter when Terry missed a pair of shots — his first two attempts of the second half — and Nowitzki missed another. Soon, the Heat were streaking to their biggest lead and on their way to ending Dallas’ five-game road winning streak this postseason.
In those closing minutes, Nowitzki was hurt trying to swipe the ball from Miami’s Chris Bosh. He thought he got it cleanly, but a foul was called on the play. Then Nowitzki looked at his hand and, “I couldn’t straighten my finger out any more.”
Nowitzki said an X-ray showed no broken bones.
“It was just a freaky play,” Nowitzki said. “I have to wear a splint probably for the rest of the playoffs, for a couple of weeks. But it will be all right.”
Nowitzki is right-handed, so he uses his left hand mostly to guide his shots. He said he doesn’t expect the injury or the bandage to be much of an issue.
Neither does Heat star LeBron James.
“He’s right-handed,” James said. “It won’t affect him. He’s still going to be great. He’s still Dirk.”
Nowitzki scored 12 of his points on free throws. He made only 7 of 18 shots — and just 3 of 9 in the second half.
The bench wasn’t much help. Reserves scored a combined 17 points, less than Terry alone often scores.
He had 12 points, none in the second half. Getting covered most of the night by James was part of his problem.
J.J. Barea made only one of eight shots for two points. Brendan Haywood scored three points (all on free throws) in 14 minutes and Peja Stojakovic was scoreless in nearly 15 minutes.
“Definitely uncharacteristic of us,” Terry said.
There were other problems — getting outrebounded by 10, allowing Miami to grab 16 offensive rebounds and giving up a playoffs-high 11 3-pointers — but those things could’ve been overcome had Dallas simply hit a few more shots.
“The name of the game is to put the ball in the basket and we just didn’t do that tonight,” Jason Kidd said.
Despite the awful aim, and allowing Dwyane Wade to take over in the second half, prompting flashbacks to the 2006 finals, the Mavericks came away feeling good about their chances of returning to Dallas with the series tied.
“I’m very encouraged right now knowing that if we continue to get those same opportunities, we’re going to have some success,” Terry said.