MIAMI -- The only problem Dirk Nowitzki is having with his injured finger is finding a comfortable way of protecting it.
At a shootaround yesterday, about nine hours before Game 2 of the NBA Finals against the Heat, Nowitzki wore a hard splint on the back of his left middle finger, secured by a few strips of white tape around the side. It was at least the third wrap the Mavericks' star has tried since tearing a tendon near the fingernail in the final minutes of Game 1.
"I'm going to try something just now, try something tonight during warmups," Nowitzki said. "It'll be OK. The main thing is I still want to feel the ball in that hand. So I don't want to put too much tape over it. We'll find something that can protect it from the back and still be able to feel the ball."
Nowitzki shoots with his right hand, so he's not worried about the injury affecting his shot. But he likes to dribble with his left, and often takes lefty layups, which is why he needs to keep tinkering.
He wore a thick pad with lots of tape to a news conference Wednesday. When practice started soon after, he'd switched to a hard splint on the palm side of his hand, with thin white tape looped around the nail, leaving some of the tip and all of the nail exposed.
"You can't really pad it much from the front because then you'll have no feeling for the ball at all," he said.
Nowitzki said he was able to catch and dribble without much difficulty during practice Wednesday. He said the pain was "not bad at all." The injury is known as a "mallet finger" and generally takes six to eight weeks to heal. He'll have to wear some sort of splint the rest of the Finals; the fingertip would dangle without the support.
"I'll be OK," Nowitzki said. "I'm not really going to worry about it."
Miami limited Nowitzki to 7-for-18 shooting in Game 1, but he got to the line enough to score 27 points.
The Heat used center Joel Anthony and forwards Udonis Haslem and Chris Bosh to cover Nowitzki in Game 1. Whoever covers him the rest of the series is likely to take a few more aggressive chops at the ball, especially when he dribbles with his left hand.
"At this point, everyone has injuries, it's just that his came out in the open," Miami's LeBron James said. "I think Dirk is going to be just as great as he was.''