4

2006: Broken Heart. 2011: Torn Tendon. Ugh.

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The frustrating thing about Dirk Nowitzki's injured finger? It happened on a play that wasn't a foul.

"I thought I stripped him clean," Dirk said after last night's 92-84 Game 1 loss to the Heat in the NBA Finals. "Then I kind of looked down and I couldn't straighten my finger out anymore."

On the play that Dirk tore a tendon in the middle finger of his left hand, he cleanly stripped the Heat's Chris Bosh. It was a big play in a lot of ways.

After Shawn Marion's three-point play, the Mavs pulled within 77-73 with 3:44 remaining. Bosh took a pass in the lane, went up for a shot and was cleanly stripped by Nowitzki.

But instead of a steal and a possession for Dallas, it was whistled a foul. Two free throws, followed by a 3-pointer by Dwyane Wade on Miami's next possession and, bam, ball game.

Nowitzki certainly isn't known for his defense, but one of his "moves" is the slap-'n-strip. With him wearing a splint on the finger the rest of the series, it's a small asset taken away from his arsenal.

It will also affect his ball-handling. And perhaps his psyche?

The Heat, as expected, sent a lot of looks at Dirk and forced him to miss 11 of his 18 shots. Joel Anthony started on him, then a couple of possessions of Bosh and in the second half some Udonis Haslem. And, yes, lots of double-teams.

I still think LeBron James will cover Dirk on game-deciding possessions, but last night Miami didn't need him.

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