I know he and the Mavericks and even LeBron James are downplaying it, but I'm worried about Dirk Nowitzki's finger entering tonight's Game 2 of the NBA Finals here in Miami.
Just because it'll be different.
"I'll be fine," Dirk says. "It'll be okay."
But he loves to dribble left. He needs two hands to rebound. To catch a pass. To slap-'n-strip on defense. He isn't, in other words, Jim Abbott.
Wednesday Dirk experimented with at least three different tape and/or splint jobs. Who knows what he'll end up with by tonight's tip.
I just hope the detached tendon at the tip of his left middle finger doesn't make a different Dirk a deferential Dirk. He needs to be aggressive and effective and prolific tonight if the Mavs hope to return to Dallas for Sunday's Game 3 with the series 1-1. Seven baskets won't cut it.
Other key factors for Game 2 ...
The Mavs didn't play a lot of zone in Game 1, but when they did it was bad. Mario Chalmers had three 3-pointers and Dallas surrendered 16 offensive rebounds. I know the goal against Miami is to limit penetration and force jump shots. But a more active zone and more efficient rebounding is a must.
Dallas has to believe Game 1 was full of aberrations, including the 32-percent 3-point shooting Heat's 11 made triples. And also the horribly inept performance of its bench, led by Jason Terry and J.J. Barea. Book it: If the Mavs' bench gets outscored by 10 each game in this series they have zero chance of winning.
Barea got to the rim in Game 1, but his high-arcing floaters have to produce points and his drives need to set up teammates with assits. And Terry, whether he's guarded by LeBron or not, has to stay aggressive.
Better rebounding. Hope Miami doesn't make half its 3-pointers. And more points off the bench than the Heat. Do those three and -- Dirk's finger willing -- Dallas can get right back in this thing.
And, for what it's worth, the referees tonight are Ed Malloy, Ken Mauer and Joey Crawford. With them on the floor this season home teams went a combined 72-81.
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