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Dirk Nowitzki struggles all the way around

6/1/2011

MIAMI -- Dirk Nowitzki not only had his most frustrating outing of the playoffs, but he tore a tendon on his left middle finger on a freak play late in the fourth quarter of Tuesday night's 92-84 loss to Miami in Game 1 of the Finals.

The injury added to Nowitzki's offensive struggles, as Heat defenders gave the Mavericks' chief scoring threat different looks throughout the game. Nowitzki shot just 7-of-18 from the floor -- just the second time he's made less than 50 percent in his past 11 playoff games going back to the first-round finale against Portland.

It had to feel like the 2006 Finals all over again with Heat power forward Udonis Haslem having the primary assignment on Nowitzki. But Chris Bosh was also involved, and quick double-teams came often. Nowitzki made half of his 12 shots when single-covered but missed five of six when Miami provided help.

Nowitzki, though, said the poor shooting had more to do with himself than what Miami did.

"I had my opportunities there," said Nowitzki, who scored 27 and made all 12 of his free throws. "I had some good drives there in the first half. I just got to finish. I missed a righty layup. I missed a lefty layup that rolled around.

"I have to keep attacking and take my opportunities when they're there. We know Haslem is a good defender at the [power forward] position, probably one of the best in the league. I still got my opportunities there when I put the ball on the floor. I just got to finish."

Nowitzki came into the Finals averaging 28.4 points on 51.7 percent shooting. Even though Nowitzki scored 27 in Game 1, he didn't come close to the efficiency he's shown throughout the playoffs. Nowitzki scored at least 40 twice in the Western Conference finals on 20 or fewer shots.

The Mavs' overall shooting woes (37.3 percent) against the Heat didn't make it any easier on Nowitzki.

"They did a good job throwing doubles, coming from the weak side on a double," guard DeShawn Stevenson said. "Haslem played him tough, but if we made our shots, they couldn't do that. Dirk kept passing to us, and we weren't making shots. If we make shots, it makes it easier for Dirk."

Nowitzki has thrived against aggressive defenses throughout his career, but few teams can bring the combination of strength and athleticism the Heat offer.

"He's got to be denied the ball everywhere on the floor," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "Haslem is a guy that's got the wherewithal to do that. And they're going to play him aggressively and we know that.

"We've just got to keep playing our game. We have to keep getting him the ball and giving him opportunities to create."