The sling and grimaces were gone when Mike Miller walked on the court Wednesday, and the Miami Heat reserve guard smiled when asked about his latest injury.
With the Heat three wins from a league championship, he’ll grin and bear it.
Miller was back at practice less than 24 hours after he departed the arena with his left arm in a sling following Miami’s victory over Dallas in Game 1 of the NBA finals.
”It’s a little sore, but nothing big,” he said.
He did some things with only his right hand on the court, but coach Erik Spoelstra said Miller would be available for Game 2 Thursday.
”There’s won’t be anything stopping him from playing,” Spoelstra said. ”In terms of one-handed, he can probably put his guide hand up there if he needed to right now. But we’re just trying to rest it.”
During the second half of Game 1, Miller winced several times in pain. When asked what caused the injury, he said, ”Old age.”
No one would blame the 31-year-old South Dakota native for feeling a little creaky. Injuries forced him to miss 41 games during the regular season and three more in the playoffs.
But in the past three games he has averaged 8.3 points and 6.7 rebounds, and he led a strong showing by the Heat reserves in Game 1 of the finals.
Heat teammate Udonis Haslem is also playing a critical role in June after missing most of the season with an injured left foot.
”It has been tough,” Haslem said. ”It hasn’t been what Mike and I envisioned, but sometimes you get thrown curveballs. The opportunity took longer to come than we anticipated, but it’s here now.”
Miller sank a pair of 3-pointers in Game 1, including one in the fourth quarter on a feed from Haslem, his former University of Florida teammate.
”It felt like the old days,” Miller said. ”Unfortunately for us, we haven’t been able to have that at all this season.”
By far Miller’s most worrisome health issue has involved his newborn daughter, Jaelyn, who spent time in intensive care with four holes in her heart. She’s much better now.
”It hasn’t been easy, but you deal with it,” Miller said. ”You give it everything you’ve got and pray that’s enough.”
WOBBLY BENCH: The Dallas Mavericks’ bench showed considerable balance in Game 1. Jose Barea missed from inside, and Peja Stojakovic missed from outside.
The duo combined for two points, and the Mavs’ backups were outscored 27-17 by the Heat subs. That was a surprise, because Dallas had perhaps the NBA’s deepest cast of reserves during the regular season.
”We just had a bad game off the bench,” Barea said.
The 6-foot Barea, who averaged 9.5 points per game during the regular season, repeatedly penetrated into the paint but shot only 1 for 8 and didn’t draw a foul.
”I got a couple of shots I wanted. I just missed them,” he said. ”I’ve just got to stay aggressive and keep doing what I’m doing.”
Stojakovic went 0 for 3, all from 3-point range, and was shut out in points, rebounds and assists while playing 15 minutes. He averaged 8.5 points during the regular season.
”The ball just didn’t go in,” he said. ”Hopefully Thursday will be a better day for us, and for me.”
SHOOTING NON-STARS: Game 1 of the NBA finals was far from an offensive showcase.
Miami connected on 39 percent of its shots, Dallas made 37 percent of its attempts. According to STATS LLC, the last time there was a finals game where neither team shot 40 percent from the floor was June 11, 2003.
On that night, New Jersey shot 36 percent, beating 29-percent-shooting San Antonio 77-76.
The 37 percent was Dallas’ fifth-worst shooting night of the season in 98 games, counting both the regular-season and the playoffs. The Mavericks’ 25 field goals were their second-fewest all season (24 against Memphis on Jan. 15), and the 67 shot attempts matched their fifth-lowest output of the year.
”A disaster,” Mavs guard Jason Terry said.
The defensive-minded Heat viewed it differently. They’ve won the past three games despite shooting less than 43 percent in each.
”Man, there have been plenty of games like that,” forward Chris Bosh said. ”We’re going to make this a defensive series. That’s what we want to do.”
FAN APPRECIATION: The Heat are 9-0 at home in the playoffs, and Dwyane Wade says the team’s supporters are a big reason.
”Our fans have been great,” Wade said after practice Wednesday. ”Our fans are like our bench. They get a lot of flak about what they don’t do. But they’re pretty good.”
Miami’s fan base has been a target all year for critics who note the empty seats at the start of games. But the team played at more than 100 percent of capacity at home this season, and squeezed 20,003 fans for Game 1 into a building that normally can only hold 19,600 for regular-season games and significantly less than that in the playoffs, when many seats are lost to media.
”The energy that they brought (Tuesday) night was amazing,” Wade said. ”And we feed off that. And I think they understand that.”
HERE AND THERE: Miami’s victory in Game 1 was the team’s 71st overall this season, a franchise record. LeBron James has been part of a franchise-record-tying 70 of those wins, tying Udonis Haslem and Damon Jones, who played in that many victories for Miami in the 2004-05 season. … The Mavericks objected with about 7 minutes left in the fourth quarter Tuesday when the official scoring table – correctly, as replays showed – reset the shot clock after a miss by Chris Bosh. ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy questioned it as well, even after seeing the replay. ”They gave it to him because it’s the home team,” Van Gundy said, even while play-by-play man Mike Breen pointed out that table officials are brought in from other NBA cities to work playoff games. … The Heat’s Mike Miller regarding his 6-year-old son, Mavrick: ”He wondered why his name was the bad team.”