Miami Heat guard Tyler Johnson was having a strong game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night when he became too strong for his own good. He went up for an emphatic block of superstar Russell Westbrook, but appeared to have injured his hand in the process.

The hand injury

The injury occurred about four minutes into the fourth quarter. With the Thunder leading the Heat 94-81, Westbrook attempted to make a move on Johnson before going up for the layup, where he was met with the left hand of Johnson. His team immediately began running down the court to let an offensive play develop, but the guard stayed behind the basket where his block occurred, hunched over and grimacing in pain.

Most of the pain seemed to be absorbed by the left middle finger of Johnson, the digit he was tending to most after the block. It appeared he smacked his hand against the backboard during the dunk, painful contact against the glass. He remained in the game, though, and finished with 15 points in addition to two rebounds and two assists. The Heat dropped the home game, 106-94.

Johnson's importance

Johnson absorbed much of the criticism in the offseason when the salary cap in the NBA skyrocketed, leading the Heat to sign the backup for four years and $50 million, an unheard of contract by a backup at the time (although on par with many other deals signed in the summer). Since then, however, the guard has had a hand in many of the highlights of the team's season, despite them struggling to one of the worst records in the Eastern Conference.

Thus, the importance of a legitimate candidate for Sixth Man of the Year can't be overstated. There was no immediate comment from the Heat after the game about whether or not Johnson would miss time or need treatment for his hand - he nearly missed a game last week against the Boston Celtics, but ended up playing 30 minutes instead.

The Fresno State University product also scored a career-high 32 points in a game last week, the most ever scored by a Miami Heat reserve.

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