McDyess knows the challenge Nowitzki presents

By Mike Monroe

DALLAS — When Gregg Popovich moved 15-year veteran Antonio McDyess into his starting lineup on March 6, it was with an eye on potential playoff matchups.

The Western Conference, Popovich reminded, is chock full of outstanding power forwards. McDyess remains, even at age 36, an outstanding interior defender, Popovich said.

Tonight, McDyess gets his first test as a 2010-11 starter against one of the best.

Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki, a 10-time all-star, ranks ninth in scoring this season at 23.3 points per game. Going into tonight, he is coming off three straight games of double-figure scoring and rebounding, the first time all season he has put together three straight double-doubles.

“He’s a great player and he’s going to get 20 or 30 points just by how many times he touches the ball and how well he shoots the ball,” McDyess said.

“I just try to put pressure on him, try to stay up into his body and not give him too much room to create his shot. Not only that, just make him turn and get help as much as possible from the guards and whoever is playing in the lane.

“That was the strategy we had last year.”

And that step-back fadeaway jumper that has become Nowitzki’s signature shot?

“It’s really one of the toughest shots I ever faced because you never know when he’s going to shoot it or pump-fake and get a foul,” McDyess said. “He does that so well that it’s hard to prepare and contest his shot. You don’t know whether he’s going to shoot it or pump-fake it, so when he does step back, because his shot is so consistent he’s going to make it.

“You just try to do the best you possibly can to stay up on him and contest as much as possible.”

While limiting Nowitzki’s opportunities is a top priority for the Spurs’ defense tonight, McDyess warned about another veteran threat.

“Dirk is a great scorer, and Jason Kidd, you’ve always got to be alert with him finding players in transition,” he said. “They’re one of those teams you’ve always got to be alert for.”

LONG-DISTANCE SLUMP: For the first time this season, Spurs 3-point ace Matt Bonner is in a long-distance slump. Still the NBA leader in 3-point accuracy (50.9 percent), Bonner has gone three straight games without making a shot from beyond the arc.

Since making six of seven 3s in the Spurs’ 30-point victory over the Heat on March 4, Bonner has made only two of 10 from long range.

Part of the problem, he said, has been lack of opportunity. He has gotten only one attempt in each of the past three games because opponents are more aware of him when he is beyond the 3-point line.

Bonner played only 7 minutes, 33 seconds against the Heat on Monday, but not because of his shooting. Popovich declared his defense in that game “horrible.”

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