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Friday, April 16, 2010
Dirk steadies for variety of Spurs defensive schemes

By Jeff Caplan

DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki was being asked a question about the how he thinks the San Antonio Spurs will try to defend him now that Bruce Bowen is no longer there to...

"Trip people?" Nowitzki interrupted.

Um, well, sure. Or as Avery Johnson said during the great 2006 series, to put a "bear hug" on Nowitzki.

The Dallas Mavericks power forward and leading scorer has put up big numbers against the Spurs this season, averaging 28.8 points a game. Yet, the Spurs have made him work for it. Nowitzki's 40.4 percent field-goal percentage in four games against San Antonio is his second-lowest shooting percentage against any Western Conference team this season (Denver, 36.7).

"I’ve got to be ready for anything with Pop," Nowitzki said, referring to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "He’s a defensive genius and he comes up with a lot of coverages and I’ve basically seen it all over the last couple of years facing them. So, I just got to take whatever they give me, see how they start off. You know they’re going to adjust during games sometimes and switch it up in timeouts, and I’ve just got to be ready for it."

Judging much off of the regular-season series is difficult. Because of key Spurs injuries and then the Mavs' All-Star break trade, the first three games were played with radically different lineups than will be seen when Game 1 tips at 7 p.m. Sunday at the American Airlines Center.

And, nothing can be made of the regular-season finale earlier in the week when Popovich at the last minute scratched Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.

The Spurs forward/centers Antonio McDyess and Matt Bonner will see the most time on Nowitzki, but at times Tim Duncan gets the call and even the smaller Richard Jefferson took Nowitzki in smaller lineups.

"They didn’t have McDyess the last couple of years," Nowitzki said. "He’s a long, crafty defender, but I’m sure he’s [Popovich] going to throw a lot of bodies like he already did in the regular season. Popovich comes up with a lot of schemes. I think I’ve seen it all over the last couple years. Last year even, anywhere I caught the ball on the 3-point line they were double-teaming me so I’m sure he’s going to look at some schemes this year."