Nowitzki spoils Yao's return, leads Germany past China

Updated: August 11, 2006, 7:55 PM ET
Associated Press

NANJING, China -- Yao Ming returned after a four-month layoff from a foot injury, revitalizing China in an 82-73 loss to Dirk Nowitzki and Germany on Friday in a warmup game leading to the world championships.

Yao scored 11 points but was no match for Nowitzki, who gave the Houston Rockets center a playful slap on the chest at the start. Nowitzki finished with 27 points, including 18 in the final quarter, and 12 rebounds. The German star of the Dallas Mavericks scored nearly at will against Yao and almost every other Chinese player.

Yao provided an early spark, drawing a big cheer from the home crowd with a slam at the beginning of the first quarter. With the Houston Rockets' center on the floor, China was a completely different team from the one that was routed 119-73 by the United States on Monday. The world championships begin Aug. 19.

"Yao Ming is a great player. He's one of the best centers in the world, but I was very impressed with the whole team," German player Patrick Femerling said. "They're very mobile, agile and versatile players."

Femerling added 10 points for Germany, the runner-up at the European championship. Nowitzki started the night looking rusty and needed time to find his rhythm.

Germany led 58-49 entering the fourth quarter, and then Nowitzki took command.

"He's so good in one-on-one situations, he can always get a shot off," Germany coach Dirk Bauermann said. "And he knows when his best is needed the most. That was vintage Dirk Nowitzki."

China coach Jonas Kazlauskaz expects better results once Yao practices more with his teammates.

"With Yao on the court, the rest of the team also began to improve," Kazlauskaz said. "Still, we have some problems. But it was much better."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press