Dirk Nowitzki is back on the court in a game that matters, and he's picking up right where he left off ... on a much smaller stage against much weaker competition, of course. Germany throttled Israel 91-64 on the opening day of group play at EuroBasket 2011, as Nowitzki dropped 25 points on 10-14 shooting and his buddy Chris Kaman offered 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Israel is missing Omri Casspi, and was led in scoring by Guy Pnini (20). Germany matches up with Italy in a big Group B match on Thursday.
Host Lithuania opened its tournament with an 80-69 win over Great Britain. Luol Deng played all 40 minutes for the British and finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. But Great Britain has no depth at all -- the team had two total points off the bench -- and Lithuania got strong contributions from wily veteran Rimantas Kaukenas (16 points) and especially wily veteran Sarunas Jasikevicius (13 points, four assists).
In Group C, Croatia needed clutch play in the closing minutes and 27 points from young Bogan Bogdanovic (a Nets draft pick) to beat Finland, the final team to qualify for EuroBasket. Croatia came out ahead 84-79. Petteri Koponen (Mavericks) led Finland with 14 points and six assists.
In Group D, Russia knocked off Ukraine 73-64. Andrei Kirilenko led the Russians with 20 points and 11 rebounds.