Guandong Southern Tigers: 80 – Shanghai Sharks: 66

With the 2011-2012 CBA season only days/weeks/months away from starting (this is of course China so no-one is sure whether the league will be starting in November or December, or ever. It is also entirely possible that all the games will be played in a badly lit car park in Harbin), CBA teams are playing their final preseason matches in anticipation of the opening round of games.

Having built up their match fitness with a month of punching out American students and Melbourne-based basketball teams, several CBA sides are currently playing in friendly games based in Zhuji, Jincheng, Huizhou, Shenzhen and Guandong. As these places are helpfully away from either Beijing or Shanghai (or seemingly anywhere that most rational people would want to live), accurate match reports are hard to come across. However,  thanks to the powers of the internet and thankless, often faceless Chinese bloggers, scores are trickling out and as such, Shark Fin Hoops is proud to bring you the following invariably biased match report that has been put together via translated sources (if only to demonstrate the absurdity of Chinese basketball, there isn’t even a match game report on the Sharks’ own website).

With the game being played in Zhuji, Zhenjiang, defending CBA champions Guandong were nominally the home team against a Sharks team that was missing Mike Harris but found a place for new Taiwanese centre Tseng Wen-ting on the bench. The Tigers, looking to win their fifth consecutive CBA crown, kept their own big name signing, former Washington and Dallas forward James Singleton on the bench with both sides starting with all-Chinese line-ups.

Things began briskly, and new Sharks coach Dan Panaggio had clearly spent the pre-game teamtalk insisting that the entire Guandong team had been making remarks about  Zhang Zhaoxu’s mother, which would be the only explanation for the monstrous blocks against Dong Hanlin  and then Wang Zhen. Yet the muscular conviction of the former Berkley player wasn’t going to be enough and gradually Guandong took their chances to finish the first quarter 23-19 to the good.

By the second quarter, Singleton had been subbed in and was starting to find his rhythm amidst the ongoing physicality of the Shanghai defence. Yet for all the talent being sent on, Guandong still couldn’t pull away from the Sharks, who continually harried, pressured and intimidated their counterparts, a tactic that was underlined when Zhang, still in full Mutombo mode,  didn’t so much block as he smashed Zhu Fangyu’s effort  out of the air whilst the Guandong player made his way to the rim.  When halftime arrived, a battered Tigers side found themselves ahead 39-37, largely thanks to Singleton’s vital haul of sixteen points from the bench.

With point guard Chen Jianghua still injured following a collision with Meng Lingyuan, Guandong  once more struggled to widen their lead and without Chen to direct proceedings, the match at times resembled a street fight, as both teams traded fouls and extra point free-throws. It would be Shanghai, surprisingly given their composure up until then, that let the renewed physicality get to their heads and with the Tigers leading 53-45, Wang Yong gave away two cheap fouls in quick succession, forcing Panaggio to swap him with Lui Ziqui and gifting the momentum decisively to Guandong.

Now down by fifteen points and with the fourth quarter fading away, the Sharks’ were finally struggling to keep up with their opposition and save for a brief flurry by Lui to briefly close the deficit, the game looked over before the buzzer sounded and Guandong eased off the gas in the closing stages to record a comfortable 80-66 win. There was still time for Singleton to get himself a hip injury but the Sharks, seemingly deflated at all their efforts ultimately coming to nothing, couldn’t make the Tigers pay for the absence of two of their core players.

Conclusions that can be drawn

Hmmmmm. Well, whether by chance or design, the Sharks came out to fight and an aggressive attitude held a considerably more adept and talented Guandong squad at bay for most of the match, with Zhang Zhaoxu garnering most of the attention with an all-action display.

That said, such a macho, sleeves-rolled-up style shouldn’t mask Shanghai’s inability to move the scoreboard along when they had the chance; only Lui Ziqui, who scored twelve points in his twelve-minute cameo, and Peng Fei (10) got into double figures. Committing twenty-four errors whilst playing against a very capable Guandong team that can already score freely doesn’t help either; Singleton helped himself to a double-double, getting twenty-four points and thirteen rebounds for the night  whilst Dong Hanlin  (14) and Wang Shipeng (10) eased into two-digit scores as well.

That said, Sharks face Guangsha with nothing to lose whereas perennial favorites,  Guangdong are already sweating on the fitness of their two key players before the season has even begun. What’s the meaning of Pyrrhic victory again?

Game Notes:  sports.sina.com.cn/

Photo: cba.gov.cn

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