Hurricanes begin with a breeze, and following a tepid first game against Guandong, the Sharks finished strongly in the final bout of their preseason tournament, going toe-to-toe with a zesty Shandong outfit for the first two quarters before emphatically demolishing Qingdao in a pulsating second half finish. Lovely stuff.
Having taken a break from being large-and-in-charge against Zhejiang, Zhang Zhaoxu spent most of the first quarter making the Qingdao paint his personal fiefdom as he dunked, charged and generally run amok, racking up seven swift points and a couple of rebounds. The Eagles’s Li Gen and Wang Gang (yes, I sniggered at that too) were equally impressive, continually countering a Shanghai basket with one of their own whenever either of them found an opening.
Fouls and a flurry of three-pointers eventually decided a second quarter that began 15-14 to the Sharks but finished with Qingdao leading by five points. Wang continued to be clutch from both the free-throw line and long range, canceling out the low post efforts of Meng Lingyuan, who replaced Zhang, presumably because the latter had been weighed down by the sheer amount of sweat absorbed by his gigantic eyebrows. Mike Harris also posted notice of his reliability from the floor, firing home a couple of crucial shots to slow Qingdao’s momentum but it would be Gang’s dead-eye finishing that gave the Eagles a 32-27 lead at half-time.
Yet if the Eagles felt that they could piggy-back on their point guard’s sharp shooting to get them the win, the restart must have come as a big surprise when Shanghai, to quote the Chinese match report, ‘made it rain’, as several Sharks shot dropped huge shots from downtown, Peng Fei, in particular helping himself to three big heaves. Ryan Kelly, restored from the bench also helped himself to a three when he wasn’t polishing off jump shots at a rate of knots as Shanghai bounced back from a halftime deficit to astound their opponents, who barely scored at all in the quarter, with a thirty-four point blitz.
A clearly baffled Qingdao fought on and reduced the Sharks’ lead but the game had been won in the previous rounds. Peng polished off another three-pointer and Tseng Wen-Ting used his height and strength to force home a couple of baskets from close range but Shanghai seemed content to let the game ebb away and begin the drive back home. When full-time arrived, the Sharks walked off the court with the score at 76-61 and Coach Panaggio will have considered his eye-catching victory as a statement of intent for the coming season.
Conclussions That Can Be Drawn
The third-quarter was impressive and hopefully this isn’t a fluke or a case of teams giving up on a game during preseason. The American duo of Kelly (who will surely have earned a contract) and Harris confirmed their usefulness in keeping things ticking over and Peng Fei looked like he could have made three-pointers from his house back in Shanghai. The implication from the translated articles is that Kelly is coming in at shooting guard and so will presumably start with Liu Wei at point. Tseng, Meng and Liu Ziqiu will be useful battering rams alongside the more confident marksman in the form of Harris whilst eyebrow-Czar, Zhang will be something to behold on both sides of the court if he gets some momentum going.
As the pre-season draws to a close, a Sharks outfit with a new manager at the helm and no big-name NBA free agents could easily be filed away under ‘dark houses’ when the CBA begins in earnest, whenever that might be. This is obviously the great part of the preseason, where fans earnestly imagine that their team will destroy all comers. That said, false hope is better than no hope, and armed with that alone, the long wait for the CBA schedule officially begins now.
Game Notes: sports.sina.com.cn/