Another home game, another visit from a team with play-off ambitions, although there is still some doubt as to who exactly is turning up at the Yuanshen on Sunday. Niubball have Liaoning down as the Innovators whilst Asia-Basketball refer to them as the Hunters, although via the patented Taiwanese-American-girlfriend-Mandarin translator, I’m sticking with the gents at Niubball until the side from Yingkou see sense and just refer to themselves as a variety of big cat like 99% of CBA teams.
Having lost on Friday against Foshan Dralions, Liaoning are visiting Shanghai with a 3-3 record after overseas league journeyman, Marcus Douthit dropped 37 points against the Innovators.
Looking to redeem themselves after a season that finished with the away side languishing in mid table obscurity, Liaoning splashed the cash on American free agents Josh Powell and Rodney Carney in a bid to improve things, although in the early stages of the 2011-2012 season, the side doesn’t look anymore decisive. Powell has had a shaky start, dialing up big numbers in a couple of games but then failing to trouble the scoreboard in the following fixtures.
Carney has fared better, and although not making headlines with his shooting, has scored no lower than 17 points a game since he arrived in China. Guards QinPeng Zhang and Yang Ming can also do some damage and Coach Panaggio will be aware that his guests have the potential to cause chaos if everything came together at the same time.
Looking at the form book, this is extremely close. Shanghai have suddenly burst into life and seem a different side at home whilst Liaoning have shown that they can score truckloads of points if their guys are on the same page but haven’t had any consistency throughout the first six rounds of the season. Moreover, the Sharks defense has been solid of late and Mike Harris has been value for money at both ends of the court. Urggh, I have nothing to sway me apart from bias at this point. Liaoning should win on roster strength but Shanghai have the momentum. Take your pick, people; it really is that close.