The Shanghai Sharks won yet again at home but had to do it the hard way after a disastrous third quarter undid the excellent work of a swashbuckling first half. The scoreline will tell you that the Sharks beat Qingdao Eagles 69-63 but the home side will be kicking themselves after letting the game get so close in the first place.
Shanghai bossed a somewhat erratic first half that saw several heated exchanges between Liu Wei and Lester Hudson. The American was going into the game as the league’s second highest scorer but the Sharks’ captain succeeded in unsettling Hudson, who eventually responded by barging Liu to the ground during open play.
Hudson, whose ineffectiveness was underlined by the constant chanting of ‘airball’ from the crowd every time he was in possession, was eventually benched and replaced by Olumide Oyedeji. The recent arrival to the Eagles was sent on to assist Xu Yuyang in outmuscling a Sharks side that had opted to go with Meng Lingyuan at small forward in the early part on the second quarter.
However, if only to underline the dominance of the home side, Zhang Zhaoxu promptly blocked Oyedeji’s shot during the Nigerian’s first visit to the Sharks rim. The big Chinese centre then combined well with Mike Harris to dominate the latter parts of the second quarter and Shanghai went in at the break up, 41-23 .
An inspired Qingdao side then came back after the interval with the belief that they could still get a result and astoundingly to both the Eagles and the home crowd, the Sharks proceeded to allow their guests to get back into the game. Indeed, it would take Shanghai until the sixth minute of the third quarter to score their first basket of the second half, by which point some relentless fast breaks and a shooting clinic from Li Gen had allowed the Eagles to tie the game.
Against all the odds, Qingdao had pulled themselves out of an unbelievably deep hole and as the fourth quarter started with the score at 50-50, the game was suddenly and inexcusably up for grabs.
A clearly shell-shocked Sharks team were staring at a disaster of their own making and by the time Zhang had been penalized for goal tending, the Eagles had opened up a 58-50 lead.
It could and perhaps should have been lights out for Shanghai but gradually, the Sharks managed to claw their way back. What started with Ryan Forehan Kelly burying a big heave from long-range was continued by Liu’s clutch finishing from around the basket and it would be the captain’s lay-up that allowed the Sharks to reclaim the lead with the scoreboard reading, 64-63.
There was further drama when Qingdao then wasted their chance to counter attack and seize the lead once more after Meng Lingyuan’s shot bounced off the rim and away. The ball found its way back to Harris and with that, the Eagles had little choice but to foul Shanghai to try to get the ball back. Forehan Kelly made both of his free throws before a few seconds later, Zhang put the game out of reach when he scored his second effort from the line.
When Oyedeji missed his shot in traffic, Liu broke on the fast break and his lay up polished things off, giving Shanghai a distorted 69-63 victory against a slow starting but eventually dangerous Qingdao side.
Harris (19 points, 14 rebounds) and Zhang (13 points, 10 rebounds) picked up double-doubles and Liu Wei scored 16 but this will be a game that the Sharks will want to move on from as quickly as possible.
In his press conference, Panaggio looked relieved to have won a game that he compared to a lengthy visit to the dentist. ‘I can’t explain it completely’ added the Sharks boss, when pressed about the third quarter of the game. ‘Our poor offensive [at the start of the third quarter] affected how we played defensively’.
Qingdao, he acknowledged, ‘were a team that had real fight’, adding that the Eagles ‘could have given up but instead regained composure and waited for something to go their way’. Panaggio was also keen to lavish praise on Zhang for securing the game by not only claiming a crucial rebound with the score at 66-63 but then putting the game to bed with his decisive free-throw at the death.
The win, as the coach acknowledged, was an ugly one but still ensures that the Sharks’ record improves to 9-8. Shanghai will now hope to be more ruthless against a struggling Foshan Dralions team on Sunday if they are to keep that winning record.
Dongguan Leopards 115 – Bayi Rockets 96
Zhenjiang Bulls 97 – Guangdong Tigers 92
Shandong Dragons 108 – Foshan Dralions 100
Shanxi Dragons 128 – Fujian Sturgeons 112
Tianjin Lions 85 – Guangsha Lions 115
Jillin Tigers 98 – Beijing Ducks 104
Jiangsu 122 -Lioaning Inovators 118
Photo: Sina Sports