After an epic stretch of home games, the Sharks are back on the road and this time are heading out to Hangzhou to face the Guangsha Lions, who are currently in possession of a 14-6 record. The Lions will demand respect from visiting teams, not only because of their star player, Wilson Chandler, but also because of their imposing 8-1 record when playing at the Hangzhou gymnasium.
Chandler is obviously the main man in the Lions line-up. The American forward is averaging 28.4 ppg, the fourth best scoring rate in the league and is undoubtedly the fulcrum of a Guangsha side that is scoring over a hundred points a game. However the addition of towering Puerto Rican P.J Ramos, brought in to replace Dwayne Jones, has also been a big boost for the Lions. The giant center is making a crisp 23.5 ppg in addition to 13.5 rpg, and will need to be Zhang Zhaoxu’s top priority on Sunday. The experienced guard tandem of Lin Chih-Chieh (11 ppg) and Jin Lipeng (10.7 ppg) will also require planning for, particularly the latter, who is averaging almost 50% of his three point attempts.
The Sharks are now entering ‘big ask’ territory. Whilst their away form has improved, the boys from the Yuanshen will be journeying to Hangzhou as the underdogs against a side that can blow teams away if their defense isn’t completely focused.
This isn’t to say Shanghai don’t have a chance and the Lions’ recent form has been shaky at best. They lost their previous game against Foshan, needed a buzzer beater from Jin to rescue them against Shandong and threw away their unbeaten home record in Round 19 after allowing Lester Hudson to walk all over them. An all action Lions offence might have problems against a Sharks defense which is the third best in the league on the road (94.7 ppg allowed) but Shanghai will have to step up on the offensive side of the court if they are to pull off an upset- as a team they only average 91.5 ppg away from the Yuanshen.
The Sharks can win this game but to do so, they will need a big team effort on both sides of the court and hope that new man, Marcus Landry can find his rhythm quickly. Like I said, its a big ask but the Sharks will believe in themselves after such an impressive mid season rally and if they jump into some early momentum, the Lions might get rattled in front of their expectant home crowd and then it’s anyone’s game.