With the Sharks at 12-10 coming into their last ten games, the Shanghai Daily’s basketball writer, Alex Linder, dropped by to bravely speculate on the fortunes of the city’s team as they enter the final-third of the season among the play-off places. The Sharks will be playing seven of the CBA’s top teams (at the time of writing) and so effectively every game is a decisive fixture- not only for Shanghai’s season but also for the other sides in a congested play-off battle.
Round 25: Guangdong Tigers (H)
AL: LOSS- It might be competitive but I’m going with CBA Rule #1: “Always bet on the defending champions.” I also think that this is where our holding opponents under 100 points streak ends although thirteen straight games is pretty good, I have to say.
AC: LOSS- This is the one game where we know what the form of both teams is going into this game. Guangdong have won six on the trot whilst Shanghai have dropped two-in-a-row in frustrating fashion. The Sharks are 9-1 at the Yuanshen and also have the best defense in the league so if anyone can shut the Tigers down, it’s Shanghai. I want to believe they can do this but my head is overruling my heart on this one. Guangdong to win a close game.
Round 26: Dongguan Leopards (H)
AL: WIN- I can already see myself writing the headline for this one as we rally back in the fourth quarter to break a three game losing streak.
AC: LOSS- I think this is a really under appreciated team that has two excellent players. Shavlik Randolph destroyed us last time around and Josh Akognon can be trouble. Maybe we pull something off but it is a big ask. Marcus Landry is still settling in and I just don’t think we can keep both of those guys under control in the form we’re in. They score a huge number of points and have won their last two away games. Yes, they concede a lot away from home so there are clearly signs that point to a victory but something doesn’t feel right about this one.
Round 27: Fujian Sturgeons (H)
AL: WIN- Just because we are at home though. This is going to be a tough game and both teams will be looking forward to the playoffs. Zaid Abbas is simply a beast but Max Zhang is getting stronger on defense every game and Landry might have caught up to speed by this game. Also, their mascot is a freaking STURGEON! We can’t lose our playoff spot to a sturgeon; we’re sharks!
AC: WIN- So we’re in agreement then. I think the home factor is crucial here but I think the Sharks should have just enough. Abbas is indeed a beast and if he gets going and has some decent back up on the night then things could get very messy. This is a coin toss game swayed only by our strong home form and their terrible away form at present.
Round 28: Xinjiang Tigers (A)
AL- LOSS- Barring a major meltdown by Xinjiang (which could very likely happen). It just seems like it’s going to be hard to win on the road without Ryan Forehan-Kelly, especially against a good team like Xinjiang. Mike Harris will have to have at least 35 points and I don’t see it happening.
AC- LOSS- Xinjiang are strong at home, regardless of the problems within the club. I don’t think the Sharks will be able to do it. Obviously they have two new overseas players settling in still but that hasn’t affected them too much. Their home games before us aren’t going to be that taxing apart from Shandong so they could have built up a lot of momentum by the time we get there.
Round 29: Shanxi Dragons (A)
Alex: LOSS- Marcus Williams scares me no end. I don’t see how anybody on our team stays with him apart from maybe Mike Harris. Then I guess we’d have to have Landry guard Gaines? Its tough- basically, they create too many match up problems for us here.
AC: LOSS- Yeah, this one doesn’t look good. If the Sharks’ away form was a little better than maybe I could convince myself otherwise but its a big ask against Shanxi. Probably too big.
Round 30: Bayi Rockets (H)
Alex: WIN- Easy game. Oh, how the mighty have fallen!
AC: WIN- The Sharks will have to win this as a matter of principle. Its ten years ago but people will still remember the duels with Bayi from the glory years and this is the sort of game that will bring the crowds out. Liu Wei will want to win this one for old times sake and I’m sure that Yao Ming would like nothing better than to see his team propelled into the play-offs with a win over Bayi. Zhang should be able to handle Wang Zhizhi and after that, there isn’t much on the shelf for the Rockets.
Round 31: Zhejiang Bulls (H)
AL: WIN- This is probably the game I’m most looking forward to. I didn’t get a chance to watch the first Zhejiang game. It just feels like one of those classic Sharks game where we keep the team’s high scorer to half his points as our crowd chants “airball” at him the entire time whether or not he actually shot an airball or not. Our crowd is tough like that.
AC: WIN- The Sharks have shown they can suffocate teams if they rely on one player, even if he is JR Smith. They did it with Wilson Chandler way back in the early rounds and I think you’ll see the same thing here. I guess Landry could be the one chasing Smith around all game, but Panaggio used Peng Fei with Chandler and Wang Yong is also an option. Liu Wei doesn’t mind getting stuck in either when Qingdao came to town, he was very chirpy with Lester Hudson from the word go. Those two probably won’t be matching up together but my point is that the Sharks will get key players off their game one way or another.
Round 32: Jiangsu Dragons (H)
AL: WIN- Home game against the worst team in the league in a game that we will need for a playoff spot? I think we got this one.
AC: WIN- For sure. There’s not a lot to say here. Jiangsu have won a couple of games recently but they looked very bad when I saw the Dragons play their home game and I can’t imagine they’ll get a road win against a Sharks side that will coming into this wanting to build momentum for the Beijing game. It is our last home game of the regular season so there should be a big crowd to see the Sharks off.
Round 33: Beijing Ducks (A)
AL: LOSS- We just barely beat them at home and they’re one of the top two/three teams when they get going. There’s no way that Marbury is that bad in the clutch again and we won’t have Forehan-Kelly or the crowd to bail us out.
AC: LOSS- If the Sharks can keep it close with five minutes to go, then you can guarantee that Mike Harris is going to go all NBA Jam on them and then who knows what happens. Also, the Liu Wei factor will be in full effect. He has a habit of making clutch shots in the last few games and he won’t get too many more chances to go the play-offs so he’ll be up for this game. However, I don’t think Beijing will have their place sown up by then and they have an easy run of games to find momentum. This being a Beijing-Shanghai thing plus play-off ramifications; their place is going to be PUMPED for that one.
Round 34: Tianjin Lions (A)
AL: WIN- They do have a really good Chinese shooter/scorer in Zhang Nan, but I really wasn’t impressed by their team when they were in Shanghai. I felt like their imports spent more time complaining to the refs then actually scoring baskets.
AC: WIN- I’m not ready to live in a world where we still have a chance to get to the play-offs and then blow it against Tianjin Lions. They are terrible. Zhang was pretty sharp when he had room to shoot and Darnell Harvey is handy but beyond that, their reserve players looked terrible. They could bring the cheerleaders on from the bench for all the good it would do. If, and this is a big IF, a play-off spot is riding on this game, Shanghai will have to treat the Lions with caution as their previous game against Foshan is winnable and they might be coming into the game trying to secure a scalp but the Sharks should ease by these guys.
AL’s Sharks Overall Record: 18-14
AC’s Shark’s Overall Record: 17-15
In the previous two seasons where the CBA has been a thirty-two game season, in the 2010-2011 season, Beijing grabbed the eighth with 16-16 record whilst in 2009-2010 season, Bayi snuck in with a losing 15-17 record so a winning record should be okay. The golden rule is evidently a winning record by the end of Round 34. It is a big ask but in Shanghai, nothing is ever simple.