Despite the noise from packed Yuanshen Gymnasium and a frisky first-half performance, the Shanghai Sharks couldn’t pull off an upset victory against the Guangdong Tigers. With Mike Harris out of the line up due to family reasons, the Sharks needed maximum focus from their remaining squad but after a solid start, Shanghai condemned themselves to another defeat after a poor third quarter allowed the Tigers take control before going on to win by the resounding margin of 101-85.
Both sides came flying out off the traps only for Marcus Landry to drop a couple of big threes and give Shanghai an early lead. The Tigers would inevitably fight back through the brute force of Dong Hanglin and Zhu Fangyu before Aaron Brooks helped Guangdong pull ahead themselves. Despite the best efforts of Tseng Wen-ting, whose crisply taken jump shots and heated exchange with Su Wei kept the crowd energised, the Tigers eased their way into the first two-minute break whilst leading 29-24.
Tseng continued to be useful in the second quarter and linked up well with the youthful guard tandem of Meng Lingyuan and Feng Tian. The trio were working wonders for the Sharks and when Tseng drilled home a trey to make the score 39-39, the vocal home crowd rose to cheer the Taiwanese swingman.
When the teams left the court at halftime, Guangdong were ahead but only just. The Tigers had lured their hosts into playing the game at the champions’ pace but Shanghai didn’t seem too flustered at the prospect of fighting fire with fire and thanks to Tseng and Landry’s big shifts, Guangdong were barely ahead, with the score at 45-44.
However, the Sharks returned to the court after the interval without their first-half intensity and with the Tigers making their shots but Shanghai fluffing theirs, suddenly the game didn’t look so evenly matched. When Liu Ziqiu missed an open lay up and the ball came back down the court for Zhu to coolly dispatch his three pointer and give the Tigers an eleven point lead, alarm bells started to ring.
Soon afterwards, Meng looked to be fouled whilst attempting a lay up in traffic, only for the referees to wave play on. Exploiting their numerical advantage, Brooks fed an alley-oop to Singleton and the score suddenly stood at 64-50. The weary look on Coach Panaggio’s face said it all.
By the start of the fourth quarter, the one-two punch of Zhu and Singleton had opened up a twenty point lead. The Sharks were fighting to keep their heads above the water and Guangdong’s 80-60 lead underlined the Tigers’ dominance.
A furious Shanghai rally at the start of the quarter, led by Liu Wei’s 10 point flurry only served to enrage the champions further, and Singleton went on a mini-scoring spree of his own to punish the Sharks for their obstinacy. The former Dallas forward had no qualms with baiting the crowd and at one point gestured to the Yuanshen to keep on booing him after perfectly sinking a brace of free-throws, neatly reflecting both the ruthlessness and swagger of the champions’ performance.
The final buzzer rang shortly afterwards and sparred the Sharks any further embarrassment considering that the scoreboard was already at 101-85 to Guangdong. For the Tigers, Singleton earned himself a double-double (27 points, 10 rebounds), as did Zhou Peng (16 points, 10 rebounds) whilst Zhu (21) and Brooks (17) made it into double figures from the floor. Landry made 23, Liu got 19 and Tseng picked up 15 but once again, Shanghai were kicking themselves after another bad third quarter and the Sharks’ losing streak now stands at three-in-a-row.
At his press conference, Panaggio didn’t pull his punches when discussing his side’s defeat. ‘I thought we played well in the first half but I’m disappointed about the second half performance. I thought we were soft and were out hustled’, before acknowledging that the Sharks had been playing poorly in the third quarter since the Jilin game and that tonight’s effort had been just as bad.
The Sharks coach was equally blunt when asked about his decision to pull Zhang Zhaoxu out of the game before the start of the fourth quarter, stating starkly; ‘he needs to give us more’, after the center gave away a foul out of sheer frustration. Stressing that basketball was about concentration as well as effort, Panaggio was clear that he wouldn’t allow any of his players on the court if they were lacking focus.
The former LA D-Fenders man was also at pains to stress that his decision to withdraw Feng to the bench after two costly fourth-quarter turnovers should not be construed as a form of punishment. [Feng] is young and he has good days and he has bad days. I’m not disappointed with him. Like all young players, he has ups and downs’.
The Sharks will now have to rally in time for the visit of Dongguan on Wednesday. The Leopards are currently in second place in the CBA and are on a six game winning streak. For the Sharks, a win is crucial if they are to keep a winning record before the Chinese New Year break.