After the disastrous final few seconds against Xinjiang, the Sharks now have to compose themselves as they visit Taiyuan for their game against the Shanxi Dragons (15-11). The team from North China are 10-2 when playing infront of their home fans and despite an almost naked reliance on their two overseas players, Marcus Williams and Charles Gaines, have moved their way up into fifth place in the CBA rankings and should be amongst the teams that make the playoffs.
The game plan for Shanxi is simple but effective. Give the ball to Marcus Williams (30.9ppg) and Charles Gaines (28.5ppg) and watch the fireworks (if only to illustrate the degree in which the two Americans call the shots, the next highest scorer, Duan Jiangpeng is putting up 10.3 ppt). One dimensional or not, the ploy has allowed the Dragons to win by blowing teams away and Shanghai will be aware that despite their impressive defensive record, stopping Williams and Gaines is easier said than done.
Basically, this is all about keeping the Dragons overseas duo quiet, something not a lot of teams have succeeded in doing so far this season, especially when playing in Taiyuan. Against Xinjiang, the Sharks demonstrated that they could slow down a potent offense and they will need to get into the same groove against Shanxi. For my money, this was the less difficult fixture than the visit to Urumqi so it is not beyond the realms of possibility that the Sharks could get something done but after the way things fell apart on Wednesday and the heartache that will have endued, a tough game against the Dragons just got a lot tougher.