The Shanghai Sharks came, they saw, they got lit up. Shanxi’s high scoring duo of Marcus Williams and Charles Gaines did exactly what their guests were hoping they wouldn’t and blew Shanghai away with some red-hot shooting. After a plucky first half from the Sharks, the Dragons’ demolition men coolly stepped up a gear and promptly ripped the Sharks asunder with a devastating final twenty minutes of huge threes, marauding drives to the basket and some deft low post action. It was not pleasant viewing for a Shanghai fan.
Despite a somewhat nigglesome beginning, the Dragons soon began to find some momentum and with Williams finding his scoring touch early in the game, the home side raced into an early lead whilst the Sharks tried but largely failed to keep Shanxi’s shooting guard until control.
Realising that they had to fight fire with fire, the Sharks came storming back in the second quarter, thanks to the efforts of their own high scoring American, Mike Harris, and with Williams on the bench, having been replaced by Gaines, Shanxi just didn’t have the same potency or the rhythm that they’d had in the previous twelve minutes. Despite the return of Williams before the interval, the Shanghai duo helped their team go in at the break with an unlikely 57-55 lead.
Yet when the home team returned after half time with both Williams and Gaines on the court, the Dragons suddenly rediscovered their attacking zest and despite Marcus Landry making some crucial three pointers, Shanxi’s star players were becoming increasingly irresistible. A last second shot from long-range by Williams put the hosts up 91-81 and the Sharks had been outscored 36-24 in a third quarter that they needed to control if they were to maintain their lead.
Things were becoming increasingly embarrassing for the Sharks as Shanxi took their score into triple figures with nine minutes still to play in the fourth quarter when Williams drilled home a tricky mid range jumpshot. Gaines, seemingly transformed from his sluggish start, then extended the Dragons’ lead to twenty points shortly afterwards.
Although the Sharks limped their way over the hundred-point mark themselves, the margin of defeat was telling and the visitors now make their way back to Shanghai after eventually losing 119-108 to a rampant Shanxi team that is almost certainly bound for the playoffs. Williams finished on 44 points, Gaines got 37 of his own whilst Ren Junhui’s 11 points meant he also got in on the double-digit party for Shanxi.
Meanwhile Harris picked up a double-double of 37 points and 12 rebounds for Shanghai, Landry got 23 points and Liu Ziqiu continued his quiet resurgence with a gutsy 14 points but the Sharks now have to win four from their final five games to have any chance of making it to the postseason. Tough times just become a lot tougher.