There are big games, there are huge games and then there are games where you are two-nil down in a playoff series and come back to win in the final seconds having been down by almost twenty points down at half time. Tonight was in the third category and the result means that the Sharks will be taking Shanxi back to Shanghai for Game 4 of this topsy-turvy series following an absolutely HUGE second half that saw the visitors find themselves with their backs to the wall only to respond with a performance of the highest order.
Both sides went out in the first half trying to stamp their authority on proceedings and for the first twenty minutes, the game was extremely close until Duan Jiangpeng suddenly decided that he was going to make it rain treys as he helped lead the Dragons into a sudden and somewhat unanticipated 59-45 lead at halftime.
Fighting for their playoffs lives, Shanghai came out swinging after the break and for the most part, were landing most of the decisive blows. Duan was still launching rockets from long-range but other than that, the much vaunted Shanxi offence was relatively quiet, including the Dragons’ all-important duo of Marcus Williams and Charles Gaines.
Meanwhile, Liu Wei, who knows he doesn’t have too many more playoff runs ahead of him, was at the forefront of Shanghai’s frenzied comeback and with Landry giving him options out by the perimeter and Zhang Zhaoxu and Mike Harris lurking in the paint, the Sharks were slowly but surely eating away at Shanxi’s lead.
It would be well into the fourth quarter but the Sharks eventually reached daylight and from that point onwards, an increasingly nervy Dragons side looked awestruck by what was going on around them. Though Gaines was chipping in with lay-ups, Williams looked like he was in pain after an earlier collision with Meng Lingyuan, and in the meantime, the Sharks had not only tied the game but taken the lead when Landry coolly dispatched a three-pointer with less than a minute to go. Gaines dispatched a set of free-throws shortly afterwards but with less than twenty seconds left, the game was tied at 99-99 and the Sharks, with momentum on their side, had the ball.
The moment of truth was now upon the Sharks and having restarted on the halfway line after the obligatory time out, the Sharks dished the ball out to Landry, who let the clock run down for as long as he could before charging into the paint, drawing the foul and dispatching the two free-throws. 101-99, Shanghai.
Following the Dragons’ own restart, Shanxi then implausibly chose to put the ball in the hands of Williams, who hadn’t looked like himself all night as opposed to the red-hot Duan, who had already buried eight shots from downtown. The American’s effort clipped the edge of the rim and then fell into the hands of Harris, who held it for the final second or two to confirm the Sharks’ improbable victory.
Landry scored 24 points, whilst Liu (23), Harris (22), Zhang Zhaoxu (12) and Wang Yong (11) all made crucial scoring contributions to the Sharks’ last gasp victory. Despite, Duan’s game high haul of 36 points that included eight three-pointers, the Dragons must now come back to Shanghai for Game 4 of this series against a suddenly rejuvenated Sharks outfit.