A game that was supposed to be all about Tracy McGrady was sensationally hijacked by Shanghai’s iconic captain Liu Wei, who helped his team ruthlessly dismantle the visiting Qingdao Eagles, who despite their star name, looked lifeless and bland from start to finish.
The presence of ‘Maidi’ meant the game was always going to be a sell-out and fans were streaming into the arena an hour before the tip-off so as to catch a glimpse of the most iconic teammate of Yao Ming’s time with Houston. Moreover, with Gilbert Arenas watching the game in street clothes on the bench and Yao doing the same from his private box, the Qingdao clash was probably one of Shanghai’s most star-laiden in recent history.
However, when it was time for actual basketball, the Sharks were strictly business and gleefully tore into a limited Qingdao side. It was obvious that besides McGrady, there was little to no talent in the players around him and Shanghai were quick to isolate the former Orlando and Houston forward and make the rest of the Eagles team try- and fail- to do the heavy lifting.
Indeed, while Li Guang was airballing wide open 3’s and Xue Yuyang was miscuing lay-ups, Shanghai were in inspired form and getting valuable contributions from several players, most notably Liu, who was rolling back the years with his no-look passes and mid-range shooting.
With DJ White focused on keeping McGrady smothered, the hard-working but decidedly no-thrills Tseng Wen-Ting was suddenly having his best game in Shanghai colors, and when Liu was off the court, the Taiwanese swingman was on hand to keep the scoreboard moving with everything from crafty lay-ups to deliciously taken fade-away jumpers.
The writing was on the wall early on and Qingdao must have known the game was up as early as the halftime interval. Outgunned, outmatched and outfought, the visitors had nothing to get them out of trouble. DJ Mbenga, the Eagles’ other overseas player was continuably terrible. He found himself withdrawn from the game towards the end of the third quarter having only scored 4 points, leaving McGrady to wearily plough ahead with no-one to help him.
With nothing to stop them, Shanghai calmly put the game out of reach via the one-two punch of Tseng and Liu and by the end of the game, the fans who had come for McGrady were being drowned out by those already celebrating the Sharks’ defiant win that several in the media had not predicted. Liu finished with 28 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists whilst Tseng, in arguably his best game for the Sharks, scored 18 points.
A win for the home side breaks their three-game losing streak and helped make a point that the team was not reliant on Gilbert Arenas for success. There will absolutely be tougher games for Shanghai in this year’s CBA but few will be as definitive as their win against Qingdao.