For tonight at least, Lady Luck favours the Shanghai Sharks. The visiting team hung on to beat their traditionally formidable hosts after another strong showing from DJ White, who led his team to their second victory in a row in sensational style.
The Sharks were helped enormously by the game-day confirmation that the Tigers would be without both of their overseas players, James Singleton and Von Wafer. Neither player featured in Xinjiang’s victory over the Bayi Rockets on Sunday but the extra seventy-two hours rest was still not enough for either American to recover from injuries accrued in previous games.
Seeking to make the most of the advantage given to them, the Sharks got stuck into their hosts with relish and had opened up a fifteen point lead by the midway point of the second quarter thanks to the efforts of White and Liu Wei.
Without the finesse of their American imports, Xinjiang were forced to adopt a far more one-dimensional approach to stay level with the Sharks and rotated their monstrous duo of centres in and out of the game to try and grind down the visitors.
Yet as willing and determined as Mengke Bateer and Tang Zhengdong were, the Sharks clearly had prepared for such tactics and deftly utilised their bench to ensure that every time a Xinjiang centre got the ball in the paint, a rested, refreshed Sharks big man was waiting for him.
However, the second half was a different story and a group of Chinese players who had nothing to lose kept on coming at the Sharks. Aided by some very generous home decisions by the referee, the hosts brought the deficit to within single figures by the start of the fourth quarter and Shanghai began to look nervous.
Then, when Xirelijiang fired home an astonishing fade-away three pointer in the corner to make it a single-point game, suddenly everything was up for grabs and a home crowd that had previously been silent, immediately burst into raucous noise.
The visitors could have easily collapsed at this point but having watched the Tigers get back into contention, the Sharks’ had enough cool heads on the court to keep the game just out of reach. White in particular was faultless going into the last two minutes and it was his two free-throws that made the game safe after Xinjiang sent the forward to the line in an attempt to get the ball back with seven seconds to play.
Shanghai will now take on the tricky Shanxi Dragons with the wind in the sails. Even without Gilbert Arenas, the Sharks have found a dependable core of players to carry them over the finishing line and will presumably only get stronger when the former Washington Wizard returns to the side.
On the night, White scored 34 points and 16 rebounds whilst Liu picked up 24 points and Tseng Wen-ting put in another workman-like shift with 11 points and three hefty blocks.