Having survived their visit to Uruqi, its now time for the Sharks to head on over to Taiyuan and a rendezvous with the Shanxi Dragons, who last season were Shanghai’s bogey team. Indeed, the Sharks played Shanxi six times in the 2011/12 edition and lost four of those encounters including three play-off games that knocked them out of that year’s post season.
Going into this game, it won’t take long to realise that the playing squad is not that different to what the Sharks had to deal with last time around. Marcus Williams and Charles Gaines have returned after each of the Americans signed two-year deals with the Dragons whilst crafty point-guard Lu Xiaoming and three-point specialist Duan Jiangpeng are also back onboard.
Continuing the deja-vu theme will be the Dragons’ tactical approach to winning games. If Williams isn’t open, Gaines will get a look under the rim. If neither man is in a decent position, Duan will be sitting in the corner waiting to shoot a trey. If you like monotony, Shanxi are probably your favourite team.
Yet what has changed though is the man calling the shots. Last season’s coach Yang Xuezeng has jumped ship to the Zhejiang Bulls and in his place is technically Spaniard Jesus Mateo but in actuality, Wang Xinjiang, Shanxi’s notoriously meddling owner, appears to be calling the shots. Given all the organisational turmoil, the Dragons have not had the strongest of starts and the Sharks might start to sniff their second successive upset road win if things start to go right on the night for them. However, the force is strong with Williams and Gaines so it is still their game to lose, regardless of Wang’s interference.