The Shanghai Sharks narrowly came up short in a gritty street fight that saw both teams go hard at one another but ultimately was decided by a critical fourth quarter in which Guangsha outscored the hosts by ten points amid some questionable refereeing calls.
The heavyweight battle that everyone in the arena wanted to see between 7”4 Puerto Rican center and the Sharks’ 7”3 Zhang Zhaoxu was a constant focal point with neither giant really gaining an advantage.
Further away from the paint, the Lions’ young point guard Wang Zirui was getting into it with Liu Wei. Having seen Wang put up a couple of good baskets, the Shanghai captain promptly put Guangsha’s teenage prodigy on his backside when Liu drove to the basket in heavy traffic. Welcome to Shanghai, rookie.
However, barring Wang, Guangsha’s local roster wasn’t going to dazzle anyone and so along with Ramos, Al Thorton was central to Guangsha’s efforts to keep the scoreboard ticking over. The former Clippers forward didn’t disappoint, and was more than content to put on a show with a variety of fade-away jump shots and no look lay-ups.
The game was finely poised going into the final twelve minutes only for the Lions to catch a massive break when DJ White got into foul trouble, and with only one more foul left to give, the forward couldn’t be as physical when dealing with the Lions’ key players.
Moments afterwards, Zhang then pulled up clutching his hamstring and with Ramos smelling blood, had to be replaced by Tseng Wen-ting
Guangsha were ruthless in their response and continually looked to isolate Tseng before finishing in paint, right in the face of the helpless White, who as one of the Sharks’ best scoring options had to remain in the game to keep their offense moving.
Shanghai weren’t going to give up and when Ryan Forehan-Kelly dropped a timely trey and Tseng threw down a powerful dunk in successive plays, it set the stage for a pulsating final ninety seconds.
Things got louder still when Wang fouled out after deliberately colliding with Liu, who promptly went to the charity strip. Having missed with his first effort, the second snuck in to make it a two point game and with the score favouring the Lions, 87-89.
The next play, a Thornton three-pointer bounced off the rim and away, before falling into the hands of Liu, who charged into the Guangsha half only to tumble to the ground after contact from a couple of Lions players.
Liu thought he had been fouled, the referee disagreed and Guangsha scored on the break giving them a four point lead that would ultimately be decisive. The Shanghai captain was indignant, the Sharks fans angrily began chanting ‘heishao’ (‘black whistle’ or corrupt officials) and the final thirty seconds were played out to the sound of whistles and jeers.
When the full-time buzzer went, the crowd surged towards the away team entrance to shout at the referees, who many at the Yuanshen felt had changed the course of the game. It obviously changed nothing but underlined the sense of frustration felt by the home fans.
Now having to look ahead to Tuesday, the Sharks will hope to move on from this defeat quickly. On the night, Liu Wei carried on his MVP form with a haul of 24 points whilst DJ White picked up a 22pt, 11 rebound double-double and Tseng made it three games in a row with double-digit scores, this time getting 12 points.