The Jiangsu Dragons narrowly came out on top in a gritty clash that saw a variety of bizarre incidents including the Sharks mascot being pushed off the court by a match official as it attempted to distract Jiangsu’s Garret Siler from taking a free throw.
The game started with a generous round of applause from the home fans for Mike Harris, who returned to Shanghai for the first time since leading the Sharks to the playoffs the previous season. However the former Houston Rockets forward was in no mood for nostalgia and promptly torched his former team by shooting 33 points.
Liu Wei had another excellent game and enjoyed a feisty contest with his long time foe Hue Xuefeng, who was himself seemed roused from his early season malaise by the chance to duke it out with the man with whom he shares almost every meaningful CBA record in the league’s history.
The game itself was incredibly physical and Siler, another Shanghai old boy was a constant problem in the paint as the game went on.
Having gone at halftime with little separating the two teams, the Dragons came out with greater intensity in the second half and Sharks coach Daniel Panaggio later admitted that it was his side’s slow start after the interval which ultimately was their undoing.
It wasn’t so much that the visitors had the greater intensity to their game but rather that Jiangsu’s hands suddenly got very hot in crucial parts of the game. Threes were raining in, tough shots were getting that lucky bounce off the rim and suddenly the Sharks were fading away.
To add to the tension in the Yuanshen, Meng Da, the clown prince of the league then managed to rile the home crowd after a cynical foul on Ryna Forehan-Kelly towards the end of the third quarter.
It meant that the Dragons’ shooting guard could enjoy special treatment from the Shanghainese supports in the final few minutes but it never really seemed to throw Meng or his team mates off their rhythm. Liu, Forehan-Kelly, DJ White all chipped in with a few well-taken shots but the visitors could see the finishing line and were more than happy to let Siler and Harris help them ease over it.
There were chants of ‘MVP’ for both Liu and Harris from the competing fan bases towards the end of the game but that was ultimately the only thing that stood out from the last few minutes. Harris took his curtain call at the end of the game and disappeared into the dressing room with a broad smile on his face. The same could not be said for the home players.
DJ White was the Sharks’ top scorer on the night with 26 points and 12 rebounds. Liu was just behind with 25 points whilst Forehan-Kelly got 11.