Shanghai came close but couldn’t get out of their game against the Zhejiang Bulls with a win. Quincy Douby’s team were able to mix pretty basketball with some underhand tricks and will be relieved to have picked up the road win, thanks in no small part to an improbably moment from a very unlikely source.
It was almost two years to the day since Douby was last playing against the Sharks in Shanghai. Last time it was with the Xinjiang Tigers, who won at the Yuanshen 87-75 with the former Sacramento Kings shooting guard scoring 33 points. Now in 2012, Douby was just as dangerous, this time putting up 23 points including a couple of clutch treys.
Whereas last season, Zhejiang seemed wholly reliant on JR Smith, this time around, the Bulls looked individually more confident and were zipping the ball around with conviction and bringing their Chinese players into the game.
The second quarter in particular underlined the talent lurking within the Bulls local roster and with Douby off the court in the place of Eddy Curry, Ding Jinhui and Gong Songlin in particular stood out by opening up the court and taking the chances when they came to them.
This wasn’t to say that the Bulls weren’t willing to play dirty if they had to. In the same quarter, Curry pole-axed Zhang Zhaoxu with a wild (and unpunished) elbow to the throat whilst Ju Peng got a deserved technical for arguing with the officials after a mid-air foul on Liu Wei.
That said, as the game went on, the Sharks had their moments. Ge Yong was a swashbuckling presence coming off the bench and brought the home fans to their feet after stealing the ball from Curry, going coast to coast and then squeezing home his lay-up in heavy traffic. Ryan Forehan-Kelly, who scored 19 points on the night, was also a constant thorn in the side of Zhejiang, particularly when he was given space to dribble and find space for himself in the paint.
However, there will also be things that the team will desperately want to change going forward- the Sharks turned the ball over 21 times and with the game being so close, Zhejiang’s ball retention ultimately kept them one step ahead of the hosts.
With the game going down to the wire, Zhejiang managed to open up a seven point lead with two minutes left when Curry sunk a ballsy three-pointer with the shot-clock running out. It was an implausible moment in the game and the sight of the seven-foot centre hitting a trey brought incredulous laughter from a bemused home-crowd.
Ultimately that play would be the difference between the teams as the Sharks’ were forced to send various Zhejiang players to the charity strip in a bid to get the ball back.
The Sharks’ had the chance to tie the game with two seconds left but having run out of time-outs, Liu Wei was forced to try his luck from just inside the his own half and a hopeful effort clipped the rim and bounced away as the buzzer rang.
It summed up the Sharks’ night when they were ultimately undone by Curry converting only the third three-pointer of his professional career. At 2-7, Shanghai will hope their luck changes as soon as possible.
Curry ended up scoring 22 points while Ding made 23 and Gong got 15. For Shanghai, Liu put up a gutsy 20/4/5 whilst DJ White double-double run was ended even though the power-forward put up 19 points and eight rebounds.