Needing to come out on top in a must win game, Sharks captain Liu Wei answered the call and led his side to victory with a seemingly effortless 30/7/6 performance that helped Shanghai break a lengthy run of defeats and start a three game home-stretch in the best possible way.
Even before the game, Shanghai looked like they meant business and whereas the Fujian team were smiling and laughing during warm-ups, the Sharks were deadly serious as they waited for the game to start.
That intensity quickly found its way onto the court thanks to two consecutive dunks of thunderous proportions from Zhang Zhaoxu which set the Sharks on their way to racking up 30 points in the first quarter alone.
‘We’ll come back!’, roared Fujian’s head coach Tab Baldwin during a first quarter huddle but evidently no-one was listening to him as the Sharks continued to pour forward and open up a solid lead.
Indeed, there was a strong sense of lethargy coming from the visitors, who only sent Shanghai to the line once in the entire first-half and other than Will McDonald, Fujian looked heavy-footed and off the pace.
The Sturgeons might not have had much interest in the game at that point but Sharks captain Liu Wei certainly did. The thirty-one year old was continually finding ways to hurt the away team, most notably when he sunk a midrange jump-shot in the face of Lo Yi Ting as the buzzer sounded for the end of the third quarter.
The game should have been done as a contest but instead, the Sturgeons went on an implausible scoring run that almost wiped out the Sharks’ double digit lead. Sundiata Gaines, who up until that point had done little other than almost get ejected for trying to start a fight with Liu, suddenly got in the game and with two minutes left on the clock, suddenly and incredibly, it was a three point game.
True to current form, Liu then stepped up when it mattered and helped close the game out both with his shooting and his clock management. The lead was back to six by the time the final buzzer rang but the Sharks will prefer to be less wasteful in future games.
Aside from Liu, Zhang, going up against his rival for the national team, Wang Zhelin, turned in probably his best performance of the season with sixteen angry, statement-making points and eight rebounds whilst Liu Ziqiu scored 12 points in another solid outing.
The only negative point on the night was the underwhelming form of Gilbert Arenas, who struggled to find any real scoring momentum and converted only two baskets as he eventually made 7 points.
Foshan are next into Shanghai on Sunday and the Sharks will hope to make it two wins in a row as they look to continue their recovery from the poor start to the season.