Once upon a time, the Bayi Rockets were the unquestioned masters of the Chinese basketball world. The army team have since fallen on hard times after previous seasons of regular finals appearances and now, with the influx of capable overseas imports (Bayi are not allowed non-Chinese players), their recent form has been less glamorous. Last season, the team finished with a 10-22 record, a relative humiliation in their otherwise proud history.
That said, this year has been somewhat of return to form as Bayi have overwhelmed and battered teams on their way to a fairly respectable record. They don’t play nice or pretty but they get the job done and will be coming into this traditional rivalry game with confidence.
Grizzled dogs such as Chinese folkhero Wang Zhizhi (20.7ppg) will be the main part of this team and the grand old man of Chinese basketball is still decent backing down into the paint and can also shoot a three if not closed down in time. For Zhang Zhaoxu, this means another hard night’s work and coming up against the man he shadowed in the London Olympics should hopefully inspire the same kind of reaction that Max got for the Fujian game and the visit of Wang Zhelin.
Mo Ke is another big that can keep the scoreboard moving and the Army team will be more than happy to mix the odd mid-range effort in with the relentless brute force. Wang Lei can also cause some trouble in and around the paint whilst the Bayi bench will hand out cheap shots like pennies.
In short, this is going to be a VERY physical game and could go either way given the fact that Shanghai are coming into the game off a hard loss and will now need to raise themselves for a team rested after their bye-game and looking for a scrap.