The Shanghai Sharks crumbled on the road in embarrassing circumstances against a one-dimensional Qingdao team that were already missing their best player- Tracy McGrady- through suspension. In a half empty stadium in Shandong province, the Sharks took a double-digit lead only to lose it after the interval following an outbreak of Hollywood shooting from two Qingdao wing players and a one-man assault from their American center.
On paper, it seems odd that Shanghai could have lost. The Sharks had six players who had double-digit shooting nights. The team shot a decent 48% from the floor. Man for man, the visiting team was stronger and were taking on a side who had two plays- give the ball to their big, Chris Daniels, or space the floor and look for an open three.
Yet like so often this season, the Sharks collapsed in the second half as Qingdao put 61 points up on the board to Shanghai’s 39. Those aimless three pointers being chucked up by Eagles players were suddenly going in whilst Daniels, who would go on to score 31 points to go along with 19 rebounds, was relentlessly dunking on all and sundry.
Starting brightly, the Sharks had opened up a sizable double-digit lead in the early stages of the second quarter thanks to some deft shooting from Liu Ziqiu. It looked easy and for chunks of the opening exchanges, it seemed as if the Eagles cheerleading squad could have made for tougher opposition.
And yet suddenly hands got hot and from out of nowhere, every shot Qingdao was making seemed to be on the money. Almost half of the Eagles shooting on the night took place from outside the arc and in the second half, Li Tao and Zhai Jin Shuai went from donkeys to ruthless sharpshooters. The two forwards combined to score eleven treys on the night and a shellshocked Shanghai team suddenly found themselves being swept away by a tide of relentless Qingdao self-belief.
Another big problem for the Sharks was getting the ball back. Qingdao had 48 defensive rebounds on the night (the visitors had less than half that with 22) and seemingly everytime a Shanghai shot clipped the rim and bounced away, it was swallowed up by an Eagles player and taken back down the court. Daniels was also a continuous problem on the offensive glass as well and his 5 offensive rebounds was more than the entire Sharks team combined.
Credit to the Eagles, they were robust and determined. With McGrady missing because he criticised a refereeing team in his team’s previous loss to the Bayi Rockets, the Qingdao players who have lived in his shadow for most of the season gradually found their voice. There were odd decisions that went the way of the Eagles but the night ultimately belongs to the hosts. Don’t expect much in the way of highlights either. It truly was the same two moves over and over again as an inspired team smelt a highlight game amid a terrible season and chased it with blind enthusiasm.
Liu Wei had a 14 point, 12 assist game whilst Liu Ziqiu (19 points) DJ White (15), Meng Lingyuan (12), Cai Liang (11) and Zhang Zhaoxu (10) all got double figure shooting hauls but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter too much as the Sharks fall to 5-15. They remain second-from-bottom in the league, two games ahead of the team that beat them tonight.