File this one under ‘close but no cigar’. The Shanghai Sharks kept it close up until the final few minutes of the game but eventually were overwhelmed by a cunning Dongguan team who matched the home side basket for basket until the time came for them to pull ahead.
Playing to probably the largest crowd in the Yuanshen this season- partly thanks to Gilbert Arenas’ decision to buy eight-hundred of his Weibo followers tickets for the game- Shanghai started brightly as Liu Wei went on the rampage but also linked up well with Zhang Zhaoxu. The center, who has had an up-and-down season, looked up for the fight after missing the previous game against Zhejiang with a stomach bug. Two dunks that could have torn the basket down served notice to the home fans that the big man had made a full recovery.
With Mexican waves zipping around the arena and every point being greeted like it was a buzzer beater, Shanghai were being carried by the crowd but they never looked like pulling away. Dongguan, stocked with up-and-coming prospects, were well-marshalled by their experienced senior teammates and their quiet efficiency would be the key to eventually winning the game.
Things were made easier for Dongguan by some curious calls by the referees, which enraged the Sharks coaching team but more crucially, derailed Shanghai’s momentum in the crucial phases of the game. Liu Ziqui had to benched lest he lost his temper with the men wielding the whistles in the fourth quarter whilst DJ White could have got himself ejected a little earlier in the third. It was wild stuff and the crowd would not forget it come the final buzzer.
Now the Sharks were losing their composure, the visitors were primed to make the final push. A ridiculous trey from Blake Ahearn from way downtown opened up an 87-81 point lead with 5:30 on the clock and the sound of belief going out of the homecrowd was palpable. The Sharks had finally lost their mojo and there was no going back.
Marcus Haislip- who has a CBA championship to his name after a spell with the Guangdong Tigers- was the centerpiece for the Leopards victory. His veteran know-how and a 27/12/5 statline were the foundations to his team’s victory. The Sharks, who had strong performances from Liu Wei (23/4/8), Zhang (18/12/2) and Gilbert Arenas (15/15/3) left with nothing.
With the game over, the home fans quickly turned on the officiating crew. Objects and insults were hurled at the referees as they walked past the stands and into the dressing room. There were also verbal confrontations between officials at the scoring table and Sharks supporters. A tub of fried chicken came flying down from the stands followed by paper cups and lashings of choice language. For a couple of minutes, things were looking hairy but eventually the angry masses dispersed. It didn’t change the score or the game but the supporters had made their point.