Some gutsy fourth quarter magic from an increasingly injury ravaged Shanghai team was enough to help the Sharks go to Ningbo and pull off an unlikely victory against the Bayi Rockets. DJ White top scored with a season high 33 points and added 18 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks to his statline for the night as the visiting team beat the form book and took home the W.
With the two teams getting wallowed in stop-start basketball for most of the first half, the game was tied at 36-36 as the third quarter began. Bayi’s physicality was merciless and the Sharks had to battle hard to make it down the court in the face of the Rockets’ relentless defense.
Things weren’t helped by the fact that neither Gilbert Arenas or Ge Yong returned to the game after the interval. With Liu Wei already out injured, the only remaining point guard was the relatively inexperienced Zhai Yi while the Sharks only had two other guards who could still run.
With little beef in the backcourt, it was left to White to put the team on his shoulders offensively and the forward responded in fitting style with a mix of brute strength, intensity and deft low post finishing.
Zhang Zhaoxu also played his part, especially on the defensive side on the ball as he played a major part in shutting down the muscular frontline of Wang Zhizhi and Xu Zhonghao.
However, unnerved by a hostile away crowd and the Rockets’ aggression, Zhai Yi was struggling to keep his composure. White, using something extremely non-PC language, had to bellow at his point guard to release the ball earlier and for a couple of minutes, it looked like the Rockets were going to eventually retake the lead.
Yet with the game on the line, Bayi’s physicality got the better of them as Wang Zhongguan and Liu Ziqui got tangled up as the Sharks looked to restart the game after a Bayi basket. It smacked of a Bayi player trying to unnerve a visiting player but Liu spun towards the Rockets guard with a look in his eyes that screamed violent intent and both teams had to rush forward to separate the pair.
Not only did it break the Bayi momentum, the Sharks seemed galvanised and re-energized, pushing forward with renewed vigour. Guarding a 74-70 lead going into the final two minutes, a big basket from White and then a timely trip to the line from Zhang sealed the deal as the Rockets fell back amid a frantic flurry of punches from the Sharks. Boxed out in the paint with nowhere to go, the final thirty seconds of the game became a victory lap for Shanghai infront of the handful of Sharks fans who’d come to see them play.
Zhang’s 18 points and 25 boards were critical for victory but this was easily White’s best game for Shanghai. The American was everywhere and shone when the Sharks needed him. A team in the NBA could certainly use him come March that’s for sure.