A blistering thirty-five point second quarter sent the Sharks on their way to an opening day win against Fujian. The home side saw Wang Zhelin put up 35 +12 but other than himself and Delonte West’s excellent shift (30 points, 12 rebounds, 8 assists and 4 steals), the Sturgeons lacked the firepower to keep up with the Sharks.
A nervy 111-110 scoreline in the final two minutes summed up the back-and-fourth nature of the game but another telling factor was that Fujian turned the ball over at such a crucial phase whilst looking for West, whose dynamism will be a big factor for the Sturgeons this season. Last season, the home side were among the worst teams in the CBA and their tactic of ‘pass to Wang and/or a foreign guy’ isn’t going to be a useful tactic- especially when Iranian Samad Bahrami only scored eight points despite playing forty-plus minutes.
For Shanghai, Darnell Jackson stood out with some solid hustle and his size and strength seemed to terrify Fujian at times when Will McDonald wasn’t around to stop him. The Sharks’ power forward even drained a trey as the former Cleveland and Sacramento man barged and crashed his way to twenty-nine points for the night. Moreover, Wang Zhelin, though talented, still needs some time in the weight room and the powerful Jackson was a timely reminder that the Fujian big man has a lot of work to do if he is to make it to a prospective NBA draft.
Von Wafer put up 32 points and it’s clear that head coach Wang Qun has given the former Xinjiang player the green light to shoot on sight. Going 13-for-32 on the night including nine attempts from beyond the three-point line, Wafer could and probably should have been more efficient with his chances. That said, as a known commodity in the CBA, the guard was shown special attention by Fujian for the entire game and it wasn’t simply a case of brick after brick going up in the air. A mix of good long-range scoring and his confidence driving to the rim means Wafer will rack up the points for the Sharks but there’ll also be a lot of 0-for-7 shooting stretches along the way.
This is definitely an interesting Shanghai team right now. On occasions, they seemed a little off the pace but also when things clicked, the Sharks came forward like a whirlwind. A second quarter stretch in which they overcame a six point deficit to tie the game at 31-31 also saw them go on a scoring binge that included Jackson’s three and a halftime lead of 55-49.
However, there are also signs that will be concerning. With an 88-79 lead in the fourth quarter, the Sharks allowed West and Wang Zhelin to haul the home side back into the game and tie it at 91-a-piece as Shanghai briefly fell apart. A cooly taken jumper from Wafer soon after helped get the Sharks back into the groove but it was a reminder that their Chinese roster needs to be aggressive and not expect the overseas players to bail them out.
That all said, this was a still positive start. Both Shanghai’s new American imports looked good and Liu worked well alongside his new back court weapon. Sichuan are next for the Sharks back at the Yuanshen and going 2-0 would be welcome start to the CBA season