On a night when the Sharks’ three-point shooting was again subpar at best, Shanghai went back to basics to squeak past Sichuan Blue Whale in Chengdu. Darnell Jackson was large and in charge for the visiting side and his muscle down low was a key factor in picking up a 30 + 13 double-double as the Sharks’ begin the CBA season 2-0 for the first time in several years.
With the hosts still missing star centre Hamed Haddadi due to injury, a depleted Sichuan side were lacking beef in the front court and Jackson and Zhang Zhaoxu were undoubtably the difference in what was occasionally a very ugly game.
Indeed, questions need to be asked about why exactly the Sharks were continually looking to force the three-point shot even when it was clear that their two key wing players were having off nights. Von Wafer went 2-for-12 from distance whilst Lu Wei was 4-16 (seriously, Lu Wei was allowed to take SIXTEEN threes…) and the combined twenty-eight shots were twice as many as what the entire Sichuan team attempted from distance.
In terms of the game itself, the Sharks started strongly, thanks in part to Jackson’s monstrous alley-oop from a Liu Wei pass midway through the first quarter. Things appeared to be clicking well for Shanghai only for Darius Odom Johnson to lead Sichuan on a thirteen point run as the sides eventually went in at halftime tied up at 43-43.
With the Sharks shooting so poorly from long-range, Shanghai’s control of the paint would be crucial. No Haddadi meant extended minutes for Jia Cheng and when Herve Lamizana wasn’t able to come across and help out, the young big man found himself continually exposed by Jackson and Zhang.
Having found the gap in the armour, the two Shanghai big men kept coming and the onslaught from down low, combined with Lu finally finding some accuracy from beyond the perimeter, opened up an eight point lead by the end of the third quarter. A limited, tired Sichuan team tried gamely in the final stages but lacking any kind of scorer beyond Odom Johnson, quickly ran out of steam.
Beyond Jackson’s big night, Zhang also chipped in with a solid 9 points, 15 rebounds and 4 blocks. Weaver went 8-for-19 from the floor as he ended the night with a 24/9/5 stat line whilst Shanghai skipper Liu Wei flirted with a triple-double before finishing with 13/7/8.