The Shanghai Sharks walked out of Shanxi province with a rare win at an arena they have typically struggled at, thanks in part to the sharp shooting of Von Wafer. The absence of Marcus Williams through injury certainly helped but a win is a win and the Sharks now have three of them whilst the Dragons, soon to relocate to Beijing, are on a 0-4 run and could be a ‘dead pool’ team if this run of form continues.
Relying heavily on the inside presence of Charles Gaines (who played all but twenty seconds of the game) and the three-point shooting of Duan Jiangpeng, it was relatively easy to see where the Dragons where going to be attacking from. Duan remains an excellent shooter but as the game continued, it was clear this was not going to be his night. Gaines, who had himself a 34/22/5 stat line, couldn’t win the game by himself and though his numbers were impressive, he became increasing tired from his ongoing battle with the Sharks’ front court.
Indeed, the containment of Gaines was where the game would be won and lost and Darnell Jackson stuck to his task well whilst Zhang Zhaoxu- increasing making a name for himself with his rim protection- had six resounding rejections on the night to underline the Sharks’ hard work in the paint.
On offense, Wafer, who had a disappointing game against Xinjiang, was in no mood to get dragged into a shooting slump. It was his finishing that helped build up an eight point lead deep into the fourth quarter but the guard’s hustle was infectious throughout the game as he grabbed rebounds, dished out dimes and drove to the rim whenever he saw daylight. Timely threes from Feng Tian and an alley-oop from Zhang also helped keep the momentum going and every time Shanxi looked dangerous, it felt as if a Sharks player would step up and silence the hosts.
Wafer’s eye-catching 38 points got the job done but the Sharks came together as a team to put the game to bed. They made their trips to the line count, going 19-of-22 from the strip, and never gave up the fight in the trenches against a Dragons team that isn’t averse to physical play. At times it wasn’t pretty and the perimeter shooting from Lu Wei still leaves a lot to be desired but the Sharks are still looking good and continue to play (at times) like a dark horse for a play-off run.