No Von Wafer, no problem- at least against a limited Jiangsu Dragons. The Sharks, with the injured Wafer watching from the sidelines, dug deep to dispatch the visitors as Shanghai’s improbable run up the standings continues.
With Yi Li struggling with injuries, Hu Xuefeng fading into irrelevance and Meng Da completing his transformation into a dude with a silly haircut that also happens to be a basketball player, the Sharks knew that most of Jiangsu’s attacking thrust would come from the Dragons front court. Marcus Haislip, a CBA All-Star with Dongguan last season, was the main focal point but Garret Siller, a part of Shanghai’s run to the semi-finals during the Bob Donewald era, was also nothing to sniff at.
Indeed, given the obviousness of Jiangsu’s point of attack, the Sharks needed a big night from Darnell Jackson and Zhang Zhaoxu and both men did just that. Jackson, who had a 23 + 18 double-double, was the outstanding performer but Big Max also came to party under the post and went for 12 + 11 with 2 steals and 3 blocks.
Haislip, who lit up Shanghai in Dongguan last year for 38 points that included nine three-pointers, was well policed on the perimeter and struggled to get any momentum going when he wandered closer to the paint. Given the poor shooting from range (both teams combined to go 7-for-33 from beyond the arc), keeping control of Haislip was the key and with Jackson taking such good care of him, suddenly the Sharks’ missing overseas player wasn’t so big of a factor.
This isn’t to say there weren’t concerns for Shanghai, who started strongly in the first quarter only to see the Dragons get back into the game slowly. Poor concentration and nerves allowed Jiangsu to take the lead in the third quarter and it took two feisty dunks from Zhai Yi to bring the crowd back into the game and make the Sharks refocus their efforts.
Once again, Liu Wei, Jackson and Zhang as the veteran core of the team, were still needed to guide Shanghai over the finishing line in the final six minutes but the win seemed assured once a 81-75 lead was opened up with ninety seconds left on the clock.
The concerns are still there, namely the poor three-point shooting (an even bigger issue now Wafer is out) but for now, sitting in third place in the standings, the Sharks have made the most out of the weakened schedule they’ve played so far. Tougher tasks are ahead but once again, Shanghai is victorious.