Liaoning 116 @ Guangdong 114; (Liaoning lead 1-0)
Liaoning- Lester Hudson, 29 pts, 8 rbs, 5 stls; Guo Ailun, 20 pts, 7 ast.
Guangdong- Ike Diogu, 31 pts, 16 rbs; Yi Jianlian, 28 pts, 8 rbs, 2 blks.
A crazy, back-and-fourth game came down to the final play in overtime– and narrowly avoided being the leading sports story in the country to boot. With neither team really able to put any distance on the other, the contest shifted into overtime where Guo Ailun came up with some timely buckets down the stretch.
Although Lester Hudson went 3-of-15 from 3pt range, timely steals helped his team on the defensive end and critically take a two point lead into the final play of the game. Initially it looked as if Liaoning would see the game out when a blocked Zhou Peng shot seemed to bounce off a Guangdong player and off the court. With little time left on the court, it may as well have been game over. But instead, after a lengthy discussion between the referees, somehow the Tigers ended up with the ball and the chance to tie the game. It was a remarkable decision but Ike Diogu couldn’t force a second round of overtime and just like that, the game was over.
Xinjiang 111 @ Sichuan 114; (Sichuan lead 1-0).
Xinjiang- Bryce Cotton 35pts (7-of-11 from 3pt); Zhou Qi, 17pts + 15rbs.
Sichuan- Mike Harris, 41pts, 12 rbs, 6 ast; Hamed Haddadi, 11 pts, 17pts, 4blks; Meng Da, 24 pts (4of-8 from 3pt)
As predicted in our semi-final preview, Sichuan came out all guns blazing in against the slightly favored Xinjiang Tigers and for a while, the visitors looked in real trouble. When veteran swingman Meng Da fired home the first of four treys for the evening, Sichuan were already up 23-9 with only eight minutes on the clock.
With Blue Whale threatening to open up a twenty-point lead midway through the second quarter, Xinjiang responded by giving Bryce Cotton the green light and the American point guard duly went off. Sensing that Sichuan were struggling to contain the Tigers from around the perimeter, the bombs kept coming from downtown and by the third quarter, the game was a one-possession contest.
However, a second Sichuan charge happened at the same time that Andray Blatche began to lose his cool and get into foul trouble and a Mike Harris tip-in at the buzzer made it 95-78 to Sichuan by the end of the third.
Amazingly, Sichuan almost blew that lead again but held on down the stretch to close out the game. The Blue Whale now have series advantage to take on the road whilst Xinjiang have to win big to stay in the postseason. Li Gen, the supposed key to a Xinjiang title, must have a better game or else the big spending Tigers will once again choke their way out of a championship.