CBA Finals Game 5: Sichuan Blue Whale, 94 – Liaoning Leopards, 91

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Sichuan are CBA Champions for the first time in their history– and only three years since they were promoted up into the top tier of Chinese basketball from the part-time National Basketball League. Meanwhile, Hamed Haddadi secured Finals MVP after averaging 21.6 and 19.2 rebounds during the series.

Relying heavily on their veteran foreign players, Sichuan took a 17 point lead into halftime and seemed to be too much for an increasingly rattled Leopards roster. Other than Lester Hudson, Liaoning didn’t possess enough bite to unsettle Sichuan, who seemed content to once again put the ball in the hands of Mike Harris and Haddadi for most of the first half.

It was, though, the safest play to make in an elimination game and when Liaoning came out hot for a do-or-die second half, Harris and Haddadi were the ones who kept the scoreboard moving for Sichuan.

Liaoning continued to eat away at the deficit and could well have taken the lead themselves had they had more firepower.

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Instead, with He Tianju watching on from the bench due to injuries sustained in a violent brawl with Sichuan fans, the Leopards ran out of gas in the final minutes. Instead, it was Haddadi that helped seal off the paint and help get his team over the finishing line.

The result means Liaoning have now lost two CBA Finals in a row and add to their remarkable run of defeats in the championship series. Across six visits, the Leopards are 4-20 in Finals games, and may well had won this time around had it not been for injuries sustained during a scandal that will haunt Chinese basketball for decades.

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