By Andrew Crawford
The Sharks’ captain Liu Wei, getting an open look at the basket.
An occasionally vibrant Shanghai side lost at the death in a game that Sharks players will look back ruefully on as a missed opportunity to start their season in winning fashion.
Though on paper, facing Qingdao on the road is one of the easier away trips on the CBA schedule, the Sharks found their hosts to be surprisingly determined for a side traditionally considered an also-ran in Chinese basketball.
The Eagles’ new American signing, Lester Hudson, was at the forefront of the Shandong side’s relentless pressing on both ends of the court, putting up a Jordan-esque line of 29 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals by the time the final buzzer sounded.
The second half was less even, as Qingdao were quick to seize on any individual errors from the Sharks, who were looking ill-at-ease with Coach Panaggio’s triangle offense. Their hesitation continued to hinder their fluidity, ending up with halftime score of 43-37.
Comeback comes up short
The victory was up for grabs with the seconds ticking away in the game’s dying minutes. Improbably, the Sharks veterans Liu Wei, Mike Harris and Ryan Kelly dragged their team back from the brink, overcoming a ten point deficit with clutch shot after clutch shot, key rebound after key rebound, to get within a field goal of tying the game.
Down by two points with the score at 80-78 and a minute-and-twenty seconds to go, Liu lost possession of the ball, and with Hudson scoring off his turnover and bringing the Eagles’ lead to four. Kelly then struck back with a huge three to make it a one-point game, with Harris then making another crucial shot to give the Sharks an 83-82 lead, with less than twenty seconds left in the game.
Taking the ball back down the court, Hudson immediately nailed a jump shot to give the Eagles back the lead with eight seconds on the clock.
The game was on the line as Liu brought the ball outside the Eagles’ key as the seconds faded away. With no time to think, the Shanghai stalwart took on the responsibility to take the game’s last shot, only to have it blocked in heavy traffic. The final buzzer sounded, and Shanghai begins their 2011-2012 campaign with a loss.
Andrew Crawford is a blogger for sharkfinhoops.com, the only English website about the fortunes of the Shanghai Sharks.