By Andrew Crawford
The Sharks’ Mike Harris going hard to the hoop in a losing effort against the Liaoning Dinosaurs.
Having beaten the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions and Jilin Tigers in convincing fashion, the Shanghai Sharks couldn’t make it a hat-trick of impressive performances. Instead they ran out of steam in a high scoring game against the Liaoning Dionsaurs.
The Sharks were hard-working and determined, but ultimately couldn’t overcome their guests’ inspired offence in a match where eleven players scoring totals made it into double digits.
The Dinos brought with them a sizable group of supporters and the game had a derby atmosphere, with both sets of fans relentlessly heckling each other throughout.
Thunderous dunks from Shanghai’s Zhang Zhaoxu and the Dinosaurs’ Rodney Carney (formerly with the Philadelphia 76ers) moved the noise levels up another notch, as both teams attacked relentlessly.
By the time the dust had settled at the end of the first quarter, Shanghai led 28-21, thanks to some deft shooting from Liu Wei and Peng Fei.
Yet after an intense opening twelve minutes, Shanghai looked like they had punched themselves out. Liaoning quickly found their groove and overturned the Sharks’ lead, before giving themselves a seven point advantage of their own. With Liaoning’s Josh Powell and Peng Zhang beginning to exert their influence on the game, the Dinosaurs were looking ominously potent as the sides left the court for halftime .
The furious shoot-out continued after the interval, and to the horror of the Shanghai fans, Liaoning’s hot streak showed no sign of fading away. Carney in particular was having an excellent day at the office, and the small forward out of Indianapolis was flawless whenever he found an open look from long distance.
Though big man Zhang Zhaoxu was keeping Shanghai in the game, the Dinos would calmly stroll down to the other end and add two points of their own every time the big center earned himself a basket. Spoilt for choice, Liaoning simply fell back on their youth brigade of Li Xiaoxu or Guo Ailun whenever Peng, Powell or Carney were being guarded too closely by the Sharks’ defense.
The fourth quarter was just as dramatic as the previous three, as Shanghai’s captain Liu Wei tried to make up for lost time, after leaving the court earlier in the game following a collision, by making a couple of well taken baskets. Mike Harris and Ryan Forehan-Kelly made their impact felt as well, as they usually do.
The beleaguered Sharks simply had to deal with too many weapons in the Dinosaurs’ arsenal, as Liaoning’s Han Dejun began bustling his way around the Shanghai backcourt in the fourth quarter. The beefy center was instrumental in keeping possession for the Dinos in the final few minutes of the game, and Josh Powell slammed home another dunk to the sound of Liaoning’s fans chanting ‘Champions, Champions’ in the Sharks’ own arena, as the Sharks’ supporters steadily emptied out of Yuanshen Stadium around them.
The final buzzer sounded, and a somewhat baffled Sharks team left the court having been unable to keep up with a Liaoning side that was firing on all cylinders.
Carney’s scoring total equaled his current age of 27, Powell got 24 and Li (17), Han (13), Peng (13) and Guo (11) all joined their American teammates in double figures. If only to underline how frenzied the game was, Shanghai’s Zhang and Harris both had 20 point hauls for Shanghai against the Dinos’ formidable defense, while Liu (16), Peng and Forehan-Kelly (both 15) also made their mark in an exceptionally high scoring game.
In his press conference afterwards, Coach Panaggio could only applaud the visiting side, calling their victory a ‘clinic’ and declaring that Liaoning was the best team the Sharks had faced so far this season. ‘We have to improve our passing and court vision,” Panaggio admitted.
The fans who cheered Shanghai off the court will just have to be satisfied with winning two out of three at home against above-average opposition. However, they were also given a cruel reminder by Liaoning of the sort of technical demands needed for going toe-to-toe with gifted CBA offenses.
Wednesday’s visit to play the defending champions Guangdong Southern Tigers in Dongguan will be a test of Shanghai’s resolve.
Andrew Crawford is a blogger for sharkfinhoops.com, the only English website about the fortunes of the Shanghai Sharks.
Correction: The Liaoning team’s name has actually been changed to the Liaoning Jiebao Jaguars for the 2011-12 season. Team names in Chinese sports have been known to change rather often, since teams will often strike deals to briefly name themselves after local companies. The phenomenon is especially prevalent with football teams in the Chinese Super League: Shenzhen’s football club, for example, has undergone 10 name changes since 1994.
(h/t to NiuBBall.com for the video)