Before a sold out crowd in the cosmopolitan capital of the world's fastest growing country the 2009-2010 Chinese Basketball Association season tipped off Saturday evening.
The Zhejiang Lions from Hangzhou traveled to Shanghai to face the hometown Sharks. The crowd was treated to a fantastic match, tight the whole way through. The first half finished with Shanghai up by two.
The most eye-catching play of the second quarter was a disturbingly bad fast break ran by Zhejiang's Rodney White. He had a two on one going and instead of pulling back for an easy jumper or attacking the rim to draw the foul, he chose some sort of fake shot/pass that went directly to the Sharks defender. Considering White later bonked a wide open dunk his trepidation of going to the hole is perhaps understandable.
The second half was close again, by the end of the third quarter the Lions were within one. In the fourth the teams traded baskets on seemingly every possession. White made up for his gaffes in the fourth as he made a silky assist driving to the hole drawing the defender then laying it off for a teammate's easy lay-in. Later he had one of his four steals by snatching away a Sharks inbound pass.
He and Peter John Ramos paced the Lions attack wit 23 points a piece. Ramos dominated the inside making ten of his twelve shots and grabbing 17 rebounds.
The Sharks attack came from the back-court, as John Lucas III and Liu Wei combined for 51 points, including a perfect 9 for 9 from the line for Liu. Three of Lucas's thirty came late in the fourth, as he took the inbounds pass and ran the Zhejiang man guarding him into a screen before raising up for a beautiful triple from behind the NBA line.
Lucas and Wei led their squad to tie the game and force overtime, where John put his team ahead 101 to 100 with only second to play. Unfortunately for the 3,000 fans who came, the hometown boys did not prevail, though, as Zhejiang scored the final basket to win by one. A nice consolation prize for the people watching was they got to see Yao Ming on the court again. Unfortunately he was on crutches and not as a player, but in his new role as team owner.
Final: Shanghai Sharks 101 - Zhejiang Lions 102 on December 19th, 2009