The Bayi Rockets put themselves into driving seat with a 96-90 away win Sunday over the Beijing Ducks in the game one of the best-of-five semifinals of the Chinese Basketball Association league on Sunday.
The Rockets hold two consecutive home games on the Game 2 and 3 next week, and will come back for Game 4 and 5, if necessary.
Without veteran playmaker Zhang Jinsong for almost the whole fourth quarter, the Rockets forced out 21 turnovers from their opponents to take the victory.
Center Mo Ke shot 6-out-of-9 from behind the arc to score 24 points for the visitors, including a crucial one to give the Rockets a 87-82 lead with over four minutes to go.
Veteran shooter Li Nan recovered from the fever to contribute 19 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals for Bayi.
Beijing's center Mengke Bateer scored 11 of his 26 points in the first five minutes of the game to put the home team 16-7 ahead, but received little help after that to finish with 15 rebounds as well.
Point guard Zhang Yunsong was fruitless in the field and power forward Jiao Jian was 1-out-of-7 in the field, which got the most boos from the disappointed local audience.
Guard Xie Libin scored 17 points for Beijing.
On Saturday, last year's champions Guangdong Southern Tigers overwhelmed the Jiangsu Dragons, 121-86, at home in game one of their semifinals.
The two teams exchanged leads at the beginning of the match. Two three-pointers from Wang Shipeng and Zhu Fangyu gave Guangdong the lead, 36-32, after the first quarter.
Jiangsu's main scorer Tang Zhendong was fouled out in the second quarter, and the shorthanded team fell 14 points behind Guangdong before half time.
Guangdong then extended their lead to 91-68 in the third quarter and wrapped up the victory with a 35-point margin.
Du Feng led Guangdong with a game-high of 32 points and seven rebounds, while Yi Jianlian and Wang Shipeng each had 27 and 20 respectively.
Carlos Dixon nipped 25 points for Jiangsu, while Zhang Cheng and Tang Zhengdong added 13 apiece.
Guangdong will visit Jiangsu Tuesday for the second clash of the semifinals.
(Xinhua News Agency and CRI English April 3, 2006)