Shanghai Sharks' Liu Wei (right) is defended by Pan Jiang of Shanxi Brave Dragons during their CBA playoff match in Shanghai yesterday.
The Shanghai Sharks failed to complete a comeback yesterday, dropping the first game in their playoff series against the Shanxi Brave Dragons 85-90.
After clawing back into the game that looked certainly lost, Shanghai somehow found themselves down just three, with the clock ticking under 20 seconds and with possession of the ball. As all of Yuanshen Stadium held their breath Liu Wei's prayer of a three-pointer rimmed out and into the arms of Shanxi's Charles Gaines, who hit one of two free throws to finally put the Sharks away.
Shanghai managed to come back from a 15 point deficit earlier in the fourth quarter, narrowing the lead to a single shot multiple times, only to see Shanxi answer with a clutch basket of its own.
Shanghai had been racking up wins at home this season on the back of its strong team defense and consistent offensive execution, but both these skills left the team in a frustrating third quarter that saw it outscored 12-31. Shanghai hit just 2 of its 17 field goal attempts in the third as Shanxi got off on the fastbreak taking the lead and then widening it.
Shanxi, as usual, was led by its spectacular American duo. Marcus Williams was unstoppable scoring 37 points and hitting 13 of his 20 shots from all over the court and at a variety of angles and speeds. Meanwhile, Gaines simply could not be stopped plowing his way to the basket again and again for 28 points and 19 rebounds.
Elsewhere in the CBA playoffs all of the higher seeds held serve beating the lower seeds in their own buildings. Beijing squeaked at a win over Guangsha and Dongguan did the same against Xinjiang. Defending champions Guangdong blew out 8th seeded Fujian.