The Guangdong Southern Tigers began their quest for a third consecutive league championship by beating the Liaoning Flying Leopards 88-83 in the Chinese Basketball Association Finals opener on Tuesday in Zhuji, Zhejiang province.
Guangdong coach Du Feng commended his players for their strong defensive effort in Game 1 of the best-of-three series.
“I repeatedly emphasized winning the game through defense and the players put up solid defense in this match,” Du said.
Game 2 is on Thursday night.
The Southern Tigers held the Flying Leopards to 36 percent shooting at the Bank of Dongguan Basketball Centre.
A year ago, Guangdong defeated Liaoning in the CBA Finals to win its 10th league title.
From the get-go in Game 1 of their championship rematch, Liaoning bench boss Yang Ming said it’s clear that his opponent was the superior team.
“This match reveals the gap in strength between Guangdong and us,” Yang said after the game. “Guangdong’s players were good in tactical execution and detail handling, and these factors determine the eventual winner in a match like this. We need to learn from them, and personally I have been trying to learn from Coach Du.”
Guangdong’s stars deliver solid performances
Sonny Weems, a 34-year-old University of Arkansas product and the 2020 CBA Finals MVP, led the Southern Tigers with 22 points and added eight rebounds and five assists. Peng Zhou poured in 18 points, Zhao Rui had 12 and Hu Mingxun finished with nine. Jason Thompson chipped in with eight points and 13 rebounds.
Guangdong (46-6 in the regular season) established a powerful offensive presence in the paint and continued to attack the basket throughout the game.
As a result, the hosts scored 56 points in the paint.
The hosts took a 41-29 advantage into the intermission.
Liaoning rallies in second half
The Flying Leopards exhibited a fiery determination in the second half.
The energized visitors rode the hot scoring hand of Gua Ailun after halftime, when he scored all 20 of his points. Veteran American player Kyle Fogg, a University of Arizona, added 18 points in the finals opener. Zhang Zhenlin, the CBA Rookie of the Year, had 17 points and corralled nine rebounds.
Liaoning chipped away at Guangdong’s lead, cutting it to three with an 11-spurt in the third quarter.
But the reigning champs answered with an 8-2 run to make it 53-44.
Guangdong stays poised
In the final moments, the Southern Tigers maintained their poise and made enough key plays to seal the win.
Case in point: A Guo 3-pointer trimmed the lead to 78-76 with 2 minutes remaining.
What happened next?
Weems completed a three-point play to push the lead back to five.