The Guangdong Southern Tigers won their third consecutive Chinese Basketball Association Finals title on Sunday, beating the Liaoning Flying Leopards 110-103 in overtime in the decisive Game 3.
Guangdong captured its 11th overall CBA crown.
Game 3 was a pulse-rising contest in crunch time.
The Flying Leopards’ Guo Ailun missed the second of two free throws in the final minute of the fourth quarter. Teammate Zhang Zhenlin was in the right place at the right time, though. He scored a putback on a tip-in to deadlock the score at 99-all in Zhuji, China.
The Southern Tigers failed to score on their next possession, with Sonny Weems’ shot off the mark with 15 seconds left in the fourth quarter. And the game headed into overtime again.
On Friday, Liaoning even the series up at 1-1 with a 102-98 overtime victory.
Guangdong opened overtime with an 8-0 run in Game 3.
What was the defining characteristic of that key stretch? Offensive rebounds on three straight possessions fueled the effort.
Finals MVP reacts to title-clinching win
After the Southern Tigers’ dramatic triumph, Finals MVP Hu Mingxuan expressed his gratitude to the organization and his teammates for the rewarding experience.
“I would like to thank Guangdong for giving chances to young players like me,” Hu told reporters. “This is an award for the entire team. It is the power of our team that made me who I am,” said the 23-year-old guard.
For Guangdong, veteran star Sonny Weems poured in 29 points, with a vital 14 markers coming in the third quarter. Weems hauled in 10 rebounds and handed out eight assists. Finals MVP Hu finished with 19 points and Zhao Rui and Zhou Peng each scored 15.
A year ago, the Guangdong Southern Tigers repeated as champions in a season that was put on hold for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This time, coach Du Feng’s squad resumed its normal spot within the league’s pecking order without a major interruption.
High praise for Guangdong leader
Coach Du held nothing back when he summed up Zhou’s contributions, both statistically and as an emotional catalyst.
“He is the most important player in our squad,” the coach was quoted as saying by Xinhua News Agency. “His critical block in our quarterfinal against Beijing saved our season. He is always here and there on the defensive end. His contribution is not reflected in numbers sometimes, but he never complaints about anything, and he helps young players grow all the way. I respect him the most.”
Top Liaoning performers
In the loss, Flying Leopards standouts Guo (24 points and 13 assists), O.J. Mayo (16 points) and Fu Hao (24 points) all had big games.
How did Liaoning coach Yang Ming react to the loss?
“It’s a difficult season for our players,” he told reporters. “We had chance to win the title, especially in Game 3, but we were not good enough compared with Guangdong. But we have given our all. From the coaching staff to the players, we fought till the last bullet.”