CBA Playoffs: a match-up breakdown, part 1.

Due to personal reasons and blogging issues, I’ve had to refrain from posting on this blog for a while. In the meantime, a post I meant to publish a week ago didn’t make its way to the internet for unknown reasons, which is why you’ll see a quite old edition of “Se son rose…” published just now. You know, s**t happens and I have to deal with it, alas.

Nonetheless, back at it I am, and this time I’ll just forgo the analysis on losing teams whose season is officially over and make sense of the match-ups these 2015 CBA playoffs will treat us to.
No further ado, let’s start with Seed #1 vs #8.

#1 Guangdong vs #8 Dongguan

Dongguan made it to the playoffs in a heartwarming fashion, as they beat Beijing with incredible effort from the three veterans: Brown had 46 points, Diogu had 31, Zhang Kai had 13 points and 20 rebounds. Guangdong, on the other side, has picked up on a crazy run from mid-season only to lose the final game of the season vs Guangsha. No one will be sorry for that one, anyway, and the Tigers look to get rid of the cousins as quickly as possible.
Let’s look, however, for a couple pointers to help us dig deeper into this series:

1) Brown and Bynum won’t guard each other, Diogu and Adrien probably will (if Adrien spends significant time on the floor).
Thus, the first key is: who will guard Bynum and Brown? The answer is probably He Zhongmian for the former, it’s probably going to be a blend of options for the latter: sometimes it will be Chen, sometimes Zhou Peng, sometimes they’ll throw in a double team. Guangdong, for the most part, however, will live with Brown putting up 40+ points and concentrate on stopping the other guys: if they manage to do it, the series is over.

2) Who will guard Yi Jianlian?
Again, the answer should be Sun Tonglin or Ike Diogu, for the most part. If it’s the former Spurs big man, however, Dongguan is exposed to offensive rebounds (Zhang Kai will not have too many 20-rebounds game), while Sun might struggle with Yi’s movement off the ball. Zhang Kai might be an option, but does he have enough energy to stay on the floor for so long guarding a much younger and stronger opponent?

Key matchup: Gu Quan vs Zhu Fangyu

There’s no doubt that Gu has talent, but his performances have been erratic. Zhu, meanwhile, has had his best season in a long time and at 32 has probably asserted himself as one of the few Chinese players who could be at the very least Euroleague or NBADL material. If Gu keeps focused even when his shot isn’t falling and provides the defense and athleticism he’s capable of, he’ll simply outrun Zhu. But if he doesn’t, one big matchup will already be lost for his team. And it might just be one too many.

What does Dongguan need to do?

Dongguan needs to bring consistent effort especially from the locals. Guys like Sun Tonglin, Meng Duo, Gu Quan and He Zhongmian must be physical with their counterparts, box ’em out and be disciplined and confident. If they are, Brown and Diogu alone will give them a chance to win a couple games, and you only need three to advance to the semifinals. All the inconsistencies they’ve been subject to throughout the season aren’t affordable any longer.

What does Guangdong need to do?

Keep their cool. Guangdong is much stronger and deeper than Dongguan, but it doesn’t mean that Dongguan won’t make runs. If the Tigers remember that their strength is meant to favor them in the long run and that a few runs shouldn’t be a huge deal, then it’s all over before it even starts.

Prediction: 3-0 Guangdong.

#2 Liaoning vs #7 Guangsha

Liaoning had a somewhat subpar end of the season, but the bigger picture tells that the Dinosaurs are a great unit that plays disciplined basketball where Hudson is the tip of the iceberg but everybody contributes. Their rebounding sets them apart in most games, and they have at least 8-9 players worth of a starting spot. Guangsha, meanwhile, has enjoyed a very good season but has yet to find out who Kevin Murphy really is. However, Holman and Lin Chih-Chieh have established themselves as the leaders of the team, and they might be more suited for the playoffs than for the regular season. Will they be good enough to beat Liaoning, however? Let’s sort out a couple of hints to decipher this series:

1) Liaoning has 4 excellent rebounders, Guangsha has 1
The first real red flag is that Guangsha has little to keep Liaoning out of the paint for second chances. If the Dinosaurs elect to feed Han consistenly, they might just have nothing. Guangsha needs to have Wang Zheng on Han so Holman can box out people, or guys like Thompson and Li Xiaoxu will just slip through the cracks.

2) Is Kevin Murphy ready to face Lester Hudson?
Another tough assignment has to be the MVP himself, Lester Hudson. Kevin Murphy, once again, might be a great matchup for him. We just don’t know yet, however, and probably neither does his coaching staff. Part of why Hudson is such a valuable player is how much he impacts the battle on the glass at 6’2″, and for Murphy containing him will mean much more than just trying not to get scored on.

Key matchup: Han Dejun vs Wang Zheng

Wang is the only Chinese player who can stand his ground against Han. If he manages to stop him on the low block then Holman can concentrate on rebounding and protecting the paint on penetrations. He has to be on the floor, however.

What does Guangsha need to do?

They need to trust some local guys with more minutes first (Wang, of course, but also Li Jinglong who is the only real spot-up threat on the team save for Lin since Wang Zirui and Murphy can’t buy a three), and then the mission is to keep Liaoning from physically dominate the series. Keep them out of the paint and off the offensive glass, make ’em shoot from the outside. It sounds crazy since the Dinosaurs are a top-5 3-point shooting team, but it’s the only reasonable medicine they can take.
Oh, and last but not least: trust Lin. If he and Murphy both play well then Hudson will be forced to play 1-on-1 defense all the time, preventing him from roaming around looking for steals and loose balls.

What does Liaoning need to do?

Keep every player involved, don’t force the issue and hit the open man. Pretty much what they’ve done all season long, as a matter of fact, but without those first-half blackouts they were frequently having in the season: recovering from a 15-point deficit won’t be so easy in the playoffs. Plus, they might use limiting Thompson and Li X’s deep 2s a bit, just to make sure the offense doesn’t settle on jumpers.

Prediction: 3-2 Liaoning.

See you tomorrow(-ish) for part 2, take care!

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