The eternal saga, the one true rivalry the CBA has to offer nowadays is unto us for another episode.
Another semifinal rendezvous involves the Guangdong Southern Tigers and the Beijing Ducks. Who will survive?
Only one out of 4 series in the quarterfinals ended in more than the minimum three games necessary for one team to win the round, and it was Guangdong vs Dongguan. Guangdong, however, lost game 1 by just a point via last second layup converted by Zhang Kai on a pretty good Luo Hanchen drive to the paint, and the following three games weren’t even close. Beijing, meanwhile, had to fight their way through game 1, where Jilin were being carried by an unstoppable Dominique Jones; once having gotten hold of that first match everything came much easier for the Pekingese. As usual, let’s set our focus on one element that will give us some help in decoding this year’s remake of the infamous 2012 CBA Finals – not to mention last year’s semifinals, too.
What’s different from last year’s matchup in both teams?
Last year, regardless of the series’ outcome, Guangdong killed it on the boards. Beijing weren’t a huge rebounding team and still aren’t, Guangdong has meanwhile lost Josh Powell and added Jeff Adrien, who is more than capable of guaranteeing a similar impact on the glass. The two games where Beijing and Guangdong had similar rebounding numbers were both won by the Ducks, including the clutch game-5 (which needed an overtime session). However, having Will Bynum as a starter instead of a bench resource in Royal Ivey will make a pivotal difference for Guangdong. On the other hand, Li Gen is much more valuable this year for Beijing, and the two might end up guarding each other a few times.
The great difference will be, of course, the new rules: Beijing would have had a solid 5-men unit made of Marbury, Li, Sun, Zhu and Morris that, given the necessity, could have locked up for a whole 2nd half with almost no substitutions. Now the fourth quarter will be about tinkering with lineups and finding some balance between keeping Morris on the floor to avoid being overwhelmed on the glass and having Marbury spark the offense in crunch time. Guangdong, meanwhile, hasn’t been immobile either: Liu Xiaoyu hasn’t yet returned from his injury and Zhou Peng has been silently cast aside and isn’t a rotational member anymore. Adrien and Bynum are very much a stable part of the lineup in crunch time, but it’s unclear who will replace them when they can only play one at a time.
Key match-up: Stephon Marbury vs Will Bynum
Once again, it’s all about Starbury. However old he may get, he still gets buckets when needed most. This time, however, he has a tough opponent in Bynum in addition to what Guangdong already has to offer. Bynum was good enough to get the nod for 2015’s All-Star team, a true testament to how impactful he’s been as a Southern Tiger – given the Spurs-like conformation of the Cantonese team it’s very unusual to see foreign GST’s get such recognition. Marbury, on the other hand, obviously has his age, 38, granting him doubters and critiques. It may not be personal between them, but it’s certainly gotten personal between their teams a long while ago; they might as well react accordingly.
What does Beijing need to do?
D up the shooters, who are many and well-oiled in Guangdong, keep them at least off the offensive glass, track down Bynum. It’s much easier said than done, and it’s definitely not easy to be said either, but it’s basically the rivalry of the decade in China: who said it was going to be easy?
What does Guangdong need to do?
Again, perimeter defense is key: Beijing isn’t below them shooting-wise. The GST have an edge from a physical standpoint, however, and the new 4th quarter rules will spare them from the much-revered Marbury-Morris pick ‘n’ roll. But they have to be dominant on the glass to take full advantage.
Prediction: Beijing wins 3-1.
See you tomorrow for a breakdown of Liaoning vs Qingdao, take care and enjoy game 1 tomorrow!