Saturday, December 20, 2008

WCBA 19/2008 - Beijing 73, Liaoning 71

As anyone who follows Chinese women's basketball knows, there are only two brides - Bayi Telecom and Liaoning - and a bunch of bridesmaids. Whenever one of these two teams falls, it's probably cause for celebration/fear in some quarters of Chinese basketball. Liaonang (15-4) was the #1 team in China going into this game, and they are still #1, but Beijing (12-7) squeaked by with a 73-71 victory at home.

The win keeps Beijing in fourth place, giving it a home field playoff advantage with three games to go in the regular season. In a 12 team league, there are still 10 teams contending for eight playoff spots. One more win in the next three games will mathematically clinch a playoff spot of some sort for Beijing.

The translated box score is here.

Looking at the quarter-by-quarter score, it appears to be a tight game all the way. The game was tied 36-36 at halftime. Beijing led by two after three quarters (57-55), but Liaoning had not thrown in the towel yet.

With 40 seconds to go in the fourth, Liaoning had recovered the lead and led 70-67. A referee's call - "it seems that the ball was touched round opponent after the referee awarded (Beijing)" - led Liaoning players and their coach to protest and risk a technical.

Beijing scored on their next possession to make the score 70-69, coming within one of Liaoning. With 20 seconds left, Zhou Honghua of Beijing stole the ball and ran the fast break for an easy basket to put Beijing up 71-70. Both sides swapped free throws, and with four seconds left, Jia Guang of Liaoning missed the final bucket that would have sent the game into overtime.

Liaonang had a better scoring percentage than the home team, 53 percent to 43 percent. So where did Beijing find space in the box score to come back? The answer is in the other three "keys to victory". In a game with few rebounds, Beijing got most of the offensive rebounds, leading by a 12-8 margin. Liaoning turned the ball over 19 times to Beijing's 13. Furthermore, both teams were sent to the free throw line equally often, but Beijing was 12 for 16 from the line - Liaoning was 8 for 15.

Who led Beijing? Jennifer Lacy, and she did it in a big way. She scored 20 points and took 20 shots (14 FG, 6 FT) to do it. She picked up eight rebounds to lead both teams. Three other players scored in double figures for Beijing, including Zhang Fan with 17 points and Zhang Lin with 14 points.

For Liaoning, Ji Xiao would lead the visitors with 16 points and four rebounds - no other Liaoning player would have more than four rebounds. Zhang Dan scored 12 points and four rebounds and Chen Xiaoli added 11 points. Tangela Smith, the "foreign aid" player for Liaoning who is also the center for the Phoenix Mercury, scored 10 poitns and four rebounds in only 17 minutes of play.

This was a big win for Beijing. Just remember Jennifer, "one win and you're in!"

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