Considered underdogs against seven-time champions Guangdong, Beijing will be looking to Stephon Marbury even more in the Finals. (Photo: cfp.cn)
The best CBA Finals ever?
With two hours away from Game 1’s tip-off, it’s obviously tough to answer that question.
Most anticipated CBA Finals ever?
Now that’s something we can answer more definitively.
Yes, yes and yes. Yes, 18,000 times over. With tickets in such high demand this Beijing-Guangdong match-up, the league agreed to take tonight’s opening game out of dumpy Shougang Gymnasium and into the world-class 18,000 seat MasterCard Center (formerly Wukesong Arena). Given that some CBA games sometimes struggle to draw 18,000 television viewers, everybody figured the arena would offer plenty of room.
At 8:00pm tonight, however, there will hardly be any room to put your elbows. On Monday, tickets sold out in eight minutes.
Outside China-United States’ opening group stage game during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Game 1 of the 2012 CBA Finals will undoubtedly be the most electric atmosphere in Chinese basketball history. And the series itself, despite its end result, will be the most talked about and watched CBA Finals of all time.
Since things in China come in threes, we thought we’d add to the most in-depth English language preview on the CBA Finals to make a nice trio of “best ofs.”
#1 Guangdong Hongyuan Southern Tigers vs. #2 Beijing Shougang Ducks
Regular Season Series:
(1/4) Beijing – 104 @ Guangdong – 92
(2/10) Guangdong – 112 @ Beijing – 99
How They Got Here:
#1 Guangdong over #8 Fujian, 3-0
#1 Guangdong over #4 Xinjiang, 3-0
#2 Beijing over #7 Guangsha, 3-0
#2 Beijing over #3 Shanxi, 3-2
Playoff Series Schedule:
Game 1: Tonight 8:00 pm, @ Beijing
Game 2: Friday (3/23) 7:30 pm, @ Guangdong
Game 3: Sunday (3/25) 7:30 pm, @ Guangdong
Game 4: Wednesday (3/28), 7:30 pm, @ Beijing
Game 5: Friday (4/30), 7:30 pm, @ Beijing (if necessary)
Game 6: Sunday (4/1) 7:30pm, @ Guangdong (if necessary)
Game 7: Wednesday (4/4) ) 7:30pm, @ Guangdong (if necessary)
In seven game series, Game 1 is always an important game. So
But in the CBA, the 1-2-2-2 Finals format puts even more importance on Game 1. As in must-win importance. A win tonight by Beijing would not only put them up 1-0, it would ensure two more home games, which would be good consolation in the likely event they’re heading back for Game 4 down 2-1. A loss, however, and Beijing is looking at a potential 0-3 hole and the end of their title dreams.
So while Beijing can talk all they want about having nothing to lose and being the underdogs, there is considerable pressure tonight. In front of 18,000 of their fans, they’ll have literally the biggest home court advantage anyone’s ever had. What they’ll do with it remains a mystery: Not only is it Beijing’s first time in the Finals, it’s the first time for most of their players playing in this big of an arena. Will they freeze up under the bright lights? Or will they feed off the energy and play better as a result?
There is one thing that’s not a mystery, however — Guangdong has been to the Finals eight times and they’ve won it seven times. They’re not scared of this stage. And with their stable of National Team players, they won’t be scared of playing in Wukesong. Beijing will have to go out and win this one, because Guangdong certainly isn’t going to play like it’s their first time doing this.
Winning will be tough, not just because this is Guangdong, but because this is the best Guangdong team ever. Their regular season doesn’t indicate how good they really are, but when does it ever? Aaron Brooks is a legit NBA player and James Singleton is too. Wang Shipeng, Zhu Fangyu, Su Wei, Zhou Peng and Chen Jianghua are all going to be in Beijing in a few weeks for National Team training camp. There simply has never been a more talented roster in Southern Tiger history.
The counter to that is that Beijing has never had a more talented import than Stephon Marbury. Wins for Beijing start and end with him, and he’ll to play just as well if not better than he did against Shanxi for his team to have any shot at pulling this off. Seeing how he was near perfect, it’s difficult to see how that’s possible. It’s even more difficult when you consider the waves of defenders that come his way this series. Guangdong can throw Wang Shipeng, Chen Jianghua, Aaron Brooks and even Zhou Peng at him if he really starts to go off. Heck, they might even throw Zhou Peng at him right away and deploy him in the same defensive-stopper role Coach Li Chunjiang used him at against Xinjiang’s Quincy Douby last year. 50+ points will be tougher for Steph to come by in this series.
Life will be a a lot little easier for Brooks, however. Lee Hsueh-lin and Marbury are the only two who will be considered to check him and both will have a tough time of executing their assignment. Nobody can stay in front of in the NBA; nobody can stay in front of him in China. He’ll get into the lane whenever he wants and once he’s there, it’s pick your poison for Beijing.
The 12 day layover may be a factor tonight for Guangdong, which is why I see a Game 1 win for Beijing. But, I don’t see them winning four against the champs.
Prediction: Guangdong in 6