Beijing – 93 @ Guangdong – 111
Using a variety of smaller lineups for most of the game, Guangdong was able to limit Stephon Marbury from getting into the paint while completely shutting down Beijing’s bigs from getting good looks on the perimeter. Putting James Singleton at the five and Li Yuanyu at the four for large parts of the second half, Guangdong switched many of the pick-and-rolls that have become the staple of Beijing’s Marbury-centric offense. And although Marbury hit 7-10 from the three-point line, the strategy worked at both keeping him away from the basket and from keeping his passes out of the hands of wide-open teammates.
For Guangdong, the return of Zhu Fangyu’s scoring touch helped things as well. So did Aaron Brooks’ decrease in turnovers. Zhu scored 26 on 8-13 shooting to record his best game of the Finals, while Brooks put in a team high 30 points on only three turnovers. Singleton also enjoyed his best game of the Finals, scoring 21 points, grabbing 19 rebounds and generally making life difficult for everyone he guarded.
The key in this game, however, was Guangdong’s adjustment to go smaller. Su Wei, who missed several easy looks at the basket to go 3-11 from the field en route to an all-around awful performance in Game 2, only played 12 minutes and Wang Zheng never got off the bench. Against more traditional back the basket bigs, like Xinjiang’s Mengke Bateer, Su Wei is at his best. But, against an agile Beijing Randolph Morris-Zhu Yanxi-Ji Zhe rotation of bigs who can all shoot the ball, the lumbering seven-footer is simply not the answer on defense, either in pick-and-roll defense, help-side rotations or in close out situations.
Li Yuanyu, however, looks to be better suited for all of that. He scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds in nearly 24 minutes before fouling out in the fourth quarter, all of which are playoff highs. He hasn’t received much playing time this season — only 23 appearances at an average of seven minutes per game in the regular season — but, with him and Dong Hanlin as the only two mobile Chinese bigs on the squad, it’s quite likely that coach Li Chunjiang will be calling his name more often as this series progresses.
For Beijing, Marbury finished with 39 points and three assists, and Morris had 21 and 14 rebounds. Nobody else finished in double figures.
Once again though, this game was plagued by fouls. 65 of them were called all together with Ji Zhe, Zhu Yanxi, Li Yuanwei and Zhou Peng all finishing the game on the bench with six apiece. For such an exciting series on the final scoreboard, we have yet to really see good, flowing basketball from start to finish.