BEIJING – Washington Wizards’ free agent Yi Jianlian led defending champions Guangdong Hongyuan to a 111-78 home win over Zhejiang Chouzhou in the first round of the Chinese Basketball Association league (CBA) on Sunday.
Five Guangdong players harvest double figures. The 24-year-old power forward Yi Jianlian, who came back to his original club from a locked-out NBA season, scored a team high 17 points. Point guard Chen Jianghua buried 12 points, all in the decisive second quarter. Wang Shipeng and Zhou Peng got 14 and 13 points respectively.
Denver Nuggets’ free agent J.R. Smith, now playing for Zhejiang Chouzhou, collected the game-high 20 points, but he missed nine of his 16 shots through the game. He got injured in the right ankle in the fourth quarter. Another former NBA player Josh Boone shot down 11 points for Zhejiang.
Yi’s comeback lit the enthusiasm of the 5,000-seat venue, and his 17-point-and-8-rebound performance didn’t disappoint the excited spectators.
“I overcame a slow start,” said Yi after the game. “Luckily I did better in the second half.”
“Yi did a good job, but he needs more time to find back his peak form,” said Li Chunjiang, head coach of Guangdong.
The Guangdong team, which pocketed seven league titles in the last eight CBA seasons, had a slow start. Yi and his teammates struggled against the strong defence from Zhejiang, the fifth placed team in the last regular season. Led by J.R. Smith, Zhejiang ended the first quarter 17-16 in the lead.
Chen Jianghua became the key player in the second quarter. His fast and flexible breakthrough destroyed the Zhejiang’s defending system. The 22-year-old guard helped Guangdong extend the lead to 16 points at the end of the second quarter.
Yi Jianlian pulled his trigger in the third quarter with 13 points, leading Guangdong to establish a 30-point advantage and make the four quarter into a show time for bench players.