Yi Jianlian (right) battles for a rebound during Guangdong Southern Tigers’ game against Sichuan Blue Whales on Friday in Shenzhen. Photo: CFP
The 2013-14 season opener of Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) saw the defending champion Guangdong Southern Tigers thrash the Sichuan Blue Whales on Friday 120-67 in Shenzhen, South China’s Guangdong Province.
The 53-point victory margin surpassed the previous record at the CBA season openers which was set by Bayi in 1997 when they routed the Zhejiang team 103-63.
Sichuan was promoted to the CBA in September after taking the top spot in the second-tier basketball league, the National Basketball League, 15 years after their last appearance in the CBA.
Zhou Shiqiang, president of Sichuan team, even offered a bonus of 500,000 yuan ($82,100) for the underdogs before the match if they could hold the margin to within 15 points, according to Chengdu-based Tianfu Morning Post on Friday.
Guangdong’s forward Zhou Peng produced the game high of 26 points. Star center Yi Jianlian added 10 points and 10 rebounds for the hosts, while former Los Angeles Lakers player Josh Powell contributed 12 points and seven rebounds to Guangdong’s win.
Sichuan’s marquee player Hamed Haddadi‘s absence was considered the key to Sichuan team’s big loss, as Guangdong’s executive coach Jonas Kazlauskas told the post-match conference that if Haddadi had played, everything would have been different.
The 2.18-meter Iranian center injured his ankle during Sichuan’s preseason match against the Liaoning Flying Leopards on October 27.
“I think my side did well today, especially in defending when we had a big lead. My players didn’t get distracted, except during the first quarter,” said the Lithuanian coach.
Sichuan held Guangdong close in the first quarter. While Wang Shipeng led Guangdong to a 13-5 run at the beginning, Sichuan’s 8-0 run overturned the lead to 13-14 after Judas Prada called a timeout. But the newcomers failed to hold the lead and didn’t take the lead again during the match.
The first quarter ended at 23-17. Yi only scored six points but had three faults.
Sichuan was overwhelmed by Guangdong’s counterattack which resulted in their loss to the eight-time CBA champions.
Du Feng, head coach of Guangdong, was impressed by 22-year-old shooting guard Khalif Wyatt, who scored 16 points and had three assists, rather than Powell.
“He had a good understanding of the game, it is not easy for such a young player.”
“Powell’s performance didn’t reach my satisfaction at the beginning, but he started to find his range in the second half,” Du said.
“This is the first game, finding the problems early is good for us.”
Yi also offered advice for the Sichuan team after the match, saying, “It’s a big challenge for Sichuan being new in the CBA. They need to progress both tactically and physically. They need time to learn and to experience.”
“It’s been 10 years since I first met with him (Haddadi). I hope he can recover soon and help Sichuan,” Yi said.