Morris great, Marbury greater
Updated: 2014-04-03 16:08
BEIJING - Randolph Morris scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to help the Beijing Ducks win their second CBA championship in three years.
When asked who was the most pivotal in the Ducks' 4-2 finals win over the Xinjiang Guanghui, Beijing coach Min Lulei pointed to Stephon Marbury.
"He was," Min said.
"Marbury is the soul of the team," the coach added.
The former NBA star, who scored 28 points in Game 6, had his Jordan moment after the victory, sobbing in the locker room as cameras surrounded him.
Morris, the finals MVP, said this season was more difficult than two years ago.
"This one was harder, more challenging," he said.
The Ducks made it to the 2012 finals as underdogs against the all-mighty Guangdong Hongyuan, who had won seven of last eight CBA titles.
"It was easier being underdog," Morris said of Beijing's 4-1 victory over Guangdong to become the fourth CBA champion team in 2012.
This time, Beijing and Guangdong had met earlier - in the semifinals.
"We had chosen to play against Hongyuan in the semifinals," recalled Min.
Min said that "Hongyuan Dynasty", shaken by Beijing though, remained very strong.
Yi Jianlian, Wang Shipeng and Zhu Fangyu, the key players in the Chinese national team, had played a pivotal role in Guangdong.
Yi did well this season, contributing 23.5 points and 12.8 rebounds, while Wang and Zhu struggled in helping Yi in the paint field.
Previously known for his 3-pointer knack, Wang only made 10 of 38 attempts behind the arc, while Zhu averaged 11.5 points, the lowest for the past three seasons.
Moreover, Guangdong's foreign player choice was terrible as Khalif Wyatt, Joshua Powell and Royal Ivey, who replaced Wyatt, found difficulty in fitting into team system.
This season marked Xinjiang's fourth trip to the finals. Led by regular season MVP Lester Hudson, Xinjiang did everything they could, only to lose to a more balanced Beijing.
Xinjiang's Tang Zhengdong and Su Wei were the most powerful and balanced combination in this league, with the former good at offense and the latter at defense.
They showed an upper hand while facing Dongguan's young duo, Li Muhao and Sun Tonglin, in the semifinals. But their advantage was gone in front of Morris in the finals.
Injuries were another reason. Power forward starter Yu Changdong was injured late in regular season, out for the remainder of season. James Singleton injured his left hand in Game 4 and has been sidelined since. In Game 6, key backcourt player Xirelijang went back to locker room due to injury after playing less than two minutes.
Four failures at as many attempts did not affect Xinjiang's confidence.
"We are making progress little by little, and I believe that we can realize the champion dream in the near future," said head coach Cui Wanjun.
Xinjiang will embrace 18-year-old center Zhou Qi next season to raise their paint field power to a new level.
After witnessing a reunion of three former NBA All-stars - Marbury, Tracy Mcgrady and Gilbert Arenas, the CBA was less star-lit this season.
But foreign players still had their moments.
Dongguan's Bobby Brown finished with 74 points against Sichuan, one point shy of the CBA record. Tianjin's Sebastian Telfair broke the playoffs scoring record with 58 in first round against Dongguan.
The problem is how to convert dazzling scoring feats into team success, just like Marbury did to Beijing.