Liaoning stuns Guangdong to tie CBA finals

Players of Liaoning Flying Leopards celebrate after winning the second game of the finals between Guangdong Southern Tigers and Liaoning Flying Leopards at the 2019-2020 Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) league in Qingdao, east China's Shandong Province, Aug. 13, 2020. (Xinhua/Li Ziheng)  Players of Liaoning Flying Leopards celebrate after winning the second game of the finals between Guangdong Southern Tigers and Liaoning Flying Leopards at the 2019-2020 Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) league in Qingdao, east China's Shandong Province, Aug. 13, 2020. (Xinhua/Li Ziheng)

Liaoning Flying Leopards came back from 22 points down to defeat the Guangdong Southern Tigers 115-113 in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) finals here on Thursday, leveling the scores at 1-1 in the best-of-three series.

Liaoning grabbed a 6-0 lead after the tip-off with four points from center Han Dejun, though Guangdong raced 38-34 ahead by the end of the first quarter, as they hit seven of nine three-pointers.

The defending champions enlarged the margin to double digits for a brief period and had an eight-point advantage at the end of the first half, as Sonny Weems added 11 points in the second quarter.

Launching a 17-5 run, the Southern Tigers extended their lead to 22 points midway through the third quarter, and seemed set to take the series title, having already won the first game. However, Liaoning then rallied to cut the deficit to just 12 points.

Guo Ailun took center stage in the fourth quarter, scoring eight points and a steal in a row to help Liaoning tie the game 95-95.

Liaoning had a two-point lead with 10 seconds remaining, and cheered their victory when Weems missed a buzzer-beater.

Despite Guangdong’s defeat, Weems had a game-high 37 points and eight rebounds, veteran Yi Jianlian bagged 16 points and 10 rebounds, Zhao Rui also had 16 points, and Hu Mingxuan contributed 14 points.

For Liaoning, Guo and O.J. Mayo each notched 28 points, Han collected 17 points, and Gao Shiyan and Wang Huadong added 12 points apiece.

“We believe in victory, believe in victory, believe in victory, and finally we made it,” said Alejandro Martinez, acting head coach of Liaoning.

“When we led with over 20 points in the third quarter, the defense became weak and the organization of offense was too simple,” said Du Feng, head coach of Guangdong.