CBA: Beijing beats Shanxi to finish fifth in regular season
Sports Scene

The CBA's regular season games on Wednesday were not tipped to be suspenseful. That was definitely the case for Beijing against Shanxi, as the Ducks surged into the playoffs as expected, setting up a first-round series that will be full of familiar faces.

Twilight on the second Wednesday in March and the curtain falling on the Chinese Basketball Association's regular season means the quest to be crowned champions is truly about to heat up, just as Winter gives way to Spring.

"The Beijing Ducks tip off closing night knowing that a win against the Shanxi Loongs will clinch the number five seed in the CBA playoffs, best among the eight teams advancing to the postseason without earning one of the four byes into the quarter-finals," CGTN's Damian Jones said.

With Justin Hamilton scoring 36 points and Aaron Jackson adding 30, along with Fang Shuo contributing 25 points and 12 assists, the Capital Crew's strong second-half comeback put away 14th-placed Shanxi 120-109, and whether they called themselves Brave Dragons or Loongs, the team from Taiyuan's campaign ended early for the fourth year in a row, and 13th out of 15.

Justin Hamilton (R) of Beijing Ducks plays during the CBA game which his team routed Shanxi Loongs 120-109 in Beijing, China, March 13, 2019. /VCG Photo

Justin Hamilton (R) of Beijing Ducks plays during the CBA game which his team routed Shanxi Loongs 120-109 in Beijing, China, March 13, 2019. /VCG Photo

"I think, you know, for next year, the team has a lot of assets, and a lot of young guys who can score the ball, and play, and compete for next year," Shanxi forward Shabazz Muhammad said.

"I think with our competitive spirit, we try every night to help ourselves and help this league and go even further in the next level." Beijing head coach Yannis Christopoulos said. 

Finishing fifth in the standings means Beijing will meet Shanghai in the first round for the second straight season, with the Sharks claiming the 12th and final spot over the Guangzhou Long-Lions based on head to head results. The Ducks went three-for-four against their old rivals this winter, but some of the squad's fans are just cautiously optimistic, about what's on the horizon.

"A strong team will be a potential barrier for the Ducks. Even if Beijing can get past the first round, there will be other strong teams like Xinjiang, Guangdong, and Liaoning. So the Ducks should focus on playing, and not think about what's ahead, just play game by game, and do what they can," a fan told CGTN.

"Although the Ducks suffered quite a few injuries this season, and did not perform well in some of their early games, I hope Beijing will focus on the playoffs, and gradually fight for the championship. So we came here to cheer for the team, with high hopes for them."

High hopes, of course, are the order of the day for all 12 remaining contenders, as the CBA playoffs get underway this weekend, and just like their counterparts all around the nation, supporters of the Ducks plan to back their side, until the end of the line. 

(This article was contributed by Damian Jones, who is reporting from Beijing.)