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China Daily Website

Duck fans are the real heroes

Updated: 2013-03-03 07:48
By Sun Xiaochen ( China Daily)

Home-court advantage spurs Beijing to brink of CBA semis after Game 2 win over Lions

The glorious memories came flooding back for the Beijing Ducks, as did their confidence, courage and determination on Friday night.

With the thrill of winning their first CBA title last March still fresh in their minds, the Ducks returned to the 18,000-seat MasterCard Center for their first home postseason game this year. They faced the Zhejiang Lions and thought they were fully prepared for the much louder and far warmer atmosphere than their regular-season home games at the much smaller Shougang Gymnasium.

Still, the reigning champion was somewhat shocked by the raucous ovation it received from its fans, who cheered for the Ducks in their blue jerseys while booing the Lions throughout Beijing's second straight win over Zhejiang in the best-of-five quarterfinal series.

Fans even performed the Mexican Wave, which is rare at CBA games, while screaming, "Beijing bi sheng", which means "Beijing must win", every time the Ducks made big plays.

"The support was strong for even us to get used to. I was a bit nervous at the beginning and even couldn't breathe in such an intense atmosphere," Beijing forward Zhai Xiaochuan said after the team's 102-96 victory.

Perhaps due to the excitement, Beijing found it hard to score or contain its opponent - like it did in the first game on the road which resulted in a 110-96 victory, and Zhejiang led 48-43 at halftime.

"We wanted it (the first home win in the playoffs) too much - especially in front of our supporters - that's why we started slow," Zhu Yanxi, another young Ducks forward said.

However, the host team regained its composure after the break and closed the battle out, 102-96, with five players scoring more than 15 points.

Beijing's former NBA forward, Randolph Morris, who ended up with game high 25 points and 19 rebounds, attributed the comeback to the motivation provided by the home crowd.

"We have confidence and a lot of memories here. That helps us going forward," said the former Atlanta Hawk.

"Everybody is comfortable here. The fans always give us an advantage. They gave us an extra push and energy to raise our games. That's what home-court advantage is all about."

Beijing's MVP guard, Stephon Marbury, who delivered 13 points and seven assists in the second half to reboot the team, echoed Morris' sentiment.

"Anytime, you have a crowd of 18,000 people screaming, that will always give your more energy. Our fans are so vital to us. They played a big part in how we played," said the 36-year-old New Yorker.

For those who had never played in an NBA-standard arena, the atmosphere was almost overwhelming.

"I only saw this stadium on TV and I was so thrilled to be playing here for the first time in my career. It seems a little passion is multiplied into a huge motivation here," said guard Li Gen, who joined the Ducks in last year's offseason.

Zhejiang is now on the verge of elimination, and head coach Wang Fei admitted road games in Beijing were tougher than anywhere else.

"It's a great test of our players' mental strength," the former national coach said. "Most of them were playing in such a big stadium with so many fans against them for the first time. It was a tough but valuable loss for them."

Game 3 will tip off at 7:30 pm at the same venue on Sunday. Game 4, if required, will be in Zhejiang's hometown of Hangzhou on Wednesday.


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