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China Daily Website

There's always next year for Ducks

Updated: 2013-03-17 07:33
( China Daily)

There were tears and pain in Beijing's locker room after the Ducks were swept by Shandong, but there were also vows to return stronger next.

After losing to Shandong, 101-82, in the third game of the semifinals on Friday, the Ducks became the first defending champion to be swept out of the playoffs in the league's 18-year history. They had an average deficit of 12 points over the three losses.

The Ducks walked off the court with their heads down while Shandong celebrated its first Finals berth in front of a cheering home crowd.

None of the Ducks spoke on their way back to the locker room, while the Lions stayed on the court to soak in an ovation from 8,000 fans.

Though the disappointment was plain on their faces, the Ducks refused to beat themselves up.

"We were together throughout the tough times this year. We gave everything we have and we played extremely hard," Beijing's leader, Stephon Marbury, said after the game. "We will grow from this series and we will be better next year. Thanks for the support to all the Beijing fans."

Marbury scored a team-high 31 points but shot 1-of-11 from 3-point range. US import Randolph Morris and Chinese forward Li Gen contributed 16 points apiece.

Young forwards Zhu Yanxi and Zhai Xiaochuan, who played a major role with 23.6 points collectively per game during last season's title run, combined for seven points in the decisive Game 3 following poor performances in the first two games.

Still, Marbury wouldn't blame them for the defeat.

"They had ups and downs this year. That normally happens in professional basketball. I think next year, they will have better consistency," Marbury said.

Outplayed by the Lions in the paint, Beijing grabbed 16 fewer rebounds than Shandong per game, and struggled to make plays with Marbury being consistently double-teamed.

Morris said Shandong proved it's the stronger team, thanks to three foreigners and a crop of promising local players.

"You can't look it that way (that Beijing didn't play its best)," the former Atlanta Hawk said. "They just exposed our weakness that we have had throughout the whole season - that we rely too heavily on Marbury to initiate our offense.

"You have to give them credit. They've been a great team all season. It's not just this series.

"What we have to do is go home and turn all the weaknesses into strengths in the offseason. I firmly believe if we do it, we will come back stronger, faster and smarter."

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