Tien Lei's monstrous 35-point night resuscitated Dacin Tigers as they slipped past the ETTV Antelopes 82-79 in Taiwan's Super Basketball League action at the Taipei Physical Education College Gymnasium Friday, ending a three-game losing streak.
Dropping three straight, and five of their last seven games, the Tigers knew they had to do something to turn the season around. And Tien's timely resurgence after a hand injury may just be the shot in the arm that will bring the once-prominent big cats back to their title-contending form.
The Tigers came out firing against the Antelopes, scoring the game's first 11 points before the Antelopes could even get on the board.
The big cats' 28-17 first quarter lead was quickly extended to 47-29 by halftime, thanks to Tien and Chang "Mr. Hustle" Chih-fong's combined 28 points in the first half.
The Antelopes finally managed to play a competitive third quarter behind the outside shooting of guard Yang Yu-ming and forward Ou Yang Jin-hehn, who combined for 12 of their team's 18 points in the quarter.
Trailing by 18 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Antelopes fought hard to cut the Tigers' lead to as few as seven with under two minutes remaining.
But Tigers forward Lin Yi-hui's clutch field goal followed by point guard Su Yi-jeh's pair of free throws in the closing seconds proved too much for the Antelopes to overcome.
"You can't dig yourself into a 20-point hole and expect to come out ahead in the end," Antelopes coach Lee Yun-shiang said.
Dinos 96, YMY 85
The Yulon Dinos had little trouble against YMY as they cruised to a 96-85 win on Friday to break from a tie with Taiwan Beer for the sole possession of the lead in the standings.
Veteran forward Chiou Chi-yi came off the Dinos bench for a season-high 20 points to lead an attack that was missing its starting point guard Chen Chih-chung who is out with an eye injury.
Power forward Lu Cheng-rue also had a big night inside the paint as the Rookie of the Year winner from last season showed no mercy against his former team by ringing up 16 points for the Dinos.
The Dinos took a 22-13 first quarter lead and never trailed while resting regular starters Tseng Wen-ding and Chou Shih-yuan for more than five minutes at times.
It was YMY's 10th straight loss in a season that increasingly resembles last season, where they finished with a league-worst 3-27 record.
Second-year forward Wang Chuan-jien's game-high, 24-point performance was the lone spotlight for the young squad.
The showdown between Taiwan Beer and the Bank of Taiwan should draw a full house.
While the center of the attention will be Taiwan Beer's scoring leader Lin "The Beast" Chih-jeh, whose average of 24-plus points per game is second to none, the real story will be how well the bankers' frontcourt handle the beer crew's Ha Hsiao-yuan, Shang Wei-fang -- two dominant forces inside the paint.
With the pace of the game expected to be lightening fast, the team that can best capitalize on fast-break opportunities will likely win the shootout.