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CBA Finals berth worth crying over for Marbury

Updated: 2012-03-20 08:06
By Sun Xiaochen ( China Daily)

A lot of sweat, pain and even tears glued a bunch of guys together as they achieved a feat they once didn't think was possible.

CBA Finals berth worth crying over for Marbury

Stephon Marbury cries after Beijing Ducks beat the Shanxi Brave Dragons 110-98 to clinch a CBA Finals berth in Beijing on Sunday. [Photo/Xinhua]

Booking the first trip to the CBA Finals in the franchise's 17-year history by defeating the Shanxi Brave Dragons, three games to two, in the semifinals, the Ducks could scarcely believe what they'd accomplished.

"I feel amazing, I can't really explain the feeling. It's my first time making it that far in my basketball career," said Stephon Marbury, who almost delivered a triple-double with 30 points, nine rebounds and eight assists on Sunday to down his former team.

It will be the first Finals berth for Marbury in either the NBA or CBA. The 35-year-old couldn't contain his emotions, bursting into tears after the game and crying on coach Min Lulei's shoulder in the locker room.

Marbury spent almost ten minutes leaning against the bathroom wall with his hands covering his tear-stained face before facing the media in a packed locker room.

Since landing in the league in 2010 with Shanxi, Marbury has vowed he would claim a championship. It's always been a longshot, with the seven-time champion Guangdong Southern Tigers standing in the way.

"Since I came, I said it was my goal to make the final," Marbury said. "A lot of people called me crazy. Some of my friends said 'I don't know if it will happen'. This team, they showed me something totally different from those that I've been on. I saw something inside of the players that I never seen before as far as the guys want to reach the finals."

The Ducks didn't seem so promising before the season.

Last season's eight-place team, Beijing was among 14 perennial also-rans in a league that has been dominated by Guangdong and the Xinjiang Flying Tigers the past three season.

Making the playoffs seemed like a realistic goal.

"I didn't expect we could reach so far last summer," Min said after the 110-98 victory over Shanxi on Sunday. "It's not about having the confidence or not, it's because I though we didn't have the caliber at that time."

Many of the players felt the same way.

"We've been struggling in a low period for years and only thought about the semis after Stephon coming last year - but not the final," said team captain Chen Lei.

A major factor in the Ducks' rapid rise was Marbury's confidence, which proved to be contagious.

The former NBA All Star averaged 26.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists this season and led the Ducks on a 13-game winning streak, which convinced teammates he was serious in his desire to win a title.

"He brought us the difference," said Chen, who scored 16 points on Sunday. "He made us strong believers that we could compete for the final. We felt honorable and confident again, especially after the 13 consecutive wins."

Marbury attributed the feat to sweat and pain.

"It took some hard work and a lot of dedication," he said. "(The Chinese players) work hard and they did extra practices. We did a bunch of different things that were needed for us to come together as one. Once we got to the point where we are able to see the light as far as seeing our vision and what it is, I think that guys really started to believe."

Derided as a lone wolf by some in the New York media when he played for the NBA's Knicks, Marbury has proven he can be a leader during the Ducks' run.

Still, Marbury acknowledged that the biggest challenge still lies ahead.

"We will play against the best team in the CBA," he said. "Playing against them, you have to attack them, make them do things that they don't want to do. We know it's going to be a tough battle. We don't think for one moment it's easy."

With less experience and a thinner crop of local players than Guangdong - which boasts five national-team players and NBA import Aaron Brooks - the Ducks think their status as underdogs could take some pressure off.

"We are younger, and without Finals experience," said Beijing forward Ji Zhe. "But I think we have less pressure and we are hungrier than them, that could make us strong."

Min stressed the team would stick to its defense-first philosophy against Guangdong as it tries to survive the best-of-seven series.

The series will tip off at 7:30 pm on Wednesday at the MasterCard Center (formerly Wukesong Arena).

It has a capacity of 18,000 seats, almost triple that of Shougang Gymnasium.

The next two games are scheduled for Dongguan, followed by two more in Beijing, then the final two in Dongguan if necessary.

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