China Notches Huge NBA Summer League Upset as 40-1 Longshot
It’s tough to call any results from a Summer League game an “upset” given the evenly-matched construction of the rosters, the fact that most players on those rosters haven’t played with each other prior to the games, and that upwards of 12 players see action each night.
But there’s no doubt that what occurred late Monday night in Las Vegas, with the Chinese men’s national team defeating the Charlotte Hornets 84-80, was nothing short of a monster upset that has fans of NBA betting buzzing.
Chinese Team Overcomes Massive Odds
The Chinese national team, which had lost its first two Summer League games to the Heat and Kings by a combined 58 points, entered Monday night as 25-point underdogs and +4000 on many moneylines when facing a Hornets team that was at -5000 to earn a victory.
But the Chinese team led almost the entire way, taking a lead in the final minute of the first quarter and never looking back. They led the Hornets by as many as 14 points in the second half and staved off Charlotte’s comeback attempt in the final minutes.
The Hornets got within one possession four different times in the final five minutes but never tied or took the lead.
They were led by Zhou Qi, who was a former second-round pick of the Houston Rockets in 2016. He was released by Houston in 2018 after appearing in just 19 NBA games, but his talent certainly hasn’t diminished. Qi had 17 points, nine rebounds and four blocks in just 24 minutes against the Hornets and was far and away the best player on the floor.
There is an asterisk next to the Hornets, who were playing without their top three Summer League players in Miles Bridges, Dwayne Bacon and Devonte Graham. All three have legitimate NBA experience and were getting the night off after playing Sunday in a loss to the Spurs. Bridges, Bacon and Graham combined for 45 points in that game and would have helped against China.
Chinese Look To Build On Momentum
The Chinese national team will have another opportunity for an upset on Wednesday night when they square off against the Bucks. Milwaukee, like China, is 1-2 in the Summer League and will be battling for playoff positioning in Las Vegas. When bookmakers post the lines for the game, China should be underdogs once again.
But they’ll be competing and getting significant contributions from players such as Qi, as well as shooting guard Guo Ailun, who is averaging 16.0 points and 4.5 assists through two Summer League games. Eight players scored six or more points against the Hornets, so they’re going to give a balanced look to the Bucks on both ends of the floor.
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China Preparing for FIBA World Cup
It’s obvious the Chinese national team is here to compete, as indicated by Monday’s impressive victory, but they’re also training.
The FIBA World Cup begins in late August and runs through the middle of September – China the host country, nonetheless – and the national team sees these Summer League games as an opportunity for growth.
China is currently +200 to advance out of its Group A bracket – Poland is the favorite at +125 – and is +20000 to win the World Cup. That’s largely because Team USA has been pegged as -500 favorites to win gold, just as they did in 2014 and 2010.
About the Author
Mark Strotman is a veteran sports journalist who has covered the Chicago Bulls and the NBA for NBC Sports Chicago since 2012. His work has also appeared on ESPN.com, FoxSports.com, The Chicago Tribune, Yahoo Sports and NBC Sports. He covered the NBA Playoffs in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017 as well as Team USA Basketball in 2014 and 2016. He has also covered high school football and was nominated for a Midwest Emmy in 2016 for his work on a documentary featuring local Chicago product and NFL prospect Miles Boykin. Strotman graduated from Marquette University in 2012 and during his time there reported on the men’s basketball team, covering both the Big East Tournament and NCAA Tournament in 2011 and 2012.