Warriors

Brady, Pats can only wonder what might have been

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Brady, Pats can only wonder what might have been

From Comcast SportsNet
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The eyes that watched Tom Brady's pass sail to him were red. The hands that couldn't catch it were clasped in his lap. The heart that has helped make Wes Welker a star was broken. Blame me, he said. Blame me for letting a ball I always catch fall to the ground. "It comes to the biggest moment of my life, and (I) don't come up with it," the New England Patriots wide receiver said. "Most critical situation, and I let the team down." One of the NFL's smallest receivers at 5-feet-9 and its leading receiver with 122 catches wasn't the only one who missed an opportunity that ruined the chances of coach Bill Belichick's usually disciplined players of winning their fourth Super Bowl. They lost to the New York Giants 21-17 on Sunday. There was a safety on the Patriots' first offensive play. There were three fumbles by the Giants, but they kept the ball after each one against a team that led the AFC with a plus-17 turnover differential. And there was a desperation heave by Brady on the final play into the end zone -- a pass covering more than half the field that bounced off several players in the end zone. After it bounced off the last set of fingertips and fell to the ground, the game was over. So was the Patriots' last, longshot hope. "The ball's just floating in the air," Patriots guard Logan Mankins said. "I think everybody's holding their breath -- the crowd, the coaches, the players." The Patriots other two star receivers, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, were there with three defenders. The ball was tipped out of reach of a lunging Gronkowski, who was hampered by a high left ankle sprain suffered in the AFC championship game. "We've completed a Hail Mary this year," said Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who won his second Super Bowl MVP award. "I was hoping there wasn't going to be another one completed, for them." It nearly was. "I felt like I was close," Gronkowski said. "But close isn't there." Added Brady: "We got to the 50, and ran out of time." The Patriots missed plenty of opportunities when there was plenty of time left, including those three fumbles. The Giants recovered two. And the one New England's Brandon Spikes came up with was nullified because the Patriots had 12 men on the field. Two plays later, Manning hit Victor Cruz for a 2-yard touchdown and a 9-0 lead late in the first quarter. Then Brady got hot, completing a Super Bowl-record 16 straight passes, and the Patriots surged to a 17-15 lead. "I thought we played very competitive, had our moments where we moved the ball and stopped them," Belichick said. "We were in the lead for a good part of the game. We just came up a couple of plays short." The Patriots had a chance to make it a two-possession game when a mix-up on the Giants defense left Welker alone. On a second-and-11 at the Patriots 44, the sure-handed receiver had a chance to score. All he had to do was catch the ball and, perhaps, make it to the end zone. Amazingly, the ball went off his hands. "It's one of those plays I've made 1,000 times," he said. Brady and Deion Branch failed to connect on the next play on a pass just behind the receiver and the Patriots punted. "We had opportunities to put this team away and we didn't," Branch said. "All the plays were big. Every play is important. Had I made the catch that was behind me, that could have been a key third down but we didn't connect on it." After the punt, when Manning started the winning 88-yard drive capped by Ahmad Bradshaw's 6-yard touchdown run with 57 seconds to go. Had Welker made the catch and the Patriots scored, that touchdown might have been insignificant. "The ball is right there," Welker said. "I've just got to make the play. It's a play I've made 1,000 times in practice and everything else." But Welker is a big reason the Patriots reached the Super Bowl. And just one reason they lost it. "He's a hell of a player," Brady said. "I'll keep throwing the ball to him for as long as I possibly can. He's a phenomenal player and teammate. I love that guy." When Welker was done with his stint at the postgame podium, he walked slowly to the team bus with a backpack over his left shoulder. At one point, he passed a group of cheering fans dressed in Giants shirts. He kept walking, looking blankly straight ahead. At least he could share the misery with his teammates. "I think every guy in the locker room wishes they could have done a little more," Brady said.

Warriors the establishment, and the field the barbarians at the gate

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AP

Warriors the establishment, and the field the barbarians at the gate

Programming note: Warriors-Rockets coverage starts tonight at 6:30pm on NBC Sports Bay Area, and continues immediately after the final buzzer.

The NBA offseason ended as it began – with someone burning money for our amusement.

The San Antonio Spurs re-upped center LaMarcus Aldridge, with whom head coach Gregg Popovich had an off-season hug-it-out to repair what seemed to be a fraying relationship.

Thus, after the Golden State Warriors boatraced the field, the NBA responded by firing out $1.942 billion in free agent signings. This proves yet again that the problem with rising salaries in sports is not the fault of the players, but of the owners.

And that contreacts and player movement are an increasingly powerful turn-on in a sport that is facing an existential crisis.

Namely, how to build suspense into a season that looks foreordained for the Warriors without hoping for catastrophic injuries. Indeed, as the Warriors open with Houston tonight, there is far more national buzz around the new-look Rockets than the seemingly invulnerable Warriors.

[SHILLER: Draymond responds to D'Antoni's 'they're not gonna stop us either' claim]

It’s a bit like the old comic book conundrum – why was Wolverine a more compelling character than Superman?

Now this may be our fault as consumers for wanting something new to support our pathetically small attention spans. Or more intriguingly, being drawn to the flawed unknown rather than the excellent known.

But changing the American character is not an easy thing to do, as our most recent political developments have shown. We are who we are, and while we will watch the superb team every time, we will be more interested in the one that looks like it could blow itself to bits at any moment (Houston, or Cleveland, or Oklahoma City), or the long-downtrodden failure that suddenly looks like it might no longer be so downtrodden (Philadelphia, Minnesota, or maybe even Philadelphia again).

Or, weirdest of all, the team that used to be the standard, fell off the edge of the planet to the nation’s glee, and is just now showing signs of reconstruction (the Los Angeles Lakers).

Evidently what we want to say is that we like is change – violent, bizarre change, the crazier the narrative the better.

But here, we have the Golden State Warriors, who have chosen a far more conservative path – winning four of every five games, no matter what month, no matter what opponent, and winning nine of every 10 at home, no matter what month, no matter what opponent. And the measured eyeballs of media ratings say the Warriors are the bait behind which all other teams draft.

In short, the Warriors are the establishment, and the field is the barbarians at the gate. It’s just a matter how you feel about the barbarians, and the gate.

I know how the voting here would go. The rest of you are on your own, watching money getting thrown around in hope of some kind of regime change before the end of the decade.

Draymond responds to D'Antoni's 'they're not gonna stop us either' claim

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AP

Draymond responds to D'Antoni's 'they're not gonna stop us either' claim

Programming note: Warriors-Rockets coverage starts tonight at 6:30pm on NBC Sports Bay Area, and continues immediately after the final buzzer.

A couple weeks ago, Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said something about the Warriors that made headlines.

"You're not gonna stop them. It's just not gonna happen. They're not gonna stop us either. Should be fun."

On Monday, Draymond Green was asked about D'Antoni's comments.

"You should believe that. I'm turning over a new leaf," Draymond began, before giving his real thoughts. "Number 1 -- they want it to be a shootout, which is fine. But we're gonna play some defense.

"We score pretty well, but we're a damn good defensive team, too. So we're gonna play some defense."

The Rockets made some significant changes to their roster this offseason, most notably the addition of Chris Paul.

But Houston also added defensive-minded guys in P.J. Tucker and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.

But as Draymond pointed out:

"I don't know how serious they take defense with that comment, but I know they added some good defensive players."

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders and a Web Producer at NBC Sports Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller