Ray Ratto

Alex Smith still expects more from offense


Alex Smith still expects more from offense

The disconnect between the 49ers as they are and as they want to be continues to widen, which is to say that now the league has figured out why they win every week, theyre moving on to why they make winning more difficult than it should be.In short, the NFL looks at the 49ers in terms of results rather than style points, and the 49ers are trying to reinvent themselves before the league figures out how to punish them for their shortcomings.Sunday was that day all over again. The 49ers smothered the hopeless Arizona Cardinals, 23-7, to improve to 9-1, but the word of the day from Alexander D. Smith was frustrating.

Its good to keep winning, but its frustrating too, the quarterback said after what was probably his least impressive game (20 of 38, 267, two scores, one pick). You look at the defense and see how theyre doing to keep us in games, and its kind of frustrating to leave so much out there. In fact, it makes it more frustrating when they play like that.Play like what, you ask. Play like: Needing six field goal attempts to take a surmountable 9-0 halftime lead despite having the ball for 21 minutes. Going only 2-for-6 from red zone situations, making them 3 for the last 11 and seven for the last 20. Failing to get to 30 points for the ninth time in 10 games (if you take away the two Ted Ginn returns in Week One, they managed only 19 against Seattle). Having 44:16 of possession time, the most of any team all year (and forever, according to Arizona coach ken Whisenhunt), and still managing only two touchdowns. This futility rate exceeds only Cleveland, which needed 42:56 to beat Seattle, 6-3, in Week 7.In short, while the rest of the league is seeing a spectacular march to glory from a team whos glory days are long ago, the 49ers are seeing offensive inefficiencies.Thus, while Smith is admitting to frustrations about the offenses ability to reprise its 48-3 win over Tampa Bay, the rest of the NFL is marveling at what the 49ers actually do:Namely, not let the opposition even rise to a level of frustration about the opportunities it wastes because there are no opportunities to be had.I usually dont credit to anyone, especially in the division, but I give credit to them, Arizona defensive end Darrell Dockett said when asked how the 49ers are different than the team he has known most of his career. Theyre still doing the same things, theyre still running the ball . . . actually, the quarterback is playing A LOT better. Hes not asked to do a lot, get the ball in there. The biggest thing theyve got for them is their defense. Its keeping them in the game so they CAN run the ball.Dockett is merely spouting the orthodoxy of 49er World make no mistakes, and wait for the defense to force its share. The Cardinals turned the ball over five times, gained barely half as many yards as the 49ers, and averaged a preposterous 1:19 per possession. Quarterback John Skelton was poor even by Whisenhunts public standards, and his 10.5 quarterback rating from six completions and three interceptions in 19 attempts seemed generous when placed next to his actually play.But the 49ers still left La Candeliere Sunday feeling more hungry than sated, and when Smith said, If we get those other three field goals (from David Akers, who was 3 for 6), its 32, and were probably feeling better about how we did, he didnt sound all that convincing.Convert half those field goal attempts to touchdowns, for example and the 49ers have a minimum 35 points, and the final score looks more like the run of play and less like a lost day against a defeated and demoralized opponent just playing out the string in mid-November.It is the new motivational point for the 49ers to be an offense the defense can be proud of, and can be confident in if it has its own off day down the road. Sundays breakout performers, Michael Crabtree (7 for 120) and Kyle Williams (5 for 54), helped jump-start a stagnant offense, but the 49ers are edging toward the time when jump-starting and stagnant should no longer be part of the vocabulary.Two other worrisome numbers: They rank closer to the bottom than the top in touchdowns scored, but lead in field goals and field goal attempts. Since the 49ers are running in Walsh Era territory, it should be mentioned that Walsh regarded a field goal with the same contempt he did a punt it represented not half a touchdown, but failure.Jim Harbaugh probably does as well, but maybe hes just dancing longer with who brought him.You never really know how good they are under the gun, down 21, and lets see them pass it all over the field, Dockett said. Instead, they keep it close, they dont make mistakes, they get three points and three points and its keeping them in games. Hell, Id keep doing it the same way every week if I was them.Then again, Dockett is on a team that is now 3-7, in full retreat, and feeling fortunate to have only lost by 16 on a day when a margin of twice that would have been barely explicable.And the 49ers are 9-1, knowing how good they are, but beginning to wonder how good they could be if they really assembled that offense that the defensive players could brag about to their friends.

Celtics are the rivals Warriors fans need

Celtics are the rivals Warriors fans need

You don’t think you needed this game to go this way, but you did, and you do.

The Golden State Warriors spat out a 17-point lead and lost, 92-88, in Boston Thursday night, in a game that was taut if not particularly elegant, and in a game that elevated the Celtics to a place that makes them the new heir apparent to the heir apparent.

The Celtics have been a difficult out for the Warriors during the Brad Stevens Era, losing six of nine but only being blown out twice, and Thursday was not one of those nights. The box score will tell you the shooting and rebounding problems, but the Warriors had that lead and didn’t hold it. Or, to be accurate, the Celtics had that deficit and refused to let it destroy them.

Which is exactly the kind of team you, the fully licensed Warrior fan, want to watch play your team in the NBA Finals. You want to see them genuinely challenged, forced to win outside their comfort zone, induced to show their greatness in the highest of high leverage situations.

At least we think that’s what you want. Maybe you prefer blowouts so you can drink and go to the bathroom without care or fear. After all, the Warriors have taught the area the true meaning of front-running by being in front so often.

But the Celtics play a level of defense typically reserved for the San Antonio Spurs, and yes, the Warriors. They have a spiky exoskeleton that the acquisition of Kyrie Irving has actually enhanced, and Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum give them a gifted precocity that fits well with veterans like Al Horford and Marcus Morris, and Boston’s overall youth (they are fifth youngest, while Golden State is third-oldest) ought to make them a more difficult conundrum than Cleveland or any other team in either conference.

They are not yet the superior team; that remains to be proven, and betting against the Warriors requires a level of irrational bravery left only for the truly self-destructive.

But they are, as we sit this evening, the team the Warriors will have to work hardest to finish, because on a night when they had the chance to do so, they didn’t. In other words, the fight for a third ring still goes through Oakland, but it looks more and more like a one-stop through Boston.

And as much as you may hate thinking about it, you’ll almost certainly remember, and savor, a Celtics-Warriors final more than another round of Cavs-on-the-half-shell.

Three reasons Draymond Green is the perfect college professor


Three reasons Draymond Green is the perfect college professor

Programming note: Warriors-Celtics coverage starts today at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming live right here 

Draymond Green spoke to a group of students at Harvard Thursday on the subject of leadership, and if you find that incongruous, shame on you.
I mean, who else would you want as a college professor?
Green has led, and been led. He has learned, and he has taught. He has certainly lectured, as any teammate, official and media member will testify. He’d be a hell of a teacher, and the subject almost doesn’t matter.
For one, homework would be different, as in I’d bet there would be no written work. I don’t see Prof. Day-Day poring over essays about the Industrial Revolution, M-theory or pre-Raphaelite art. Not even the history of Basketball-Reference.com.

For two, having tenured faculty audit his classes may find his choice of rhetoric a little strident, as in “What the ---- were you thinking, dude?” is not typically approved instructional methodology.
And three, nobody would get a grade. Green would mark every exam with a “35,” as in his draft position, and besides, the exams would be students arguing with each other over whether that was a foul or a no-call, and who pulled the better face when the call was made. He’d give either an approving nod or give the loser a second technical foul and kick him or her out of class.
But it would be a hell of a class. Not at Harvard, of course, because Green probably would want to teach a school that could better use his brand of wisdom, and Harvard kids already have a healthy lead off third base. He’d want his students to make Harvard students cry, you can just tell.
But wouldn’t he look perfectly Draymond in a cap and gown on graduation day, pulling a bottle out of his sleeve to make the valedictory speeches less painful. “Damn, dude,” you could hear him yell. “Peaking?”