Ray Ratto

Giants channel 2010 in historic sweep of Dodgers

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Giants channel 2010 in historic sweep of Dodgers

BOX SCORE
SAN FRANCISCO -- The novelty of sweeping any team by holding them to zero runs is something to admire. Doing it to the team you hate, better. Doing it to the team you hate when they had the best record in your league, grander still.

And now, with a 3-0 win over Los Angeles to go with the 8-0 and 2-0 wins just before it, the Giants understand that the novelty is done, and the self-satisfaction ended when the cars pulled into the driveways.

That is the game even when you want to preen and have every good reason to do so, the workload is simply too great to allow it. Having comprehensively crushed the Dodgers, the Giants get to bask in it for . . . .

Well, actually, times already up. The second-best team is down and bleeding, but now there are four with Cincinnati, the third best team, and then three with Washington, currently the best team. The Giants, in sum, aced a midterm, and thats all.

Well, almost all. In relocating the best Barry Zito theyve ever known and watching Tim Lincecum resurrect himself, the Giants look as close right now to the team that closed 2010 as it ever has. The starting pitching looks deep again, nobody got hurt in holding the Dodgers to 13 singles and three doubles (although Hector Sanchez looked a but the worse for wear after Wednesday), and the players are convinced again that they are more than one-trick ponies.

RELATED: Zito leaves Giants fans with no complaints

It isnt so much in what they say; they have mastered the art of the buttondown. Having seen the good times and the bad in back-to-back seasons, they have learned the value of equilibrium. And having played a few seasons, they know that exactly zero pennants have been won after Game 76.

At least thats been the case since 1882, and only Jeremy Affeldt remembers that season.

But shutting out the Dodgers thrice does send them a message, albeit a muted one, and it is this: Good teams can dominate bad teams any time, but the best teams can dominate good teams when they are down. The Giants had nothing that had to be done in this series except avoid injuries and maybe relocate their two wayward starters, but they throat-punched the Kemp-less Dodgers in a way they havent managed against any one team since 1954.

And we all know what happened that year, hint-hint-fake-harbinger-chickens-counted-before-hatching.

And shutting out a good team three times, while it is a novelty, also puts some go in their show as they head toward the All-Star Break. They knew they could be good, but this was the first time all year they saw how good they could be.

GAME RECAPS: Game 1, Game 2 & Game 3

Not will continue to be, because they are not without their flaws. They just have fewer of them than they did a year ago not as many outs in the orders, not as many distracted players living off the fat of the Series trophy, not as many injuries, etc.

And let us not forget that the National League is awash with flawed teams; the Dodgers lost Matt Kemp and went sideways, and now they are probably without Andre Ethier until after the All-Star Break. Washington hasnt figured out how to make all their pitching translate into dominance, Cincinnati is all fits and starts, and Atlanta, New York, Arizona, St. Louis and Pittsburgh are largely interchangeable at this point.

But the Giants proved with this series that they are capable of being every bit the unpleasant opponent they were in 2010. They may not recreate that season; only an idiot would venture such a stretch with the season not yet half over.

They have their nasty back, though. The Dodgers are the first team to truly feel its sting, and even if it is just an accident of timing, its an accident that left tire tracks all over the top end of the National League.

NBA All-Star Game more and more reveals personalities rather than skills

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AP

NBA All-Star Game more and more reveals personalities rather than skills

The voting for the NBA All-Star starters was properly instructive to both Adam Silver and the public at large about exactly what the game is meant to be – which is why I totally get their decision not to televise the All-Star draft.

It’s really a personality test for everyone involved, for good and ill.

I think having a draft nobody can see is idiotic, stealing an idea the NHL used and then discarded years ago and then not employing the reason why they did it to begin with, but if the All-Star Game is really an expression of ego, then the next best thing to having no draft is having one nobody can see.

The All-Star Game really only functions as a coronation of the elite by the elite, a festival of mutual backslapping friend-rewarding that has nothing to do with the playing of the game, or the moving of the T-shirts or jerseys or expensive hotel rooms. This is about stratifying the player pool so that everyone knows who’s who and what’s what.

Everything else is irrelevant, and the draft reinforces that. Kevin Durant not wanting to be a captain is strategic thinking by a future industrialist. Stephen Curry not minding being a captain is the perfect who-cares statement for someone who doesn’t mind playing the game because objecting to it takes too much work. LeBron James being a captain is the perfect political muscle-flexing that fits his personality.

Damian Lillard already assuming that he won’t be named to the team is a statement about his being considered the perpetual one-level-down guard. Russell Westbrook being named and then controlling the ball as he would in a regular season game is a statement about how he views his place as a disruptor. And on and on and on – the All-Star Game more and more reveals personalities rather than skills.

Does televising the draft help us understand the actual meaning of the event? Maybe, but the NBA would prefer you consider it a festival of the game itself, which it plainly isn’t. Proof, you say? 192-182 in 2017. 196-173 in 2016. 163-158 in 2015. 163-155 in 2014. There hasn’t been a normal-looking score in 15 years, which means it’s not a game at all.

That isn’t the news, though. It’s that the NBA has made this is a three-day event – the day the captains and starters are named, the day the reserves are picked, and the day that teams are chosen. And every bit of it is about the reaction to that. There is no show thereafter, and the players know it. They care about the selections, because that’s how they’re keeping score.

So go team. Whatever the hell that means.

 

Who is now the Warriors' biggest rival?

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USATSI

Who is now the Warriors' biggest rival?

Earlier we discussed how the Golden State Warriors have seemingly moved beyond hating on NBA officials (three technical fouls in 18 days is a stunning reversal of their formerly disputatious form), but we may have forgotten one new reason why they have found a more Buddhist approach to the cutthroat world of American competitive sport.

They lack someone new to hate.

Their much-chewed-upon rivalry with the Los Angeles Clippers actually lasted two years, and now the Clippers are busy trying to prevent military incursions into their locker room from the Houston Rockets. Their even more famous archrivalry with the Cleveland Cavaliers seems to be imploding – with the total connivance of the Cavs themselves – before our eyes. Even cutting off their hot water made them laugh when two years ago not letting the Warriors' wives get to the game on time torqued them mightily.

And since we know that you locals desperately need a bête noire for your heroes (even though their biggest foe is actually their own attention spans), let us consider the new candidates.

HOUSTON

The Rockets have been among the Warriors’ most persistent contender/pretenders, having faced them in both the first round of the 2017 postseason and the conference finals in 2015. Both ended in 4-1 Warrior wins as part of a greater piece – Golden State is 19-4 against the Rockets in the Warriors’ bad-ass era, 10-2 at home and 9-2 on the road, and has finished an aggregate 59.5 games ahead of the Rockets in the past three and a half years.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include James Harden and Chris Paul, while Rockets fans loathe Draymond Green and Kevin Durant and work their way down from there.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 32,353): 19. The Rockets need to win a playoff series before even matching the Clippers, who as we all know came and went in a moment.

SAN ANTONIO

The previous platinum standard in Western Conference basketball, the Spurs have never really gone away, though they have aged. Their pedigree is not in dispute, and Steve Kerr has essentially become the next generation of Gregg Popovich. It is hard to create a rivalry out of such shamelessly mutual admiration.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include . . . uhh, maybe Kawhi Leonard for winning two Defensive Player Of The Year Awards instead of Draymond Green, though that’s not much to go on, frankly. Spurs fans hate Zaza Pachulia for stepping beneath Leonard and ending last year’s series before it started.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 23): 1. If they didn’t have to play against each other, I suspect these two teams would date.

OKLAHOMA CITY

The Thunder’s 3-1 collapse in 2016 is all but ignored now because the Warriors did the same thing one series later, but lifting Kevin Durant was quite the consolation prize for Golden State, and the definitive finger in the eye for the Thunder, who turned their team over completely to Russell Westbrook, for good and ill. Even with the additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony are still trying to relocate their stride.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include Westbrook and Anthony for defining the I-need-the-ball-in-my-hands-to-function generation, and owner Clay Bennett for Seattle SuperSonics nostalgics. Thunder frans hate Durant, followed by Durant, Durant, Kim Jong-un, Durant, leprosy, Draymond Green’s foot, and Durant.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 440): 220. Westbrook is a human lightning rod, Anthony is the antithesis of what Warriors now regard basketball (they’d have loved him a quarter-century ago), and Stephen Adams for getting his goolies in the way of Green’s foot. Plus, some savvy Warrior fans can blame OKC for extending their heroes to seven games, thus making the final against Cleveland that much more difficult. This could work, at least in the short term.

PORTLAND

Damian Lillard is a much-beloved local. Plus, the Blazers have never interfered in the Warriors’ universe save their 1-8 postseason record. There are no truly hateable players on either side, though Stephen Curry threw his first mouthpiece in Portland, and Green is a perennial.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 1): 0.

BOSTON

The new pretender to throne, with the Eastern Conference’s version of Kerr in Brad Stevens. Even better since taking advantage of Kyrie Irving’s weariness with LeBron James, and until proven otherwise the team the Warriors should most concern themselves with.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include Irving, who made the only shot in the last five minutes of Game 7 of the 2016 Finals, while Celtics fans hate Durant for not signing with them.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 67.7): 26, though this will rise if the two teams meet in the Finals. The last time they did, Bill Russell owned basketball.

THE REST OF THE EAST

Still too remote to adequately quantify, though Toronto, Miami and Milwaukee are clearly difficult matches for the Warriors. If you put them together, Kyle Lowry, Demar DeRozan, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Hassan Whiteside with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe coming off the bench, coached by either Eric Spoelstra or Jason Kidd, would make a fun team for the Warriors to play against. Probably not functional, but fun.

And finally:

SACRAMENTO

Some decade the two teams’ geographical proximity will matter, but for now, they remain essentially two full professional leagues away from each other. We just mentioned them so Kings fans wouldn’t feel any more slighted than they already do.