Ray Ratto

Improved 49ers doing it with D, a la 1981


Improved 49ers doing it with D, a la 1981

These numbers are for comparison only, and not as proof that the 49ers are going to do in 2011 what they did 30 years earlier from 6-10 to a parade.In 1980, the 49ers ranked 13th in total offense; in 1981, they rose to seventh. A modest but decent climb.In 1980, the 49ers ranked 26th in total defense, out of 28 teams; in 1981, they were second.Sound familiar?
This, then, is the quick fix the defense. And whatever your position on Jim Harbaugh might be, he does understand history.
The 1981 49ers managed to take 165 points off their defensive total, more than a touchdown and field goal PER GAME. Also, they dropped 1,206 yards of unsightly fat, 75 yards PER GAME. That was with Bill Walsh, offensive genius.Also, Bill Walsh, football historian. He knew that building a defense was easier and faster than an offense, and he did such a thing. He didn't expect the kind of return he got, but he knew it was the sounder path.This 49ers transformation isnt that stark from 16th last year to 1st so far this season, and greater mathematicians than I can figure out the more arcane metrics and strength of schedule caveats with our blessings.And while the offense has gone from 24th to 8th in points scored, which would seem to undercut the message here, they are 31st in plays run from scrimmage, 20th in yards per play, 24th in total yards, and 25th in first downs.This suggests that the offense has benefited from a plus-10 turnover ratio, and a goodly number of short fields, which means that the offense is running well under optimal conditions. Nothing wrong with that, but it helps to understand that this leap from no to go is largely a defensive creation. And that there is a template for how high such improvement can take a team.I mean, in case you were sending a coldcut platter to team headquarters or something like that. After all, you know what they say about the best of times when you have to say it, say it with cured meats.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

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?”