Ray Ratto

Ratto: Answers await in Sharks-Canucks Game 2


Ratto: Answers await in Sharks-Canucks Game 2


VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- One of the best things about losing Game 1 of a series is that any old excuse will work. Tired? Candy-legs? Distracted? Not enough time to scout properly? Great.

And if you do it on the road, even better. Dont get the last change? Cant match up? Disadvantage on faceoffs? Ice bad? Boards too lively? Crowd a distraction? Sure, what the hell. Its all good when its bad.

Game 2, though, is where the answers are given, and when the explanations for a small sample size event stop. The Sharks may not be able to take a mulligan on Game 1 of the Western Conference Final, but they will enter Game 2 knowing that the issues are starkly simple.

Win. Or prepare to face the whirlwind.

At this stage, talent will win out, and excuses will turn you out. The last 28 teams to win the first two games of a series at conference final level or beyond have won, and the last team to go down 0-2 and win was Pittsburgh in the 1991 Eastern Conference Final. That team also defied logic by being taken to seven games in the first round and still winning the Stanley Cup, and the only other team to do so since then was the 1992 Penguins.

In short, we will know Wednesday night if the Sharks were tired from the prolongation of the Detroit series, or if the accumulation of hard games (six against Los Angeles, making San Jose and Vancouver the busiest of the four semifinalists) is mocking their calves, or if -- and this has not yet been proven but would be the most dismaying of all -- Vancouver is simply better.

That was the explanation last year for why the Sharks went down to Chicago, and it was entirely correct. The Blackhawks were simply and comprehensively better, the superior team, and would have been if the series had been best-of-15.

There is insufficient evidence to repeat that claim this year, not off one game in which the Sharks slowly but surely got eased out of Rogers Arena. They did get the giftiest goal (Joe Thorntons), they didnt possess the puck very long or well, and they wasted Antti Niemis latest Niemi-ism. And they lost, because Vancouver was better when the chips go in the middle of the table.

Again, thats only one, and things change swiftly and without explanation, more in hockey than in any other sport. But a Canuck win in Game 2 would go a long way to proving the same point. That theyre better, and that the Sharks have hit their logical end.

A Sharks win, on the other hand, would give us not only a series, but likely a very long and arduous one, the kind that does a great rating but plays hob with the psyches of the fellows. A win would make this a fair fight between equals, and who doesnt like a fair fight among equals. Other than the WWE, I mean?

So the Sharks dont get to be tired any more. They either get to win, or they get to turn this very possible dream into a damned near impossible task. And nobody is going to be all that keen on knowing why they didnt -- not while theres still a lot of ifs still to be played.

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?”