Ray Ratto

Ratto: Raiders' Ford -- The Little Engine That Could


Ratto: Raiders' Ford -- The Little Engine That Could

Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

Thisis as good a time as any to go over the top for the Raiders. I mean,its been seven years and change since the last time they won threeconsecutive games, so what the hell?And of all the what-the-hells to emerge from the 23-20 overtime victoryover Kansas City, the most hellish of all was wide receiver-ette JacobyFord.It was Fords 94-yard kick return to start the second half that put theRaiders back into a game it had shown little interest joining. It washis outmuscling of Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers for the 29-yardcompletion that set up Sebastian Janikowskis game-tying field goal.And it was his sensational 47-yard catch in overtime that set up thegame-winning kick by Janikowski, putting the Raiders in very rarefiedair, to wit: Theywon three games in succession for the time since the end of the 2002season (two to end the regular season and two in the postseason). Theyve beaten all three AFC West opponents for the first time since that season. They have a winning record for the first time since Week 3 of 2004.For this, a lot of people can be thanked, but first and foremost isFord, the 5-9 (if that), 185-pound rookie from Clemson who made themost of the vacancies opened by the injuries to Louis Murphy and tightend Zach Miller and became a full fledged go-to guy.I did something I dreamed of doing, making plays, having fun, Fordsaid, admiring his six-catch, 148-yard, kick-return-touchdown day.Its something Ive been dreaming of since I was little.No pun allowed.Strangely, it wasnt his work as a wide receiver that openedquarterback Jason Campbells eyes to him, though, but the kick returnthat started the second half and took out most of Kansas Citys 10-0halftime lead.I just found a lane, got a block and started running with it, he said. It was set up really well for me.And armed with the kind of nutritional spark that comes only by eatingspaghetti and meatballs before a game (because Frosted Flakes arentavailable), he burst into prominence in the teams first true must-wingame since Super Bowl XXXVII.Then again, it might not have been the kick return, but the ball hewrestled from Flowers on the third-and-8 from the Kansas City 45 earlyin the fourth that set up Janikowskis first field goal, a 23-yarderthat made it 17-13.That might have been the one, when I scrambled and threw it down thefield for him, Campbell said. He just went up and got control of theball. When a guy makes plays like that, you want to keep going to himto make more and more.So he did, four more times, for 12, 7, 28 and 47 yards. He threw onlyfive other balls to other receivers after that catch, because hedfound the man who not only could save the Raiders but save himself froma day head coach Tom Cable described as frustrating, kind of ugly,frustrating and then really something.Indeed, Ford saved a lot of bacon Sunday. While the defense did asuperb job bottling up the Chiefs offense, the Oakland attack wasmiserable in the first half and needed a two-yard fade to tackle KhalifBarnes to take the lead in the second half. And then there were the 15 penalties for 140 yards that stirred Cableswire-haired ire; I know were a more disciplined team than that, hesnapped, closing on criticizing Jeff Triplettes crew without actuallydoing so.And the third-down conversions, and the silly fake punt call that Cabletook the blame for, and just a general disarray that undermined whatcould have been their true breakout game.Then again, three weeks ago, they lost to the 49ers, so this is prettymuch as big a breakout as they have any reason to think they deservefor now. They are not yet a well-oiled machine, but at least theirgears move for a change. Campbell has not yet won Cables heart (Idont want to get into that right now) but he stopped people frombooing him as though he were a guy whod stolen a school bus with thekids still in it.But they are in a place they havent been for quite some time, and ifthis is as good as it gets, its better than its been. And for that,the first meatball goes to Jacoby Ford. It may not seem like much of areward to you, but hell understand, and appreciate it.

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?”