Ray Ratto

Ratto: Sharks need to sharpen game for run at Cup


Ratto: Sharks need to sharpen game for run at Cup

Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

Hockey people hate the concept of style points. Always have, always will. They prefer the starker and more basic view -- Survive and advance. Fall and play golf.Well, tough. They can be correct with that as far as it goes, but there are different standards for different teams in different years. That is every bit as true as Survive and advance.RECAP: Sharks survive, oust Kings on Thornton's OT goal
So it is with the Sharks, triumphant in a manner of speaking over the Los Angeles Kings in a series that, for the Sharks liking, took too long, demanded too much exertions and exposed too many flaws to be an unqualified triumph.

I mean, the whole idea wasnt to stand glorious over a fallen seven-seed and howl, Hurray! Look what we did! The idea was, and is, to nuzzle up to the Stanley Cup, or in the alternative to at least closer than ever before.It was not to show Chicago, or Detroit, a potential goaltending issue, an ongoing defensive problem, or remind us all of the Sharks proud history of making their job more difficult than it needs be.RATTO: Sharks win it their way, the hard way
Indeed, as series victories go, this was among the least satisfying in Sharks history, rivaled only by the seven-gamer over Calgary three years ago when San Jose was also a two-seed, and a more comfortable one than they were this season. That went seven games, and the Sharks had to catch up twice and then get run in Game 6 before surviving and advancing in Jeremy Roenicks last fine moment as an NHL player.But this series, as much as it may have done to temporarily elevate Joe Thorntons reputation as a goal scorer, also took a toll on San Joses position as a Cup contender. Oh, they outshot the Kings, as they always seem to do, and they won the faceoff battles, as they always seem to do, and they showed just enough of what made them good in the second half to make one think they could do it again.But they also needed three overtime wins to advance. They got hammered on a night when the Kings were missing the very important Jarret Stoll. They got choke-slammed with a series clincher staring them in the face. They found cracks in Antti Niemis armor and cement in his leg pads, for all the long-distance rebounds he allowed. The defensive six only performed in fits and starts, and Dan Boyle, the best of them, struggled more than he ever has since arriving here. And their two worst games occurred at home, likely due to being overamped and less attentive to the details that separated them from the pack to begin with.They were, in short, not inspirational in victory. And maybe thats just the way they need to be -- this close to ignominy and rebuke. As comfortable as a fellow lounging on a razor-blade lounger. Always one bad turn away from another summer of finger-pointing and recrimination.Of course, thats what Sharks fans would like to think -- that their favorites are at their best when theyre at their worst. Its a nice fantasy, one that covers a multitude of sins.But logic demands another view -- that they spent too much time with the Kings for their own good, and that they have an awful lot to remedy if they are to stand an even chance against Detroit, or a better than average chance against Chicago. The arrogance of thinking your worst game somehow strengthens you is always dangerous, and the Sharks need humility now more than ever.In short, they did survive, and they did advance, but they didnt do it the way a champion does. They can still be considered one, but they have to be significantly better, dramatically more efficient, and hugely more receptive to the knowledge they fought for three months to obtain.That skill does not come before persistence or discipline, but after it. Learn that and live it, and they can survive and advance again. Ignore it, and live with the harsh consequences.Now those are style points.

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?”