Ray Ratto

Ratto: Sharks poised to finish what they started


Ratto: Sharks poised to finish what they started


Ray Ratto

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks are in great shape has often been code for The Sharks are preparing to emit an enormous egg. Thats what happens when your reputation as a skilled and deep team clashes with your reputation for postseason tracheotomies.

But as the San Joses prepare for Game 5 of this Western Conference quarterfinal series with the wobbling Los Angeles Kings, one gets a greater sense they can finish this series without too much fuss or muss because they have gotten so much production from the beneath-the-radar brigade.

Oh, sure there are the cheap amusements like, Is Dany Heatley really a dirty play like Terry Murray said he is? and Who was Joe Thornton blowing a kiss to after his goal in Game 4? But those are empty calories, not to be trusted, for entertainment purposes only.

RELATED: Kings' coach calls out Dany Heatley
What makes one think the Sharks will finish this off with a sonic stomp is the fact that so much of the game-changing is being done not by the big names, but by the small players.

Like Ian White, the former Carolina and Toronto defenseman who began his postseason career with an exquisite headache and is now the second leading scoring defenseman in the league.

Like Scott Nichol, the belt sander with feet who altered Game 4 by first submitting to King Drew Doughtys temper and then elevating it to such a point that he turned the game.

And like Kyle Wellwood, the right wing on the third line who has altered not only his linemates play but those of the Kings who have faced it.

Wellwoods contributions have been the most subtle; his forecheck in Game 4 led directly to the Thornton goal that crushed L.A.s one comeback, and his three assists and plus-4 stand out as numbers, but for the most part he has been simply a steady contributor to the overall health of the Joe Pavelski line.

Certainly this has been good for me, the stubbornly reserved winger said. I think I jelled well with Joe and Torrey (Mitchell), and theres always that feeling when youre fitting in, the game is much more comfortable. Its more fun when youre a contributor.

Wellwood has bounced about from Toronto to Vancouver to Atlant Moscow Oblast (no, not Atlanta) to St. Louis, but he has finally found a consistent place here, to the point where head coach Todd McLellan is probably underutilizing him by not giving him some power play time such is his passing and vision ability.

White, on the other hand, has seen this coming since he started playing. He just never got a chance to show it.

Oh, this is how Ive imagined it all along, he said. I knew I could play at a high level, contribute and help us win. Im kind of built for the postseason, I think. I can dig down deeper, give some extra, contribute where its needed. Ive been ready for this.

That said, five assists in seven periods is an exemplary bit of production.

RELATED: Sharks win despite getting outshot by Kings
Finally, there is Nichol, who engaged with Doughty (well, was engaged with Doughty, more like) enough to take him to the penalty box on coincidental minor penalties that resulted in two Sharks goals.

Nichol seemed a bit sheepish about his contribution for attribution, though he understands the value of the tradeoff between the fourth-line center and the top defenseman. So does Dan Boyle, the Sharks top defenseman, who said, Oh, thats a tradeoff that works in our favor. Its a very good trade, in fact.

He then broke into laughter as he struggled not to make it seem like Nichol was acceptable collateral damage. Make sure you write that I was laughing when I said that, he said. Then he laughed again.

These bricks in the wall have given San Jose a depth advantage that some people suspected wasnt there, or that could be exploited later in the postseason. And maybe it can. But so far, not now, not here, not by the Kings. And when the not-quite-big-names are owning their space, its easier for the dreadnoughts to own theirs as well.

In short, the Sharks may turn this back into a series with a lackluster performance Saturday night, but theyre going to work very hard to do so, because theyve shown all the signs and all the numbers required to be a team that finishes what it starts rather than being finished by what it starts.

WATCH: Game 4 highlights

Heatley explained his trip on Kings defenseman Alec Martinez that so irritated Murray as a simple case of, He tried to get out of my way, and I just didnt move. Whatever. To the surprise of no people, there was no interest from the league in convening a disciplinary hearing.

The Sharks lead the league in the postseason with a 57.4 percent faceoff conversion rate, and Thornton is third at 64.6, behind only Boyd Gordon of Washington and Chris Drury of New York.

No lineup or line changes are expected, and all players are healthy. Friday was mostly a mentalphysicalmaintenance day, so there was no organized practice. The Kings worked out in Los Angeles and arrived later Friday.

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?”