Ray Ratto

Ratto: Sharks so razor-sharp, even McLellan can't critique


Ratto: Sharks so razor-sharp, even McLellan can't critique

SAN JOSE -- Todd McLellan, ever mindful of what can go wrong, had a hard time figuring out what actually did Sunday.

We were happy with how we played in Game 1, the Sharks head coach said after watching his team win Game 2, 2-1 over the Detroit Red Wings, but we played with better intensity, I thought, and we had a little more battle-a-bility, if thats what you want to call it. And this was a harder game to play.

In what way, you might ask, given that the Sharks essentially defined and controlled if not outright dominated the last 50 minutes?

Detroit made it harder, he said, ever mindful not to stir the distressed giant any further. They had more sustained time in our end and against the boards. We had to do a lot more tonight with the penalty kill in six of the first 10 minutes. But yes, in some ways this was our best game (of the postseason).

And yet Detroits Nicklas Lidstrom hit the post with 2:42 to play, otherwise all that Sharks advantage talk would be for naught.

Yes, this is still a drumhead-tight series, even though San Jose has now won successive 2-1 games and goes to Detroit having won six of the last seven playoff games and 10 of the last 12 anything games.

RELATED: Sharks Game 2 video

But yes, this was also San Joses best performance yet. After spending much of the first 10 minutes down a man, including a four-minute high-sticking call on Benn Ferriero against Justin Abdelkader, the Sharks slowly but surely grabbed the game and choke-slammed it into submission -- or as close to submission as the Red Wings will allow.

Yeah, thats fair, Joe Thornton said. Our second period was pretty good, we just got after it and stayed after it, and spent a lot of time in their end. Thats what we all talked about before the team that spends more time in the other guys end is going to win the game.

And yet Detroits Nicklas Lidstrom hit the post with 2:42 to play, otherwise all that Sharks advantage talk would be for naught.

The Sharks got goals from the redoubtable offensive machines Ian White and Niclas (The Bleeding Beard) Wallin, and superb performances from the other four defenders, most notably Dan Boyle.

He was very good, McLellan said, and you notice that when hes really good, so is 3 (Douglas Murray).

But San Jose also got standout work from a veritable army of backchecking forwards as well, from the defensively attentive, like Thornton, Scott Nichol and Ryane Clowe, to the offensively prejudiced, like Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi.

As a result, the Sharks lost the first period but handled the second and third, and now head to Detroit as they did a year ago, two games to the good and with visions of a conference final in their heads yet again.

But killing a team is apparently harder than it used to be. Taking only non-first-round series into account, four of the last 13 teams to win the first two games at home eventually lost the series, starting with the 06 Sharks in the now famous Edmonton Fiasco.

We know how good they are, White said, and we know theyre only going to be better in their building, so we cant let up. In fact, we have to be better.

It is hard to know if the Sharks can be better than this; if they can, it is probably in the needless penalty area. Their often spotty penalty kill was 5-for-6, and they also squeezed out another power play goal (the White slapshot, from a nifty dumpoff by Heatley).

But Sharks aficionados know that San Jose is always one complacent thought from being back on their heels. Their lack of ability to put the boot in when the for is prone is as much a part of the franchise as the papier mache shark head in the ceiling.

Thus, Wednesdays third game will require at least as much attention to the details as the first two. It will require more Antti Niemi, and Boyle and White and Wallin and Thornton and Heatley and all the other gents if they are to reach their third conference final in seven years, and with a decent amount of rest.

And don't forget, Detroits Nicklas Lidstrom hit the post with 2:42 to play, otherwise all that Sharks advantage talk would be for naught.
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?”