Ray Ratto

Ratto: Sharks vs. Kings -- 5 unconventional factors

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Ratto: Sharks vs. Kings -- 5 unconventional factors

April 12, 2011

RATTO ARCHIVERay Ratto
CSNCalifornia.com Conventional wisdom is an insidious evil. It provides comfort and contentment while gnawing at your very soul. It lengthens reaction times and dulls the senses. It is the road to hell.Or its the smart play, made by smart people. One or the other.Thus, while everyone who pays attention to the National Hockey League is quite sure that the San Jose Sharks will handle the Los Angeles Kings in good order starting Thursday, the wise person covers both ends.

With that in mind, here are five perfectly good reasons why the conventional wisdom about this series could be conventional, but not wisdom.1. JONATHAN QUICK
The Kings goalie is not yet fully battle-tested in the postseason six games in a lost series to Vancouver last year but next to Nashvilles Pekka Rinne, he may be the Western Conference goaltender best positioned to stand on his head multiple times against a superior team. And since everyone the Kings might face is a superior team, hed have to. The advantage he has is that under coach Terry Murray, the Kings have become a defensive team first, last and always, making the job of headstands all the easier.RELATED: Sharks depth chart Kings depth chart
2. THE DEFENDERS
This is Los Angeles most dramatic advantage. Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson, you know about, but the depth is what separates the Kings. Murray, a former defenseman himself (you may remember him as a proud Oakland Seal), attracted former Penguin Rob Scuderi, former Wild and Canuck Willie Mitchell, and got dramatic improvement from Alec Martinez to form a five-man core that stands with any in the game. Johnson is minus-21, but the Sharks would take him in a heartbeat, and he and Doughty are among the games best puck-control defensemen. If they get their freedom of action, the Sharks jobs gets dramatically harder.
3. THE WALL
The Kings use their size to dominate along the boards, both with body work and persistence when it comes to digging pucks away from opponents. Part of this is Murrays upbringing, but the additional influence of assistant coach John Stevens, the former Philadelphia coach makes them particularly adept. It may, in fact, be the one thing that makes the Kings unique among the morass of Western Conference teams between seeds four and eight, and it may also be the one thing that the Sharks may not handle well. This is why Ryane Clowe may be the most important Shark in this series he is the teams best pure grinder, and much will be required of him.
NEWS: NHL headlines
4. THE HISTORY
The Sharks may have gotten to the conference final last year, but one of the reasons they have been so adept at flying under the radar is their years of underachievement in the spring. Nobody trusts the bandwagons they have built in the past, so they have taken comfort in the fact that there is no bandwagon at all this time. This, though, is true: You dont change your history until youve actually changed it, and while everyone who pays attention is focused on Vancouver as the capo di tutti capos of the West, the Sharks have been the hottest team in hockey for three months now. There are expectations, and then there are stealth expectations. And expectations are bad. 5. THE STUFF HAPPENS CLAUSE
There is something suspicious about these playoffs other than the delicious Chicago-Vancouver series, there arent a lot of upset possibilities revealing themselves. Nobody buys the Rangers against Washington, there is considerable skepticism about Phoenix over Detroit, Montreal over Boston, Tampa Bay over Pittsburgh and Buffalo over Philadelphia. Someone is going to break ranks here, and the fact that there is such unanimity of feeling about Sharks-Kings makes a body wonder what were missing. The answer is, Probably nothing, but it isnt so probable that it becomes a mortal lock. The Sharks look like a safe play, but theyve looked like a safe play before. In short, be careful what you assume, lest you end up hating the other Southern California team as much as you hate Anaheim.

Who is now the Warriors' biggest rival?

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Who is now the Warriors' biggest rival?

Earlier we discussed how the Golden State Warriors have seemingly moved beyond hating on NBA officials (three technical fouls in 18 days is a stunning reversal of their formerly disputatious form), but we may have forgotten one new reason why they have found a more Buddhist approach to the cutthroat world of American competitive sport.

They lack someone new to hate.

Their much-chewed-upon rivalry with the Los Angeles Clippers actually lasted two years, and now the Clippers are busy trying to prevent military incursions into their locker room from the Houston Rockets. Their even more famous archrivalry with the Cleveland Cavaliers seems to be imploding – with the total connivance of the Cavs themselves – before our eyes. Even cutting off their hot water made them laugh when two years ago not letting the Warriors' wives get to the game on time torqued them mightily.

And since we know that you locals desperately need a bête noire for your heroes (even though their biggest foe is actually their own attention spans), let us consider the new candidates.

HOUSTON

The Rockets have been among the Warriors’ most persistent contender/pretenders, having faced them in both the first round of the 2017 postseason and the conference finals in 2015. Both ended in 4-1 Warrior wins as part of a greater piece – Golden State is 19-4 against the Rockets in the Warriors’ bad-ass era, 10-2 at home and 9-2 on the road, and has finished an aggregate 59.5 games ahead of the Rockets in the past three and a half years.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include James Harden and Chris Paul, while Rockets fans loathe Draymond Green and Kevin Durant and work their way down from there.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 32,353): 19. The Rockets need to win a playoff series before even matching the Clippers, who as we all know came and went in a moment.

SAN ANTONIO

The previous platinum standard in Western Conference basketball, the Spurs have never really gone away, though they have aged. Their pedigree is not in dispute, and Steve Kerr has essentially become the next generation of Gregg Popovich. It is hard to create a rivalry out of such shamelessly mutual admiration.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include . . . uhh, maybe Kawhi Leonard for winning two Defensive Player Of The Year Awards instead of Draymond Green, though that’s not much to go on, frankly. Spurs fans hate Zaza Pachulia for stepping beneath Leonard and ending last year’s series before it started.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 23): 1. If they didn’t have to play against each other, I suspect these two teams would date.

OKLAHOMA CITY

The Thunder’s 3-1 collapse in 2016 is all but ignored now because the Warriors did the same thing one series later, but lifting Kevin Durant was quite the consolation prize for Golden State, and the definitive finger in the eye for the Thunder, who turned their team over completely to Russell Westbrook, for good and ill. Even with the additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony are still trying to relocate their stride.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include Westbrook and Anthony for defining the I-need-the-ball-in-my-hands-to-function generation, and owner Clay Bennett for Seattle SuperSonics nostalgics. Thunder frans hate Durant, followed by Durant, Durant, Kim Jong-un, Durant, leprosy, Draymond Green’s foot, and Durant.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 440): 220. Westbrook is a human lightning rod, Anthony is the antithesis of what Warriors now regard basketball (they’d have loved him a quarter-century ago), and Stephen Adams for getting his goolies in the way of Green’s foot. Plus, some savvy Warrior fans can blame OKC for extending their heroes to seven games, thus making the final against Cleveland that much more difficult. This could work, at least in the short term.

PORTLAND

Damian Lillard is a much-beloved local. Plus, the Blazers have never interfered in the Warriors’ universe save their 1-8 postseason record. There are no truly hateable players on either side, though Stephen Curry threw his first mouthpiece in Portland, and Green is a perennial.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 1): 0.

BOSTON

The new pretender to throne, with the Eastern Conference’s version of Kerr in Brad Stevens. Even better since taking advantage of Kyrie Irving’s weariness with LeBron James, and until proven otherwise the team the Warriors should most concern themselves with.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include Irving, who made the only shot in the last five minutes of Game 7 of the 2016 Finals, while Celtics fans hate Durant for not signing with them.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 67.7): 26, though this will rise if the two teams meet in the Finals. The last time they did, Bill Russell owned basketball.

THE REST OF THE EAST

Still too remote to adequately quantify, though Toronto, Miami and Milwaukee are clearly difficult matches for the Warriors. If you put them together, Kyle Lowry, Demar DeRozan, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Hassan Whiteside with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe coming off the bench, coached by either Eric Spoelstra or Jason Kidd, would make a fun team for the Warriors to play against. Probably not functional, but fun.

And finally:

SACRAMENTO

Some decade the two teams’ geographical proximity will matter, but for now, they remain essentially two full professional leagues away from each other. We just mentioned them so Kings fans wouldn’t feel any more slighted than they already do.

How? Why? In 2018, the Warriors have been borderline zen

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How? Why? In 2018, the Warriors have been borderline zen

On a day and night when 21 technical fouls were called and five players ejected over 11 National Basketball Association games, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers received none of either in a game that should have created enough tension to warm the Yukon. This clearly makes no sense . . .

. . . unless of course the Warriors, having set a new trend early in the season for agonized dissent, have moved on to whatever the next thing is.

While a simmering uncivil war has bubbled between officials (and the management types who started this whole thing by telling officials to cut down on conversations and calm interactions with players and coaches), the Warriors have been on as close to their best behavior as they can manage.

Since the new year turned, the Warriors have played eight games and amassed only three technicals, one to Steve Kerr and two to players (Zaza Pachulia and, yes, you guessed it, Draymond Green). Oh, they still lead the league with 29 spaced over eight players and Kerr, plus seven ejections led by Kevin Durant’s three, but their seemingly insurmountable lead has been reduced to three over Oklahoma City and Phoenix (Phoenix?) and four over Houston and Charlotte (Charlotte?).

Indeed, you’d think that they could have mustered up at least one Monday night in Cleveland given the hype for this seemingly dying rivalry. I mean, the league even offered up one of its best and most strident officials in Scott Foster, whom Warrior fans are convinced is deliberately mean to the Warriors.

But here, too, is an outdated trope. The Warriors are 14-1 in their last 15 regular season games with Foster, and their postseason record of 7-5 with him is more a measure of him getting the maximum number of Finals games, where the Warriors have seven of their 16 postseason defeats. That doesn’t prove bias as much as it does frequency of use.

But we wander into the woods here. The point is, as the new discussion point is the much-advertised summit meeting between officials and players union officials at the All-Star break, the Warriors have been borderline zen. Why? Who knows? Maybe player performance maven Chelsea Lane is putting tranquilizers into their athletic drinks. Maybe they’ve taken up chanting. Maybe they can turn their ire on and off as they do the rest of their game. Or maybe these are the dog days for mouthing off at The Man.

Except that everyone else in the league seems to be taking up the cause of the revolution, so that last one can't be it.

Now we are willing to accept the possibility that so many day games Monday for the Martin Luther King holiday put the players off their typical routine, although the biggest incident of the evening happened in the night game between Houston and the Los Angeles Clippers.

It may simply be, then, that the Warriors either have nothing more to complain about, have taken to heart the lectures about their lectures, or they really have moved on to the next thing that separates them from the field.

Maybe never losing a road game ever again. Although, tediously enough, that is a record already held by . . . yes, them.