Ray Ratto

Ratto: Simple task for Niemi in Game 4


Ratto: Simple task for Niemi in Game 4

April 21, 2011
Ray Ratto
LOS ANGELES -- Antti Niemi, who knew that his job as the Sharks starting goaltender is safe for one more evening, waxed expansive when asked if he was excited for the new opportunity.Yeah. Sure, he effused.Then again, what was there for him to say? Hes hit a brief bad patch, as he has in the past, but he is still the capo di tutti capos in the Sharks goaltending heap.
But for him to break the rut he has been in, having surrendered eight goals in 80 minutes, he has to prevent the most disturbing part of his run giving up goals in great unsightly blobs.Niemi gave up two scores (to Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson) in 3:30 in Game 2, two in 13 seconds in the first period of Game 3 (to Willie Mitchell and Kyle Clifford) and two more in 2:22 (to Michal Handzus and Brad Richardson) at the end of the first and start of the second.In doing so, he turned his own struggles into two successive avalanches, one of which the Sharks were fortunate to overcome.REWIND: Unbelievable! Sharks battle for Game 3 OT win
The league, though, has had a lot of instances of quick goal turnarounds throughout the eight series. There have been two instances of multiple goals inside of a minute of the Canucks-Blackhawks series, eight inside two minutes in Ducks-Predators, three in the just-expired Red Wings-Coyotes, three in Flyers-Sabres, three inside of two minutes in Capitals-Rangers, one in Canadiens-Bruins and three from Penguins-Lightning.Thats 26 in 30 games, an extraordinary number by any accounting, and while that wont make Niemi feel any happier, it does seem to be a bit of a trend.Im not sure why, Sharks captain Joe Thornton said of the phenomenon-ette. I think maybe the lesson there is not to lose your focus. Its sort of a golden rule after as goal is scored to really pay attention to the next shift because its so very very important. But why this is happening now all over the league, Im not sure.But it is, and if the Sharks intend to take a choke-slam to this series, the two multiple-goal flurries they had in Game 3 wouldnt be a bad way to go. Nor would getting and holding a lead for awhile.

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?”