Ray Ratto

San Jose's win masks another slow start


San Jose's win masks another slow start

San Jose delivered a great whopping open-handed slap at their good friends from Detroit Thursday night, but the time it took for them to fire that right hand remains the Sharks largest concern.Beating the Red Wings, 5-2, is result enough for any coach, home or away, but Todd McLellan was asked about the teams odd penchant for letting the other fellows set the early pace, and his ears perked up like a cocker spaniels at the sound of the can opener.

We have to do a better job out of the gate, he said after watching Niklas Kronwalls power play goal give Detroit a 1-0 lead the 11th time in 16 games that the Sharks have had to come from behind. We gotta get our running shoes tightened up and go. We dont have to stand back and figure it out every night. We can impose our will on the other guys from the start. Thats okay to do, too.It is, indeed. But the Sharks after 16 games are an odd team to figure, and Thursday was a perfect example. Detroit at its best beats you with its depth, but it was San Joses third and fourth lines that won the battles and turned the game on its head.That and Antti Niemis best performance in goal all year explained why the Sharks won, although those truths will be obscured by the flashier work of Marc-Edouard Vlasic's goal and three assists, or Joe Thorntons one and one.But the first period was a net loser yet again, and the questions are starting to nag.San Jose is last in first-period goals, with eight. It was seven before Thornton turned a Jason Demers penalty into a goal by breaking up a Detroit rush and finding Joe Pavelski alone in front of Jimmy Howards net at 19:48.San Jose is also second in shots with 35.2 per game, but only 10 of those come in the first period. Thursday, it was a paltry six, and only Niemi kept the game from being a rout right away.So the question for a team that is 10-5-1-0 is, what to do to stay that way. And the answer is within the heads, hearts and legs of the players themselves.McLellan doesnt give his theory, but there is a common theme in many Sharks games this year. He starts rolling four lines faithfully, but as the game goes on, he contrives ways to get his first two lines more time. Sometimes it comes via the power play, other times he just shortens his bench until the top six have worked up a proper lather.But it seems after a number of games of this that the Thorntons and Clowes and Marleaus and Coutures and Pavelskis need to run, and get sluggish when they cant. It isnt an insurmountable problem, but it flies in the face of McLellans orthodoxy, which is that the Sharks need four lines to win games consistently.Thursday was one of those infrequent times when he got enough from the third and fourth lines to render the slow start moot, but the herks and jerks of the early schedule and the fact that players are still not in sync with each other have made these Sharks just tentative enough to make the winning come harder than sometimes it should.But it is arrogant to think that consistent pace will come automatically. Rhythm does not make itself, it has to be forced into action, the Sharks have not yet managed that. McLellans teams are 116-23-14 when scoring first, so the template is there. It just hasnt been made to shape this team yet.

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?”