Warriors

Urban: Giants have the momentum, A's have arms

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Urban: Giants have the momentum, A's have arms

May 19, 2011
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Mychael UrbanCSNBayArea.com

When in doubt, go the easy route: blame the Cubs.Specifically, blame Chicago. The Windy City's inclement weather Sunday blew away the opportunity to watch what was lined up as the three most exciting pitching matchups in the Bay Bridge Series' recent history. Without Sunday's rainout, which pushed Tim Lincecum's scheduled start to Monday, the expected trio of sellout crowds at AT&T Park this weekend would have been treated to Lincecum vs. Oakland ace Trevor Cahill in Friday's opener, Jonathan Sanchez vs. Brett Anderson in a battle of nasty southpaws on Saturday, and stoic Matt Cain vs. spastic Gio Gonzalez in Sunday's finale.No. 1s, No. 2s and No. 3s squaring off for Bay Area bragging rights. What a story it could have been.That said, it's not like the matchups we'll see instead are dogs. The A's are still trotting out the best three pitchers on what might be the best young staff in the American League. The Giants' new No. 5, Ryan Vogelsong, has plenty of momentum heading into his meeting with Cahill. Lincecum vs. Anderson should be a doozy, and there's something quite appealing about Sanchez vs. Gonzalez, two lefties with no-hit stuff but occasionally combustible command of the mental side of the game.PODCAST: Battle of the BayWho has the edge? That's a tough one, but if you happen to think momentum actually means anything in such situations, the Giants seem to have the upper hand.They're coming off a 3-3 road trip that started 1-3 and ended with a two-game sweep of their real rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers -- with both victories of the thrilling, good-to-the-last pitch variety. On Wednesday, Cody Ross hit a tie-breaking homer with two out in the ninth to give San Francisco an 8-5 victory. Thursday saw Nate Schierholtz turn in the Giants' defensive play of the year, a diving catch to end the game with the bases loaded, securing a 3-1 victory for previously winless Madison Bumgarner, picking up shaky closer Brian Wilson and covering for Ross himself, whose approach to Rod Barajas' looping single into left field with two out and nobody on was probably a tad too cautious for some tastes.Given the myriad injuries the Giants have suffered of late, a road split was big -- don't expect the A's, who long ago cornered the market on debilitating injuries, to have much sympathy -- and pushed the defending world champions' record over their past 15 games to an impressive 11-4.Returning to the shores of McCovey Cove will feel awfully good to the Giants, too. Their previous homestead featured six wins in six games against six sellout crowds.
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The A's? They just got swept in a two-game series by the worst team in baseball, the Minnesota Twins -- at home in Oakland.But you know what most baseball people say about momentum. It doesn't mean a thing. Momentum is that day's starting pitcher. And the A's have one of the best in the game going Friday in Cahill, whose stuff makes that of Vogelsong look pedestrian by comparison.So it's not going to be easy for the Giants by any stretch. The trio of A's pitchers working this weekend has more than enough potential to repeat the three-game massacre that Oakland slapped on struggling San Francisco in Oakland last season, when the Giants scored a not-so-grand total of one run in the series that serves as the impetus to take a flier on recently released Pat Burrell. It should be noted, though, that this edition of the A's is every bit as capable of seeing the tables turned. They're every bit as bad offensively, for the most part, as the Giants were at this time last season.COHN: Predicting the Bay Area's best pitchers in 2016
Then again, the Giants aren't exactly a juggernaut, either. They have, however, displayed the ability to step up their game against particularly tough pitchers.They beat Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley in L.A. They've handled Ubaldo Jimenez fairly well, too, although this year's Jimenez is a shadow of last year's.Can they do the same against Cahill, Anderson and Gonzalez? We'll know by Sunday evening. It should be a hell of a series either way.If it's not, it'll be for one of two reasons. One, of course, is the weather in the Windy City. The other is this whole end-of-the-world, rapture business. And truth be told, that's probably the Cubbies' fault, too.

Golden State, do we have a problem? Another loss to Rockets awakens Warriors

Golden State, do we have a problem? Another loss to Rockets awakens Warriors

In saying goodbye to their impressive road win streak and a chance to make franchise history, the Warriors also experienced an awakening that should linger somewhere in their minds for months to come.

The new and improved Houston Rockets are a serious threat to the defending champs having a parade in downtown Oakland for the second consecutive June.

That threat likely can’t be realized, however, unless the Warriors put the worst of themselves on full display, as they did Saturday night at Toyota Center in a 116-108 loss to the Rockets.

“In the first quarter, every time we made our push, we gave up easy baskets,” Draymond Green told reporters in Houston. “In the second quarter, we put them on the line the entire quarter, which slowed down our pace and let them control the tempo of the game. In the third quarter, we fought back to kind of get there but not get over the hump. And then we finally did, but we just didn’t have the right amount of focus it takes to win a game like that.”

Indeed, the Warriors were guilty of questionable shot selection at various points. They were largely allergic to rebounding, taking a 46-33 drubbing in that category. And far too often they were impatient and therefore utterly careless with their passing, resulting in 19 turnovers that led directly to 23 Houston points.

“It seemed like we kept making one silly play after another,” coach Steve Kerr said.

Sounds familiar, eh? The Warriors know their greatest weaknesses and hear about them ad nauseam from the coaching staff, yet still struggle to consistently address them.

Stephen Curry, who committed a team-worst six turnovers, lamented two possessions in particular. On one, he missed Kevin Durant “butt-naked at the top of the key,” and on another he had Durant open for a dunk but flipped it to Klay Thompson for a 3-pointer that missed.

“I made two of the worst plays of the season on those two possessions,” Curry conceded. “It’s kind of one of those nights when I personally didn’t have the right vision on the floor I’ve got to take responsibility for that.”

This is why the Warriors deserved to lose this game, which gave the Rockets a 2-1 victory in the season series and the homecourt tiebreaker should the two teams finish with identical records.

The Warriors took a 122-121 loss to Houston at Oracle Arena on opening night, then went to Houston on Jan. 4 and claimed a 124-114 victory.

This is enough to prove the Rockets are capable of beating the Warriors. We also note that in the other loss, Warriors’ turnovers gifted 21 points to Houston.

“We know the recipe against this team,” Curry said. “They’re going to shoot a lot of 3s. They’re going to make some tough shots. But if you turn the ball over and if you foul, which we did both in the first half, then that plays right into their hands. It’s just a lack of focus on the game plan.”

That lack of focus is something that has nagged the Warriors numerous times over the course of the season.

Here’s Houston’s problem: The postseason Warriors tend to be a bit sharper than the regular season Warriors.

And the Rockets, well, remain a postseason mystery. Chris Paul, who was so magnificent Saturday night, has an inglorious postseason history, complete with multiple collapses. MVP candidate James Harden also has dubious postseason resume, with epic pratfalls against the Warriors and the Spurs.

So the events of Saturday night, and the three games in the regular season, serve as reminders that if the Warriors play smart and tough and are fully engaged, they’re still the better team. Despite the chance to set a franchise record with a 15th consecutive road victory, the Warriors were less than fully engaged.

There’s a better than even chance of them being fully engaged in the postseason, should these teams meet again.

“We always talk about hitting singles,” Kerr said. “Well, we were trying to hit home runs all night, and you can’t do that against these guys.

“On the bright side, we know we can play a lot better. And we will.”

Daniel Cormier can finally feel like a champion again

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USATSI

Daniel Cormier can finally feel like a champion again

Daniel Cormier was awarded the UFC light heavyweight championship Saturday night at UFC 220 after his loss to Jon Jones was overturned when Jones failed a prefight drug test. Cormier said leading up to the fight that he didn’t feel like a champion. He probably feels like one now.

The San Jose-based 205-pounder defeated No. 2-ranked Volkan Oezdemir by secon-round TKO to retain the title.

“I felt as if I was fighting for a vacant title because (Jones) beat me last time,” Cormier (20-1) said in a postfight interview referring to his loss last July.

“I fought for a vacant title and I got the job done so I’m the UFC champion again.”

Cormier, who turns 40 in March, nearly won the fight a round earlier. In the final minute of the first frame, Cormier landed a right hand flush on the challenger’s face. After securing a takedown and taking Oezdemir’s back, Cormier locked in a rear naked choke but was forced to relinquish the hold when the bell rang.

Oezdemir, 28, was given a second chance, but he couldn’t capitalize. Cormier dominated the second round from the beginning. The AKA-product once again took down Oezdemir, transitioned to a crucifix, and landed a barrage of shots until the referee called the fight at the 2:00 mark.

“He was so game. I knew he was a dangerous guy. He hit hard,” Cormier said of Oezdemir (15-2). “But once I was able to get him to the ground, I knew it was my world.”

And for now, the rest of the light heavyweight division is just living in it.