Ray Ratto

Warriors cap off weirdest, hardest run with fitting ending

Warriors cap off weirdest, hardest run with fitting ending

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Coverage of the Warriors 2018 Championship Parade begins Tuesday at 9:30am on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming on NBCSportsBayArea.com.

In some ways this was the perfect way to end the Warriors’ weirdest championship run – clinically, purposefully, almost cruelly.

Their 108-85 victory over the soon-to-be-freeze-dried Cleveland Cavaliers had none of the incandescent moments typically associated with Golden State at its best, no bursts of jaw-slackening brilliance or stretches of amazement, but it showed them at their remorseless best. They stole Cleveland’s heart, held it up for a gobsmacked arena crowd and the nation as a whole to see, and in a silent arena, they crushed it with one ruthless squeeze.

They showed anyone who needed further evidence that they have no peers, or even challengers. They sent the NBA into the offseason no better off than it was a year ago, and maybe a bit worse.

And though there were numbers to behold (Stephen Curry finished with 37 points and Kevin Durant triple-doubled his way to his second consecutive Finals MVP), this 103rd game, this 74th win, was the basketball version of watching a snake eat.

The Warriors defended LeBron James into the role of a passer with nobody to pass to, and rendered Kevin Love inert as a second option. They intercepted passes, slapped the ball out of careless Cavalier hands, took care of the ball and distributed it with the sureness usually found in scrimmages.

In all, the Warriors gave Steve Kerr and themselves exactly the game he enjoys most – a suffocating beatdown that denied their most serious rival even the barest illusion of hope.

They left no doubt and destroyed all doubters. They engaged the rivalry with Cleveland, they won the rivalry, and they killed the rivalry so surely that they and they made the LeBron James Era in Cleveland mostly bittersweet.

Not that is what James should be noted for, mind you. He is far more than the results of these four series, he was brilliant even as the futility of that brilliance became evident, and he did keep his word about winning one for Ohio. But when he left the game with 4:03 to play to a sustained ovation, he made sure to congratulate all the Warriors on the floor as an acknowledgement of what they did to his homecoming.

They ended it. With a concussive thud.

This was the hardest year for the Warriors, between the injuries and the ennui, and there was a sense that they viewed this victory with a mixture of joy and relief. But that might have been simply the fact that they started celebrating well before the actual game ended, because they assembled a game so complete and unyielding that it never actually reached the level of fun most associated with this team.

This was about business, and this was delivered with a businessman’s ruthlessness. This was the Warriors telling a skeptical world they have all the ways to win the league at their command, including denial of the opponent’s right to function. This was them not apologizing for ruining the league. This was them striding across the sport as the first team of this century, truly turning the switch at will and replacing the bulbs with floodlights once the postseason began.

This may not be a dynasty in the classic sense because it still lacks the third consecutive title that the Lakers of the ‘50s and ‘Oughts, the Celtics of the ‘60s and the Bulls of the ’90s, but it feels like one, and it looks like one that still has plenty of sting in its tail.

And there is no sign anywhere that there is a team even remotely close to challenging their claim that they are still years away from completing their run. They were once charming and fun and giddy and bubbly, but they have matured as champions. They are now clearly far too good for the field in all the ways good can be measured.

Game Result/Schedule
Game 1 Warriors 124, Cavs 114 (OT)
Game 2 Warriors 122, Cavs 103
Game 3 Warriors 110, Cavs 102
Game 4 Warriors 108, Cavs 85

49ers learn a lesson after letting big lead slip in win over Lions

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AP

49ers learn a lesson after letting big lead slip in win over Lions

The 49ers now are 1-1, but to keep you hooked for next week, we can report that nothing of substance was revealed Sunday.
 
At least nothing that would make you have firm beliefs about who and what they are, what they have and what they lack.
 
In escaping the Detroit Lions, 30-27, the 49ers largely showed that they have the capability to dominate an inferior team but are not assured enough to finish them. Or, to quote Richard Sherman, which always is a good place to go, they need to learn “not to take a sigh when you’re up, 30-13.” In other words, to allow 182 yards and two scores once you take said lead, which is more a matter of player attention than scheme flaws.
 
They learned that teams still believe in Sherman enough to avoid throwing his way, and that means they will throw at Ahkello Witherspoon on the other side of the field until he makes them do otherwise.
 
They learned that Jimmy Garoppolo still holds the ball longer than safety would permit, and either he needs to be more decisive or his wide receivers need to be more forceful in separation.
 
(Cue Josh Gordon hysteria in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... )
 
They learned that Pierre Garcon will block all the way to the parking lot, as he did on Matt Breida’s 66-yard touchdown run, and that Garoppolo will make a tackle when the need is acute, as it was on Tracy Walker’s apparent game-winning interception -- “just a flashback to my linebacking days, I guess,” the QB said, minimizing the monumental error he helped commit to make that tackle momentarily necessary.
 
But mostly, they found out that they have miles to go before they can feel confident about their institutional knowledge about putting games away, because they did allow the Lions, who had been routed by the New York Jets a week ago, to scare them within an off-the-ball holding call that negated Walker’s interception and saved the 49ers' defense from having to make a desperate stand.
 
How desperate? A number of 49ers referred to it as a pick-six, which it wasn’t, no matter how it might have felt.
 
“A win’s a win,” coach Kyle Shanahan said with the precision of a Football Outsiders staffer, “but I’m extra frustrated that we couldn’t finish ‘em off. We have to learn to put those games away.”
 
The problem, of course, is that the 49ers are not yet at that stage of their development and are just seven games from being one of the most forlorn teams in the National Football League. Like everyone else, they would seem to be prone to recency bias – in this case, thinking the Lions were ready to Vontae Davis the rest of their season based on seven quarters of uninspiring football.
 
More to the point, it is hard to gauge them off a decisive loss to a superior team and a narrow win over an inferior one. As one of the many teams stuck in the amorphous middle of the league, the 49ers will be prone to the performance swings between weeks and within games.
 
Shanahan, for example, made a point of saying how much better he felt about his team’s red-zone performance in Week 1 at Minnesota than he did Sunday, even though they scored twice. Three sacks of Garoppolo and just 8 yards gained in 20 plays inspired that analysis.
 
Shanahan also answered the Gordon issue by saying how much loves the players he has but always is looking to improve the roster, a noncommittal answer to a question inspired only by the receiver’s reportedly stated interest in coming. The 49ers presumably would be more efficient and effervescent offensively when Marquise Goodwin returns from his thigh bruise, but that, like Gordon’s desirability, remains only speculative.
 
This is about the known, and the known is pretty minimal. The 49ers are exactly what we all expected them to be after two weeks -- a work in progress and in regress. Their next two games against dynamic offenses in Kansas City (oh God) and Los Angeles (the Chargers can score, but they remain goofy), and then they return to face the wholly inert Cardinals before drawing the Packers at Lambeau and the Rams in L.A.
 
In other words, this will get harder before it gets easier. But a win’s a win, and it’s better that they try to keep the short view for now. There are plenty of people available to take the long view for them.

Where Erik Karlsson trade ranks in greatest Bay Area sports acquisitions

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USATSI/AP

Where Erik Karlsson trade ranks in greatest Bay Area sports acquisitions

The Erik Karlsson trade is very clearly the second-biggest deal in San Jose Sharks history, and that only because nothing is going to beat the Joe Thornton trade almost 13 years ago.
 
That turned out to be a massive swindle for the Sharks, fueled in part by Boston’s zeal to solve its Thornton problem (he didn’t win six Stanley Cups in his five seasons as a Bruin). The Karlsson deal seems to resemble that deal in that Ottawa wanted Karlsson gone as part of its ritual franchise-gutting, and Doug Wilson had already removed their issues with Mike Hoffman earlier in the season.
 
But for non-hockey fans, this still ranks among the biggest acquisitions in Bay Area history regardless of sport – if and only if he gives what the trades implies, a clear path to the Stanley Cup.
 
For the moment, Karlsson represents hope rather than deeds. He was an indisputably great player in Ottawa, still has plenty of tread on the tires, and changes the Cup equation for every contender.
 
But without the advantage of the advanced hindsight that actual Stanley Cup parades can provide, he must be placed behind the following:
 
-- Barry Bonds (no title, but he is unmatched for talent, impact, stadium construction or controversy).
 
-- Kevin Durant (took the Warriors from merely great to generational, and helps with social media).
 
-- Steve Young, Fred Dean or Deion Sanders (each helped the 49ers win a Super Bowl, though Young was clearly most impactful, and two of the three got network gigs afterward).
 
-- Ted Hendricks, Willie Brown and Jim Plunkett (helped the Raiders do the same).
 
-- The re-acquisition of Rick Barry (the Warriors’ title in 1975 was largely his doing, though the Warriors’ greater strength was its ensemble quality).
 
-- Andre Iguodala (the first free agent to actively choose Golden State and the 2015 NBA Finals MVP).
 
-- Dave Stewart and Dennis Eckersley (pillars of the A’s 1989 World Series, and icons since).
 
There are others if you want to delve deeper (and hey, you’re the only who knows your work schedule), but this gives you an idea of the bar that needs clearing for the momentary enthusiasm of getting Erik Karlsson to become an enduring achievement in the annals of Bay Area talent grabs.
 
At the moment, Karlsson is probably closer to Chris Webber going to Sacramento in 1998, taking a bad team and making it a factor in a league that has shunned it before and after. The Sharks haven’t been shunned as much as they have been pandered to as the team that can’t win the big prize and has only gotten to play for it once. In other words, they’re not the Kings.
 
But the Sharks are the new hot flavor in the NHL in the way that Golden State was in 2013 and 2014. A parade permit is the limit and the expectation, and when that happens, Karlsson’s name can go on the above list.