Ray Ratto

The Warriors turned it on at will. Again.

The Warriors turned it on at will. Again.

Let’s put it this way. It took a lot longer for the San Antonio Spurs to feel the gravitational pull of the Golden State Warriors in Game 2 than Game 1. But it happened anyway, and now the last true adjustment in Gregg Popovich’s arsenal is the fact that Games 3 and 4 will be in Texas – the one place where the present Spurs are still the historical Spurs.

True, geography is a poor substitute for superior talent, roster depth or tactical wizardry, but tactical wizardry only works when the wizard has instruments within arm’s length to make those ideas come alive. Thus, San Antonio is left to rely Thursday and Sunday on the comforts of home – and friendlier rims, and more commodious backgrounds, and supportive fans.

If that’s your idea of an adjustment. And it probably isn’t.

Monday’s 116-101 choke-slam looked a lot like Saturday’s 113-92 throttling, only more condensed. The Spurs started Rudy Gay instead of Kyle Anderson, they double-teamed Kevin Durant and then Klay Thompson and then back again, and crowded whichever of the two wasn’t being doubled. They forced the Warriors into 11 first-half turnovers, and they got an inspired game from LaMarcus Aldridge.

And then the second half happened, just as the whole of Game 1 happened. The Warriors won the second half by precisely the same margin – 21 points – that they won all of Game 1, taking the Spurs’ best competitive instincts and reducing them to a single statistic.

14.3 percent, on 28 three-pointers, to Golden State’s 48.4 (15 of 31).

That 45-12 discrepancy wiped out San Antonio’s 53-47 halftime lead, neutralized the turnover imbalance and reduced San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich to a conciliatory tone that hinted at inevitability. He praised his team’s increased fight and attention to detail, spoke highly of Aldridge (34/12) and Gay, and then headed to the reason why Golden State looks so, well, Golden State-y.

“You gotta make shots,” he said. “It’s been like that all season on the road for whatever reason, and that makes it difficult.”

No, damned near impossible. The Warriors’ starters, which included JaVale McGee and Andre Iguodala again, shot 55 percent (34 of 62, 13 of 26 from afar), and the only real failings were 15 turnovers and David West’s tweaked ankle in the fourth quarter. Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson were – well, 63 points’ worth on 39 shots, and metrics only embellish that central truth. The Warriors, if you’ll forgive the narrative whoring, turned it on at will. Again.

“We just met their level of physicality and force,” head coach Steve Kerr said, without referring to tactical changes at all. “They just took it to us the whole first half. They were tremendous defensively . . . so in the second half, we matched their effort level and we were able to get the upper hand.”

And, he omitted to add, close that hand at throat level, taking a worrisome first half for the customers and turning it into a Warriors-standard game.

All that said, the Spurs’ considerable limitations in this series do not preclude them from stealing a game in San Antonio, if such a thing can be said about a team that has won its last 11 home games. Golden State’s oppressive dominance may seem like a return to the good old days, but it still feels more like increased focus combined with a very favorable matchup.

But if we see this game again at AT&T Thursday and/or Sunday, the Warriors may get that smell in their nostrils again and use it as fuel in subsequent rounds. They may just be beating a depleted and inaccurate team whose best player has apparently returned to his home planet for repurposing and perhaps relocation, but the way they are doing it is as nostalgia-inducing as it is breathtaking.

And that has proven over most of the last three years to beat tactics every time.

Golf is Tiger Woods, and the PGA Championship on Sunday confirmed that

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USATSI

Golf is Tiger Woods, and the PGA Championship on Sunday confirmed that

There are only 241 days of MegaTigerHype left until the 2019 Masters, which means 241 days for everyone on the PGA Tour to understand just how fully the sport they play.
 
They don’t play golf. They play Tiger. Put another way, America’s chosen prism reads Sunday’s PGA Championship as the day Brooks Koepka did well to almost match Woods, even though by the mathematics he actually beat him.
 
But you can’t hype Brooks Koepka, not yet. He is the younger Mike Trout still building his stage. Tiger is his own concert tour, and his own massive audience of golf fans, psychoanalysts and self-satisfied scolds.
 
And there is still big money in all those things.
 
It’s one thing to know something intellectually, of course – the old stove-is-hot lesson – but to see it and hear it is another thing. Golf is Tiger Woods, and the noise from Sunday confirmed that. Brooks Koepka is the new, young, not quite beloved Tiger, while Tiger is the avuncular, easier-mannered Nicklausian Tiger, and most of golfing America prefers what it’s used to seeing back in the good old days.
 
Tiger essentially did a medley of Tiger’s greatest hits on Sunday, and the album will sell millions. And after all, nobody breaks wallet locks quite like Tiger Woods.
 
Golf may be for the young athletically, but the audience is old and the audience wants to be told that what it believed 15 years ago is still true, no matter how youthfully the culture actually swings.
 
In that way, The Eldrick’s performance at the PGA Championship allows 40-Plus America to say, “See? See what I’ve been telling you?” And it also allows 20-Plus America to respond as it always does, by being in its room watching something else.
 
This, then, the real Tiger-ssance – the great instrument of change in golf getting his next star turn as the beating, money-churning heart of the establishment. He was the face of the next generation, but the next generation has been replaced by a new next generation, and that next generation has not yet decided what it feels about golf, let alone Brooks Koepka.
 
And let’s not forget that Tiger Woods was once a mightily polarizing figure himself, and that it took a decade of physical and emotional humbling for him to become the face of the good old days. Thus, at age 42, he has become not only a familiar face in new bloom, but an old and very familiar narrative point at the same time. He makes middle-aged people feel comfortable, which is the direct opposite of what he once did.
 
In short, Tiger Woods now understands the world’s infatuation with Jack Nicklaus when Woods was chasing his ghost. Not I-know-the-stove-is-hot intellectually, but in the most real way there is. Tiger Woods IS Jack Nicklaus, and that’s the weirdest sentence you will ever read 15 years ago.

Barry Bonds' number retirement actually matters a bit more than the usual marketing ploy

Barry Bonds' number retirement actually matters a bit more than the usual marketing ploy

Barry Bonds’ number retirement Saturday brings with it the usual rhetorical asterisks, most of them having to do with the one honorific he still doesn’t have and likely will never get.

But that is the Bondsian Paradox -- what do you get for the man who has everything except the thing he wants most?

The Giants have lavished him with awards specific to their franchise, as they should. He made a lot of people a lot of money in this town, and in a very cynical way that is the truest measuring stick of the modern world.

So with only one thing left to present him, the Giants have decided Saturday is the best day to retire the number 25, a number which, other than he and his father, has never brought much in the way of lasting memories to the franchise. Indeed, only one other Giant has worn that number for more than a decade, and that was Whitey Lockman while the team was still in New York.

So never mind the number. This is indeed about the name on the back, and how the organization’s gratitude for services rendered tends mostly to direct everyone’s attention to the elephant in the room.

The Hall of Fame.

Bonds has four years left in his quest before the task shifts to the far less forgiving Veterans Committee, which means that Saturday’s ceremony may be the highest level he reaches on the baseball honors list, as one of 199 players who have either had their numbers retired or initials commemorated in the pre-numeral days. For that reason alone, that may touch him in ways that it might not otherwise – that, and the fact that the Giants are re-acknowledging him for his contributions to the financial and reputational juggernaut that is this franchise.

(At this point, we take note of the fact that you may be shrieking “HGH!” at the top of your lungs in rebuttal, and you are certainly entitled to your righteous indignation; I just happen to have wearied of the argument. Hate him, like him, take little note of him, it matters not).

But Bonds’ path to the place he currently resides has been among the most tumultuous in modern sports/celebrity history, and he will be so regarded for the foreseeable future. As has always been true, his approval ratings diminish in concentric circles away from Third And King, and the nation seems less eager to reconsider his character than ever. He has been defined, probably for good, and barring different rules for Hall of Fame voting, so shall it remain.

Which is why his number retirement actually matters a bit more than the usual marketing ploy. The Giants can’t really immortalize him any more save a statue, which is almost certainly in the commissioning stage, or naming the field after him a la Rickey Henderson in Oakland, so this is probably the last stop for the Bonds honors train.

And he’s earned it all in the classically fiduciary definition of “earn.” The Giants are who they are in large part because of him, for good and ill, and while they cannot truly do enough to make up that debt, they may be out of ideas for how to do so.