Kerr on Klay: ‘He was awesome’

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — If Steph were there ... Even Draymond Green, who had yet another triple-double, was moved to consider the impossible.

Yes, agreed Green, if Steph Curry had been in uniform, and not on the bench in that sharp, blue sport coat, the Warriors, Green’s Warriors, Steph’s Warriors, “could go toe-to-toe with anybody on offense and probably have the advantage.”

But it’s also understood that the NBA is a league in which success more often is determined not by who makes baskets than by who is unable to make baskets, determined on defense, as preached by Warriors coach Steve Kerr — and he’s hardly alone — andas displayed by the W’s on Sunday in the first game of the NBA Western Conference semifinals.

Again they didn’t have Curry, as was the case at the end of the first-round series against Houston. But again they did have pressure, smothering the Blazers, who made only five of their 21 shots in the first period, building up a lead that was as large as 20 and winning 118-106.

“Our offense, we had trouble scoring,” confirmed Portland coach Terry Stotts. “Their defense got into us.”

Their defense, the Warriors’ D, was Klay Thompson shadowing Damian Lillard, who scored 30 points but was a mediocre 8 for 26 shooting; it was Green blocking two shots and Andrew Bogut three; and it was Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston hindering passes with their extended reaches.

Yes, Thompson hit his shots, 14 of 28 (7 of 14 on threes), and had a game-high 37 points, needed in the absence of Curry. But it was at the other end of the court where Thompson impressed his coach.

“Not many guys could chase Damian Lillard around for 37 minutes,” said Kerr, “and score 37 points too. Klay is a tremendous two-way player, and this was a really amazing night for him just in terms of his all-around play, and obviously we got a lot of good performances from people. But that’s a big burden to have to play both ways like that.

“He was awesome.”

Thompson was an All-Star. Green, 23 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists, was an All-Star. Sometimes we forget because of that All-Star and MVP — and product endorser and NBA scoring leader — Steph Curry.

Yet a team is more than one man, even if it’s a man who can throw in 30-foot jumpers in the blink of an eye.

Curry, restricted by that bad right knee, said in a TV interview he would be surprised if he couldn’t return by game three of this series, next Sunday at Portland. Until then, or even then, the Warriors have to do what they’ve been doing, use all their skills.

“Defense is the key against these guys,” said Kerr, knowing full well “these guys” could mean any team in the league.

“They,” Kerr said of the Blazers, “are a tremendous offensive team. They have a great system. They are hard to guard, and they spread out so much with their shooting that there are a lot of open lanes.”

Those lanes were closed Sunday, just as stretches of Interstate 880 are so often. The Warriors chased and harassed. The Warriors stymied and baffled. “We score a lot of points,” Lillard said of himself and teammate C.J. McCollum. “We’ve got to be better offensively if we want to have a chance against this team.”

That doesn’t come easily against the Warriors, schooled in the idea of taking the other team’s mistakes and pushing the ball down the floor. “Our offense,” said Kerr, “comes off movement. We can’t stand around.”

Green rarely is seen standing or heard silent. He’s the voice of the Warriors, cheering, chanting, hollering.  Still, it’s just as much a case of "do as I do" as it is "do as I say." Green leads by admonition. He leads by example.

“I don’t go out there saying, ‘I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to do more of that,’” said Green. “We all have to. Everybody’s got to be more involved on the offensive end. Steph brings so much more to the table that one guy isn’t going to be able to do what he does.

“I just told the guys that we’ve got to come out with a defensive mind-set, and that’s pretty much it. I think we can pretty much just stay solid and get good stuff on the offensive end, but against this team we’ve got to get it done on the defensive end. We’ll get what we need on offense. We did that tonight.”



S.F. Examiner: Warriors send hapless Rockets home with Curry wearing a suit coat

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

The next round won’t be this easy. It can’t be. The Warriors are good, very good, record-setting good, and the Houston Rockets were, well, not very good at all. The Rockets probably shouldn’t have been in the playoffs.

For certain they weren’t at all in Wednesday night’s game. Figuratively, of course. Literally, that’s open for debate.

Read the full story here.

©2016 The San Francisco Examiner


S.F. Examiner: Optimism escapes Bochy as Giants lose fifth-straight

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

He’s normally a man of silver linings and orange-and-black optimism. Bruce Bochy has spent a career believing everything’s not as grim as the rest of you would think. But there was a different Bochy after the Giants, his San Francisco’s Giants, were smacked around again Thursday by the Arizona Diamondbacks, a Bochy whose frustration could be sensed, whose disappointment could be heard.

Baseball, we’re told, is a game of ups and downs. There have been no ups for the Giants of late.

Read the full story here.

©2016 The San Francisco Examiner 


S.F. Examiner: With Steph, without Steph, Warriors win as a team

By Art Spander

They missed Steph Curry. What, you thought the Warriors wouldn’t? But the Warriors didn’t set the all-time record for regular-season victories — 73, as you know so well — because they were dependent on only one player, even if he is the MVP.

They are a team, and what they didn’t miss Monday night at Oracle was a chance again to beat the Houston Rockets.

Read the full story.

©2016 The San Francisco Examiner


A’s pull a number on the Royals

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — He was wearing a Warriors T-shirt, as seemingly half the Bay Area is these days, the gold one passed out a day before, the one reading “Strength in Numbers.” But for Chris Bassitt, a Cleveland Cavaliers fan under that shirt — understandably, since he’s from Ohio — there was only one number Sunday, 114, the career-high number of pitches he threw for the Athletics.

He didn’t get a win for that effort, but the A’s did, beating the World Series champion Kansas City Royals 3-2, and suddenly everything was as joyful and upbeat at the Coliseum as it had been some 24 hours earlier next door at Oracle Arena.

The weather was the best of the weeks-old baseball season, only 70 degrees at first pitch but climbing to 79 at the final out of an efficient, tidy game that required only 2 hours 37 minutes. The A’s closed out a home stand that began with four straight losses and ended with two wins, both over K.C., of course. And the stadium, often as lonely as a graveyard at midnight, was nearly full, 29,668 fans, after 25,584 on Saturday.

John Axford got the pitching victory. He was the one in the lineup when, in the bottom of the eighth, Billy Burns tripled down the right field line. “It was this close to going foul,”  said Burns, pinching his fingers together, “and that close to being caught.” Burns then scored the tie-breaking, winning run on pinch hitter Josh Reddick’s sacrifice fly.

But the 6-foot-5 Bassitt was no less responsible for the victory than anyone in the Oakland clubhouse. He went the first seven innings, giving up two runs, one a homer by Mike Moustakas. “I was not committed on the pitch,” said Bassitt. That’s acceptable. The A’s — every team in the majors — would delight in their starter allowing only two runs.  

Sunshine and success alter everything at the Coliseum. Maybe it’s not AT&T Park, and yes, the A’s still need a ballpark, but with blue skies the figurative atmosphere is changed. So too are the A’s fortunes. Now, one game below .500, they head to New York for three games at Yankee Stadium.

“We’ve got some momentum,” said Burns. “Scratching out a win against (the Royals) is big.”

The Royals pride themselves on their late-inning relief. Their template for winning the World Series was to get through the sixth inning in front or tied, then call on a bullpen some would say is the best in the majors. So A’s manager Bob Melvin was particularly pleased the way his team, trailing 2-1 into the seventh, rallied to tie and win.

“Coming back against this team is something,” said Melvin. “Typically, in the seventh, eighth and ninth, it’s a big challenge.”

So many games in baseball, 162, and yet this one game, especially at home, where the A’s were 2-7, the second-worst home record in the American League, was important. Teams need to do well at home to make believers of the ticket buyers. People want to leave a ballpark in a good mood. And Sunday at the Coliseum, most of the people did.

“We’d been struggling at home,” confirmed Melvin. “Now we’re going on a 10-game trip against good teams.” Those teams, in order, are the Yankees, Blue Jays and Tigers. “This was significant,” Melvin added.

Ryan Madson pitched the ninth to get his fourth save (and the A’s only have six wins).

“He did the job,” said Melvin the onetime catcher.

Which Madson considered ordinary, or at least nothing out of the usual. Just get on the mound and throw strikes, whether it’s the Royals — with whom he won a World Series last season — or the Mariners. “The idea,” said Madson, “is to keep the pressure on the hitters.”

The pressure’s been on the A’s in many ways. They’ll always be in the shadow of the club across the Bay until they get that ballpark and then have the revenue to retain their stars. Also, having bottomed out in 2015, the Athletics need to prove they’ve put together a team that can win and also be attractive, not that one doesn’t follow the other.

So there’s Bassitt, wearing his shirt for the most attractive, winningest team in the region — and in basketball — that of the Warriors. “I’ll root for them until the finals,” said Bassitt, who played at the University of Akron, close to Cleveland. “Then I’ll root for the Cavs.”

Everybody makes mistakes.