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9:29AM

Warriors in a rout — but remember the Memorial Day Massacre

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — It was known as the Memorial Day Massacre. The Boston Celtics, at home, crushed the Los Angeles Lakers, 148-114, on Memorial Day 1985 in the opening game of the NBA finals.

What a rout. What a flop by the Lakers, who once more seemed destined to fail.

But it was only one game. And in basketball, as they say, the next one begins 0-0. And the Lakers won that game, and the third game, and defying tradition won the title in six games, the ultimate victory coming at the “massacre” site, Boston Garden.

Thirty-two years ago, of course, but as current as today, a reminder that nothing is certain, not even if you beat the Lakers by 34 points. Or if you whip the San Antonio Spurs by 36 points, 136-100, as the Warriors did on Tuesday night at Oracle Arena in Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference finals.

Sure, the Warriors, up two games to none, are in control. Or it would seem that way. The Spurs, after squandering a 25-point lead Sunday and being edged, were helpless Tuesday night. They were behind 33-16 after a quarter, and it got worse. A mismatch. Yet it was just one game.

Now the series moves to San Antonio for Game 3 on Saturday, and maybe Kawhi Leonard returns for the Spurs. And maybe the intensity and spirit return as well. At home and obviously in desperation, the Spurs will be a factor instead of a disaster.

“It’s a good team,” acting Warriors coach Mike Brown said of San Antonio. “I think they went on the road and beat Houston in a Game 6 (of the conference semis) where they didn’t have Kawhi.”

After that tentative warning, Brown pointed out that for the Warriors, with seven men scoring in double figures, with a defense that kept the Spurs to 37 percent, with a relentlessness evident from start to finish, “This was a good game.””

Not because the Dubs pushed the lead to 41 points near the end. Not because they made 18 of 37 three-pointers (yes, Steph Curry was the main man with 8 of 13 and 29 points, but Kevin Durant had 6 of 10 and 16 points). Rather, because of how they played, as compared to what they did.

“It doesn’t matter how many points you win by,” said Brown, who before the game was able to confer on site with the recovering Steve Kerr, for whom he is subbing.

“Sometimes it doesn’t matter if you lose because sometimes things can just fall the other team’s way, but you do things the right way. So more than anything, yes, we want to win. But it’s how you play, too ... The score doesn’t really matter. It’s how we got to the score. It’s how we played defensively to the Spurs.“

They were missing Leonard, who re-injured his ankle stepping on the foot of the Warriors' Zaza Pachulia on Sunday. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said it was a dirty play by Pachulia. Maybe fate was listening. Pachulia left Tuesday’s game after roughly seven minutes because of a heel bruise.

Still more than Kawhi, Popovich suggested, the Spurs were missing their fire.

Tonight was not what I expected,” he said. “I’m disappointed. The only way I can process this is, I think, it’s not about X’s and O’s or rebounds or turnovers or anything like that. I think maybe we felt (Leonard’s absence) too much, Kawhi being gone, in the sense that, as I watched, I don’t think they believed. 

“And you have to believe. I don’t think as a group they really did, which means probably feeling sorry for themselves psychologically, subconsciously, whatever psycho-babble word you want to use ... I don’t think they started the game with a belief ... When you’re playing a team that’s as good as Golden State, you’re going to get embarrassed if that’s the way you come out. And we did. We didn’t come to play.”

The Warriors came, and they played, and they looked like the best team in the league, never mind the best team on the floor. It was the Warriors, flowing, racing, dominating, winning by 36 points.

But it was just one game.

10:18AM

S.F. Examiner: Is it Dirty Zaza or Unlucky Kawhi? Depends on who you support

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

OAKLAND — The issue deals with laundry, more specifically uniforms, such as which ones are the bad guys wearing. Well, “bad guys” is over the top, or in this case, under the shoes. Let’s go with “opposition.”

By the Bay, that’s the Spurs. Deep in the heart of San Antonio it would be the Warriors and Zaza Pachulia.

Read the full story here.

©2017 The San Francisco Examiner

9:33AM

S.F. Examiner: After finally winning three straight, maybe the Giants are on to something

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

AT&T PARK — Maybe. That’s the only appropriate word. Maybe the Giants are about to play as everyone thought, as their manager Bruce Bochy conceded, to expectations. Maybe the breakout — their first three-game win streak of this so-far rotten season — is an indication.

Or maybe it’s just a tease.

Read the full story here.

©2017 The San Francisco Examiner 

9:27AM

A’s not going anyplace — except maybe in the standings

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — “Rooted in Oakland.” That’s the A’s slogan, their implied promise. “We ain’t going anywhere, people,” they’re telling us. Unlike the Raiders. Unlike the Warriors.

Except, with good fortune, going up the American League standings.

It’s different on this side of the bay. No ballpark by the water. No Frank Sinatra recording of “Strangers in the Night” in the top of the seventh. Hey, when the announced attendance is only 11,383, nobody’s a stranger.

The A’s dropped one on Tuesday night to the Angels, 7-3. Three walk-off wins in a row and then a loss. Anyone in baseball gladly would accept that statistic.

Especially the Giants. They’re awful, and becoming more awful. They can’t win any, never mind three in a row.

The A’s? The Royals? The Blue Jays? No, the San Francisco Giants have the worst record in the majors. They lost opening day, and there went the season.

About the time the A’s were coming out for batting practice Tuesday, just after 4 p.m., the Giants, having played only two innings against the Mets in New York, were behind, 5-0, the score posted on the right field board even though nobody but players and workers were inside the Coliseum.

Somebody not in uniform was heard to comment, “Unbelievable.”

As if anything in baseball really is.

The Yankees and Cubs play 18 innings in one of those absurd ESPN Sunday night games that ended at 1:05 a.m. in Chicago, the Yankees then flying to Cincinnati, arriving at 5 a.m. and playing that night. The A’s win consecutive games in the final inning by a home run.

Yonder Alonso hit a couple home runs Tuesday night for Oakland. Maybe he’s on his way to becoming a star. Maybe he’s on his way to another team. With the A’s, one never knows.

The often-repeated theory held here is that with cars, wine or ballplayers one gets what he or she pays for. Sometimes you get a kid before he’s eligible for the big contract or vino the critics haven’t reviewed, but that’s not the norm.

So if the A’s, with their 2017 payroll of some $75 million — it’s still higher than those of the Rays, Padres and Brewers — are doing as well or as poorly as might be imagined, the Giants and their $170 million payroll are a disaster. Well, they’d be a disaster no matter how much money they earned.

Nostalgia is big at the Coliseum, as it should be. There’s Rickey Henderson Field, a wise public relations idea — and in the pre-game home clubhouse, there’s Rickey his ownself, chattering, laughing, lending as much credibility and direction as possible.

The wall of the walkway through which the athletes pass on their way to the clubhouse is lined with photos of everyone who played for the A’s, even if as brief as a season, elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, Dennis Eckersley, Reggie Jackson and, of course, Henderson.

Past and present mingle beneath the framework of a stadium that management hopes to replace with a new ballpark. On the waterfront, perhaps. Or on the very site of the Coliseum. But definitely in Oakland.

The questions of when and where have persisted virtually from the time the A’s arrived in 1968. That was 10 years after the Giants, who — and isn’t this ironic, now having become established at AT&T Park? — moved to a ballpark accurately described as the worst in America, Candlestick Park.

The A’s were going to Denver. The A’s were going to Las Vegas. The A’s were going to San Jose. But they’re still in Oakland and seemingly will be for a long while.

Wonderful.

 

9:14AM

Warriors play like champs that they are — and now comes hostility

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — This is the way a champion plays, aggressively, intensely, knowing it’s the better team but acting like it’s the underdog — a silly description of the Warriors — sweeping the court, crashing the boards and never giving the opponent a chance.

Sure, the NBA Western Conference semis shift up to Salt Lake City, and the Jazz will be home. But what does that matter? They’re down 2-0 to the Warriors. They haven’t been ahead in either game. Not for a second.

In the opener on Tuesday, the Warriors were up 9-0 before we blinked or the Jazz recovered. And in Game 2 on Thursday, again at Oracle Arena, the Warriors were up 12-3. Punched quickly if not unsuspectingly, Utah had its bursts, but so did the Warriors, who won 115-104.

Six in a row so far for the Dubs, a sweep of Portland and now two against the Jazz. Pressure. On defense, although Utah shot 45 percent. On offense, Draymond Green showing he can score as well as block and rebound, getting 23 points, along with Kevin Durant’s 25 and Steph Curry’s 23.

“Whether it’s Salt Lake or here,” affirmed Quin Snyder, the frustrated Jazz coach, “we’ve got to be better at the start of games. If you’re not, they’re going to capitalize the other way."

Meaning building a lead that so far has proved insurmountable.

Meaning that any moment they get the opportunity, the Warriors will race to the rim or hit a three-pointer.

The Jazz hold the ball, move it, as much to try to keep the other team from making baskets as to make its own. The Warriors are demons, sprinting, soaring. A contrast in styles. Thus far, the Warriors' method has been the one that works.

Everybody knows that Green, the guy from Michigan State, the guy who crashes into people like a fullback and floats above them like a ballerina, is the heart of the Warriors. In the absence of ailing head coach Steve Kerr and in the presence of acting coach Mike Brown, Green is the leader, the fire, sometimes the fighter — as the technical fouls will attest.

When Green went down in the fourth quarter, hobbling off with what seemed like a knee injury — oh, my goodness — who knew what might happen? But he returned to the bench and the game. Phew.

“Yeah,” said Brown, “any time any of our guys goes down it’s a concern. A guy like Draymond does so much for us at both ends of the floor, and he seldom goes down. So when he did, you think that initially it had to be serious. But I went over and asked him if he was OK, and he said yes.”

So the Warriors were OK.

“He was big,” said Brown of Draymond, who had four steals, a blocked shot, and seven rebounds — and was 5-of-8 on three-pointers. “Draymond is at the top of the floor quite a bit. Their game plan is to have whoever’s guarding Draymond to sit in the lane. So he’s getting wide-open threes. And hopefully he’ll keep shooting the ball the way he’s been shooting it throughout the playoffs.”

Curry was 5-of-8 on his three-point attempts, and while Durant was 0-for-4 he did make 13 of 15 free throws, the one Warrior who goes inside for rebounds (11) and points.

Green said his knee locked up after a collision. “I’d had it before,” he said. “It wasn’t like a huge sigh of relief because I kind of knew what it was from the jump.” He also said the Warriors “kind of lost our focus” at times, if not their drive.

Asked what he expected from the crowd at Salt Lake City, Green gave the proper response. The man has been around.

“I expect it to be hostile,” said Green, who can be pretty hostile himself at times — most times. ”It always is. They cheer pretty loud for their team, obviously. With a few things that went on this past week, it will probably be a bit hostile. But that’s fine.”

As, two games in, are the Warriors.