Thursday, April 28, 2016

Curry or Not, Here We Come (Continued)

The Warriors led from beginning to end and beat up on the Houston Rockets 114-81 with Steph Curry on the bench, to take the first round of the playoffs 4 games to sort of 1.

Now the Dubs wait for Portland, the likely winner of their series against the LA Clippers.  The Blazers won by ten on Wednesday and lead 3-2, despite the Clips being at home.  Losing their two stars was too much.

It's one thing to close out a first round series without the league's MVP.  To do it by more than 30 points--well, you have to like their chances in the next series, especially since they'll be starting at home in the games most likely to be without Steph.

There were lots of heroes in the Giants 13-9 victory over the Padres to sweep the series and salvage a .500 homestand.  Brandon Belt was a puff of wind short of being the first Giant to hit for the cycle at AT&T Park.  But my player is Gregor Blanco, who came off the bench to hit and especially make a play in the outfield--he actually launched himself horizontally to make the catch.  He's been the guy off the bench for years who saved the Giants time and time again, in the World Series and throughout the seasons.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Okay, Back to Fun, Baseball

Two kinds of fun in baseball: one kind, a tight but exciting 1-0 complete game, with clutch catches, close double-plays and a couple of stealers thrown out at second.  Second kind, a 9-4 blast and a three homer night for a great player.

They both happened with my teams on Tuesday.  The San Francisco Giants won 1-0 behind a masterful complete game by Johnny Cueto, for his 100th career win and a 4-1 record this season.  He's been the Giants' best pitcher.

But it also took a couple of great throws by Buster Posey to cut down base stealers in dangerous situations, and a Crawford-to-Panik-to-Belt double play that was so close it needed a replay. If it had gone against them, the Padres would have scored a run with a chance for more.  Everything really counts in a one run game.  And maybe the best thing--the complete game.  No bullpen needed.

Out in Colorado, Andrew McCutchen hit three homers, two boomers to left center and a line drive to right, to lead the 9-4 attack for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  It was his second career three-homer game, only the fourth Pirates player to do that (and I've seen two of these hit): Ralph Kiner, Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell.

Two kinds of fun.  Baseball.

Basketball: The other shoe dropped on the Clippers when it was announced that Blake Griffith is out for the playoffs, as is Chris Paul.  The Clips are at home for their next game with Portland, with that series at 2-2.  If the Warriors advance by beating the Rockets one more time, they'll play the winner of this series next.

Meanwhile, the Warriors' Steve Kerr won Coach of the Year, and his coaching will be tested Wednesday when the Dubs host Houston.  It's the Warriors best chance to win this playoff series, and then also get everybody some rest.  Houston players are sounding desperately confident (or confidently desperate) but the Warriors have plenty of ways to win.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Curry or Not, Here We Come

Officially now, Steph Curry is out and his injury will be evaluated in two weeks.  He slipped on a wet court near halftime of the fourth game in Houston of the first round of playoffs.  He'd already missed two games with an ankle injury, with the Warriors winning one and losing the third game by a single point, on a shot that the NBA later said shouldn't have counted.

 But in that 4th game, the Warriors played an impassioned third quarter and were deadly accurate from threeville. They blew out Houston to come home leading 3 games to 1.

It wasn't only that they pulled together and knew what to do without Curry.  It's also that they saw his tears when he couldn't play.

Now the Warriors face at least another game against Houston and an unknown number of games against their next opponents without their MVP.  About the injury, the two weeks is not definitive, one way or the other.  It's probable some sort of evaluation will be ongoing, and taken seriously in one week.

The Warriors are unlikely to blow through opponents, but they are capable of winning this and the next series without Steph if necessary.  That became really evident Monday night when Portland tied their series with the favored Clippers.  And after some Clippers seemed to greet Curry's injury with glee, they lost their own star--Chris Paul--for an even longer time, with a broken hand. Blake Griffith also left the game injured.

Klay Thompson will have to step up and nobody else can be injured. Now the depth of this team, and especially the things they do in practice that they don't get to do in games, will be front and center. The Warriors are coming, and other teams should beware.  Steph Curry's tears may not be as strong as his court presence, but they are going to make a difference.

It depends on how the conversation starts.  How about those Giants? means the SF club is playing well and winning.  What about those Giants? means something else.

The Miami Marlins came to town just in the nick of time, after the Giants were swept at home in a four game series with Arizona.  But their inability to score a tying run with the bases loaded and no outs spoiled what should have been a sweep against a much weaker team.  (Though the Marlins beat LA the next night.)

Still, that series exposed the main weak point of the Giants now.  The Marlins, the Padres are relatively weak teams especially in the bullpen stocked with rookies coming and going through the swinging door.  Unfortunately though, so are the Giants.

Some of these kids are stars of the future, but it's not the future yet.  In the present the Giants are depending on them, and so the late innings of every game are suddenly up for grabs. The remaining (uninjured) veterans are not so dependable either. And third year Hunter Strickland is so far not turning out to be the closer in waiting he was hoped to be.  The starting rotation is getting into a groove, and the young arms in the bullpen are showing flashes of brilliance, but things still are askew.

It's certainly not all bad.  Casilla got his 100th save, Angel Pagan is having a career month, and Gregor Blanco continues to be excellent whenever called upon. And maybe it's that I'm getting too used to the brilliance of Duffy, Panik, Pence etc. but somehow, so far this year, this team still seems out of synch.  Maybe it's just April.