Killion: Weekend wrap -- Giant wake-up call


Killion: Weekend wrap -- Giant wake-up call

Aug. 1, 2011

Ann Killion

There are rumblings of panic in the Giants kingdom. A sweep in Cincinnati. A big-name acquisition that hasnt started hitting yet. A trade deadline come and gone without help at catcher.In some quarters, the benefit of the doubt that Brian Sabean earned by winning the World Series has already expired.

But its not quite time to panic. The Giants have been swept before. The last time they were swept on the road -- in June against Oakland -- they were only a few miles from home, werent operating in suffocating heat and humidity and didnt have Barry Zito start.In other words, they had fewer excuses than they did over the past weekend when they lost all three to Cincinnati.RECAP: Reds clobber Zito, sweep Giants with 9-0 win
And after their last sweep they went 7-1.Still, getting swept isnt a great way to start August. Not a good launch into a critical series against Arizona, which is breathing down the Giants neck just 3.5 games back. Not an encouraging way to begin a home stand against three playoff contenders.RELATED: MLB standings
But the Cincinnati sweep could have some benefits. Like:-- Forcing Zito out of the rotation for good. All the rest of the Giants games are going to be critical. Theres no way -- barring injury or illness to another starter --that the Giants can hand the ball to Zito.-- Reminding everyone that nothing has been won yet. When the Giants traded for Carlos Beltran last week, the stories all spun ahead to how Beltran could help the Giants in the playoffs. Uh, not there yet folks.-- Refocus the AT&T Park crowd. Not that the fans havent been on their game all season. But the Giants play 22 of their next 35 games at home. Time to make that home field advantage count.-- Spur Brian Sabean to try to make more waiver-wire deals like he did last season.There are two more months left for panic. Remember people, you have to pace yourselves.The As offense continues to roll. When I asked Conor Jackson if it was frustrating that it was too little, too late, he said no.RECAP: A's take series from Twins with 7-3 victory
Theres two months of baseball left, he said. Thats a lot of baseball.Jackson cited the Colorado Rockies, who were seven games back and in fourth place on Sept 10 in 2007. Yet the Rockies made the playoffs and knocked Jacksons Arizona Diamondbacks team out of the NLCS before losing in the World Series.I think this is what they envisioned when they put the team together, Jackson said. Of course, they didnt want it to happen after the All-Star game.Billy Beane didnt hear any deals that enticed him. So, aside from trading reliever Brad Ziegler to Arizona, he kept the As together to see if they can make a Rockies-like run. The As are currently 11.5 back but playing the best ball of the season.I think we just have confidence, Jackson said. Were feeding off each other. ..Its all confidence. Its a mental game.The Raiders officially said goodbye to Nnamdi Asomugha, one of the shining lights of the Bay Area sports scene in recent years. Asomugha never won in the Bay Area, either with Cal or with the Raiders. But he was a great player and a stellar person off the field: professional, articulate, honest and involved in the community.GUTIERREZ: Seed for Nnamdi's exit planted long ago
The Raiders made a nice pickup by signing Trent Edwards over the weekend. The former Stanford quarterback had some solid years in Buffalo and is still relatively young.The 49ers have a free agency plan. Thats what Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh said over the weekend.They didnt say what the plan is, because it may be top secret.KILLION: Dreary outlook for Harbaugh, 49ers
We are going to be patient, Baalke said. We have been patient. We do have a plan. Were executing the plan.At least the 49ers spent a lot of time with the stencil machine over the lockout period. Theyve stenciled sayings for the players on the inside of doors and hung banners with sayings like You are getting better or you are getting worse. You never stay the same.The 49ers fans are hoping for option A of those three possibilities.The big sports news that got pushed aside in the midst of the baseball trade deadline and the opening of training camp: Juergen Klinsmann has taken over as coach of the U.S. mens national soccer team.Local angles? Klinsmanns wife Debbie is from San Jose. Also, U.S. Soccer needs a bigger fix than just a new coach, which makes the team a lot like the 49ers.

Rewind: Opener brings painful reminder nothing's given for Warriors

Rewind: Opener brings painful reminder nothing's given for Warriors

OAKLAND – Kevin Durant drove to Oracle Arena for his Warriors debut Tuesday night, walked in feeling good and quickly got quite the horrific surprise.

The San Antonio Spurs started knocking on the door to the place and didn’t stop until they owned it.

The Spurs barged in and took what they wanted, everything from points and rebounds to wine and shaving cream. And the Warriors, as if bound and gagged, mostly watched helplessly in taking a 129-100 beating.

“A nice little slap in the face,” Steph Curry summarized.

“We got punched in the mouth,” Draymond Green acknowledged before adding the real takeaway line, “which I don’t know if it was quite a bad thing for us.”

This brutal flogging ends talk of a historically great start resembling that which the Warriors managed last season in winning their first 24 games. This puts to rest any cloak of invincibility for which they might have been being fitted, whether in their minds of those of their fans.

The Warriors were mugged on the glass, losing the rebounding battle 54-35, with San Antonio snatching 21 on offense and turning them into 26-4 advantage in second-chance points. The bigger, slower Spurs even outscored the Warriors 24-20 on the fast break.

“I’m sure we’ll be motivated for our next game,” coach Steve Kerr said. “I think our guys were embarrassed. I know I was.”

If embarrassing seems a bit strong, this surely was nothing less than a night of utter public humility. The curtain came up on opening night and there was CEO Joe Lacob shifting and twisting in his courtside seat, like a man getting teeth extracted without anesthesia, watching his Dream Team was destroyed.

“I didn’t have them ready to play, obviously,” Kerr said.

“The first game, you want to come out and protect your home court with the energy of the home opener to live throughout the game,” Curry said. “And we didn’t do anything to let that happen.”

Curry's numbers were not awful, at least not in the grand scheme of things. He posted 26 points, four assists and three rebounds – but added four turnovers.

And Durant, who started the game 4-of-4, delighting a crowd that had visions of 3-pointers raining from above, also submitted a glossy stat line, finishing with 27 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks.

But the Warriors were dragged across their own floor. Oracle Arena has been their sanctuary for two full seasons, during which they posted a 78-4 record.

The best they can do now is 40-1.

“No one is satisfied with the way they played tonight, especially myself,” said Klay Thompson, who scored 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting. “In the long run, this will benefit us. It’s a long season, and not everything is going to be perfect from the jump.”

So, no, the season is not over. Not even close. Remember, LeBron James’ debut with the Miami Heat six years ago ended with an 88-80 loss, followed by seven more losses in the next 16 games.

But it’s always alarming when someone storms into your house, looks you in the eye and takes what they want.

Opening night for the Warriors delivered a painful reminder that regardless of how imposing they might be or how many All-Stars are on the payroll, nothing will be given. Effort and desire, as they discovered, can be more than a great equalizer.

The Warriors now know that victory is not preordained, that if they want the glory and the spoils they believe to be theirs, they will have to prove it. Every night.

Rewind: Vlasic the unlikely hero in Sharks OT win

Rewind: Vlasic the unlikely hero in Sharks OT win

SAN JOSE – Prior to the season’s start, Marc-Edouard Vlasic mentioned that the Sharks’ blue line group might not get the league-wide respect it deserves due to it only having “one offensive defenseman.” He was, of course, referring to Brent Burns.

Through the first six games, that was the truth. Burns entered Tuesday night’s action with nine points, tied for the league lead in scoring, while the other five Sharks defenseman had just three assists – combined.

For at least one night, though, it wasn’t Burns who was the offensive hero. That honor went to Vlasic, who seized a loose puck in the neutral zone in overtime against Anaheim, raced ahead towards goalie John Gibson on a partial breakaway, and finished off a beautiful goal in giving the Sharks a much-deserved 2-1 win at SAP Center.

“Put my head down, breakaway, cut across and I was able to put it in,” said Vlasic, who had the presence of mind to use his skate to keep a backchecking Corey Perry from knocking the puck away. 

Pete DeBoer said: "He's got some speed when he wants to use it, and he's a big game player. That's what he does. Those guys find another level at key times, and he's one of those guys.”

The goal served as poetic justice in that the Sharks were the much better team throughout three periods. San Jose held a 35-20 advantage on the shot clock but only managed one goal, a power play marker by Joe Pavelski in the first period. Chris Wagner answered that late in the second period, despite San Jose registering 15 of the 20 shots in the middle frame.

DeBoer rearranged all four of his forward lines after the Sharks were shut out in Detroit on Saturday, and the Sharks looked much more dangerous despite just the single lonely marker before overtime.

“There’s a lot of good little things that we did well,” Pavelski said. “We were on the attack, felt like we were on the inside. We just weren’t cashing in or getting that bounce.”

Couture said: “We created some chances. We could have had a couple. Each line played pretty well.”

DeBoer, too, liked what he saw from his new combos.

“If we keep playing like that, it's going to come,” he said. “But, it was a nice response game after the Detroit game.”

Perhaps the most consistent part of the Sharks’ game through seven games has been their penalty kill. San Jose fought off all three Ducks advantages, including a brief five-on-three in the first period shortly after Pavelski had opened the scoring.

Micheal Haley took exception to a high hit by Clayton Stoner on Patrick Marleau, and dropped the gloves with the Anaheim defenseman. He was issued an instigation minor to go along with a fighting major and 10-minute misconduct, and one minute and 24 seconds later, Tomas Hertl was busted for a faceoff violation.

Couture, Burns and Paul Martin worked to nullify the two-man advantage, and the Sharks proceeded to kill the remaining time on the Hertl penalty, too.

“It was an important time of the game with a one-goal lead,” said Martin Jones, who made seven saves on the PK and 19 total.

Penalties like Haley’s, where he was sticking up for a teammate, are also easier to get up for according to the goalie.

“I don't think he was expecting to get an instigator call on that one, but yeah, we'll kill that off, for sure,” Jones said. “Hales is a good team guy to go out and do stuff like that."

San Jose is 18-for-22 on the penalty kill overall, including a third period kill of a Joe Thornton holding-the-stick minor at 4:09.

“We’ve allowed [four] goals against, but they were unfortunate bounces or really nice shots from them that we could do nothing about,” Vlasic said. “Penalty kill has been good. Guys have been bearing down, blocking shots when we need to.”

The Sharks will remain at home where they will host the rebuilding Blue Jackets on Thursday and Predators on Saturday. After an odd training camp with many players missing and a tough five-games-in-eight-days road trip after the home opener, they’ll get a chance now to enjoy a much more normal day-to-day routine, with practice.

Tuesday’s win could serve as a solid foundation on which to build.

“That was definitely one of our better games this year,” Couture said. “It was good from basically start to finish.”

Especially the finish.