Sharks notes: Murray, Kesler renew hostilities


Sharks notes: Murray, Kesler renew hostilities

Tim Panaccio

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- When youre 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, its not a coincidence that your own coach calls you his bull in the china shop.Douglas Murray has heard it before. The Bull had a number of run-ins with Ryan Kesler during Sundays 3-2 loss to the Canucks in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. Kesler gives up an inch in height, which is nothing in hockey. Yet the 38 pounds in weight disadvantage is. Which is why Kesler got decked a few times. Murrays high-stick call on Kesler in the opening period had him a tad upset on Monday. The two were going at it pretty good on the ice, the way Murray sees it. And when Murray decked him, they exchanged some words. It was the heat of the game, Murray said. He looked like he was hurt a lot more. It was something that happens during the game. I asked someone and I think my stick came up when I poke-checked him down low. I think my stick came up from him lifting it. I didnt feel like I high-sticked him. Some of the Sharks felt there was a bit of embellishment on Keslers part there, as well as with Max Lapierre in the third period when Dan Boyle was penalized for holding the Canucks centerman, who took a dive. In that instance, both players went off the ice. Their heads are going back like theyre being shot with a gun, Boyle said, inferring the Canucks dont take too kindly to the checks that have been thrown on them by San Jose. Hopefully, the refs see it, most of the time. They got one right in the end at least, though unfortunately I had to go with him. Vancouver has been accused of embellishing to get some calls throughout these playoffs. Truth is, thats not unusual when you have a skill group of players like the Canucks in games against more physical opponents, such as the Sharks. We were aware of what Nashville was accusing them of in the series before and I saw it first hand last night, Boyle said. Theyre getting away with it, and its working for them. So, if its working, why are you going to change it? We just hope the referees watch tape like we do, and they see some of the things other people have seen. Two days off: The reason for the extra day off between games is a Kid Rock concert here at Rogers Arena. Most coaches dont enjoy an extra day off when they lose. Bad losses tend to eat away at players. Sharks coach Todd McLellan thinks this is an exception. Most his players elected not to skate on Monday. Interestingly, team captain Joe Thornton skated. You always want to get back on the horse as quick as you can, but in this case, I think the extra day helps us, he said. We take advantage of it, today. Physically, tomorrow we will have a good skate. Production: The Sedin Twins (Daniel and Henrik) were honest after Game 1 in saying that they felt pressure to perform in the playoffs. Its even been a discussion with their teammates. You know, those guys always lead by example, Kesler said. They were playing well for us, they just weren't getting the bounces. It all evens out in the end. I couldn't be more happy for Hank to score that goal. He's been working hard, doing all the right things. For him to finally get one, it's good. For Hank's defense, he's been playing really well. I think some of that negative energy has been directly wrong at him obviously. They're here to produce. Sometimes the puck doesn't go in the net. I've gone through stretches, too. I've had that negative energy drawn at me, too. I was really happy to see him get that one. You know, he played extremely well for us tonight and he won us the game. Vancouver got a huge morale boost, players said, by the contribution of its fourth line as Lapierre scored a game-tying goal early in the second period. His wingers are Raffi Torres and Jannik Hansen. It's fun that we're contributing, Lapierre said. We tried to keep it simple: put the puck deep, cycle the puck. That was a big goal. He had an easy tap shot in the crease off a pass from behind the net by Hansen. We want to stick with the game plan, wait for our chances to have a goal, Lapierre said. It was a great play by my winger, so I just have to tip it in. Henrik Sedin thought Lapierres goal took some pressure off the rest of the Canucks. It gives us huge momentums in games where we can throw those guys on the ice, they're buzzing around, he said. For them to get a goal playing the way they did, it's great to watch. I mean, it's guys that work extremely hard, so fun to watch. Kesler felt Lapierres line also made a difference defensively in Game 1. When you can throw that line out there and they play in the offensive zone all night, that wears the D down, that makes them really, really hard to play against, Kesler said. Those guys were great all night. It's been one of the best games I've seen that line play. Tim Panaccio is the NHL Insider for E-mail him at

Jazz will make series with Warriors harder than it looks

Jazz will make series with Warriors harder than it looks

So the Golden State Warriors don’t get a commuter series after all, and they get to play a team that plays as slow as they play fast, and they get to play at altitude – all things we will pretend matter greatly when this Western Conference semifinal series begins Tuesday night.

It won’t.

Well, let’s calm down a bit. It almost certainly won’t.

The Utah Jazz is not an easy out, not by a long shot. For one, they are not a mere shard of their former selves as the Clippers would have been. For two, they are pretty damned healthy as playoff basketball teams go. And for three, they are Memphis-funky, by which we mean like the Grizzlies, they pose conundrums unlike most teams that take awhile to break down and reassemble in a more digestible form.

On the other hand, they are not of Warrior quality, and though that seems frankly too smug by half, it is nonetheless true.

Now while the Golden States have their own issues – Steve Kerr’s head, Kevin Durant’s calf and Stephen Curry’s shoes – the Jazz are counterpunchers in the parlance. Not good enough to knock you out, but good enough to make you punch yourselves into exhaustion.

Golden State is 14-4 against the Jazz in the last five years, but it is the last year that counts most because this is the season in which the Jazz decided to attack the Warriors from beyond the three-point arc rather than the more traditional Rudy Gobert-Derrick Favors-low block route. Thus seems counterintuitive, especially when you consider that the one game Utah won, the 81st game of the season, they took 38 threes without Gordon Hayward playing, but head coach Quin Snyder has shown himself to be a more flexible coach than the one who collapsed at the college level.

But the way to understand the Jazz is not concern oneself with what they do but with what they will attempt to prevent the Warriors from doing. The Jazz ranks 2nd in threes allowed and percentage of those threes made, and they also rank a demonstrative last in pace.

So what we’re really talking about here, for those who want to get beneath the we’re-better-than-you-are nyah-nyah-nyah level, is whether Utah can make Golden State what it wants rather than the other way around. If Utah gets its way, the scores will be in the high-nineties, low-hundreds range, as they are 37-10 holding the opponent under 100 points (including the Clipper series), while the Warriors were held under 100 only six times.

Conversely, the Warriors held 29 teams under 100, and were 27-2 in those games, so the Warriors are actually more efficient than Utah even at a languid pace.

In other words, the Warriors are better at what Utah does than Utah is, which is probably why you will see and hear lots of smug this week and next among all non-Warrior employees. Barring injury, or Mike Brown quitting coaching and turning the job over to . . . well, actually the only name that might even pose a threat here is Quin Snyder . . . the Warriors have no business being extended beyond five games.

But that was the logic that fans took into last year’s Oklahoma City series, and the Memphis series before that. Not every series is 2016 Houston or 2015 New Orleans, and no titles are ordained, as anyone who watched the last five minutes of Game 7 last year an grumpily testify.

In other words, Utah will make this harder than it looks, even if it doesn’t end up looking that hard, if that makes any sense, which it actually doesn’t.

Just trust us on this. Utah lost 10 games by double digits this year. They fall reluctantly and with considerable rancor. But these are the Warriors, and ultimately, the chances are considerable to the point of prohibitive that they will indeed fall.

We think.

Prediction: Boredom only thing that will stop Warriors from sweeping Jazz

Prediction: Boredom only thing that will stop Warriors from sweeping Jazz

OAKLAND -- Though the Warriors marched through the first round of the playoffs, winning by an average of 18 points while sweeping Portland, the second round shapes up to be considerably more difficult.

The Utah Jazz are much deeper, play some of the best defense in the NBA and play their home games at altitude, which partially explains why only five teams posted better records at home.

That the Warriors won two of the three regular-season meetings is somewhat inconsequential. In two of those games, Utah was without All-Star forward Gordon Hayward and starting point guard George Hill. Power forward Derrick Favors missed all three games.

Regardless of the results of this series, there definitely will be a different look.

Here is our preview of the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals series (first-round statistics in parenthesis):


POINT GUARD: Stephen Curry (29.8 points per game, 6.5 assists, 5.3 rebounds) vs. George Hill (16.9 ppg, 3.7 apg, 4.1 rpg): Hill’s availability was been crucial to the regular-season success of the Jazz; he missed 33 games. Utah was 15-1, however, when he scored at least 20 points. Curry may be the most dangerous scorer among all point guards, and he’ll be a load for Hill. EDGE: Curry.

SHOOTING GUARD: Klay Thompson (18.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg) vs. Joe Ingles (6.6 ppg, 4.0 apg, 3.9 rpg): Aside from a couple brief hot streaks, Thompson struggled with his shot in the first round. He’ll fix that, and he’ll torch Ingles (or Rodney Hood). Ingles is crafty inside but of most concern when he’s beyond the arc. He has little chance of producing offense with Thompson as the primary defender. EDGE: Thompson.

SMALL FORWARD: Kevin Durant (21.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.0 apg) vs. Gordon Hayward (23.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.9 apg): Two All-Stars, only one of which is headed for the Hall of Fame. The Jazz, quite simply, have no answer for Durant’s offensive arsenal. Their best hope is that he is assigned to Hayward and has to expend energy on defense. EDGE: Durant.

POWER FORWARD: Draymond Green (13.8 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 7.5 apg, 4.3 blocks per game) vs. Boris Diaw (6.0 ppg, 2.6 apg, 1.7 rpg): Oddly enough, Diaw, because of his bulk and passing ability, is one of the few players who can give Green fits. Diaw won’t score much, but Utah could play through him at times. Green will try to run the big man off the floor. EDGE: Green.

CENTER: Zaza Pachulia (6.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg) vs. Rudy Gobert (8.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.2 bpg): Pachulia will need plenty of help from his bench, and he’ll get it. His role will be to free up scorers for shots coming off picks. Opportunities will be there, because Gobert tends to hunker down in the paint. He’s a terrific shot-blocker, but don’t be surprised if the Warriors test him inside. EDGE: Gobert.

SIXTH MAN: Andre Iguodala (7.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg), 4.5 apg) vs. Joe Johnson (15.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.0 apg): This is a fun matchup of wily veterans who rely on profoundly different styles. While Iguodala plays fast and is disruptive on defense, Johnson is deliberate and offensive-minded and is playing very well. Johnson also is among the game’s best clutch shooters. Iguodala finds more subtle ways to make an impact. EDGE: Even.

BENCHES: The Warriors are about as healthy as they have been at any time over the past two months, which means they are deep with players capable of producing. Matt Barnes is ready and Shaun Livingston is set to return no later than Game 2. The Warriors have considerable size, and they’ll need it. JaVale McGee and David West will come in handy against the likes of Favors, Diaw and Gobert. Both benches were effective in the first round. EDGE: Warriors, but it’s slight.

COACHING: With Steve Kerr out indefinitely, Mike Brown remains as acting head coach. He has plenty of postseason experience, as does veteran assistant Ron Adams. Jazz coach Quin Snyder did a tremendous job in the regular season when a slew of injuries could have knocked the team off course. He also is coming off his first playoff series victory as a head coach. EDGE: Warriors, due to experience.

ORACLE VS. VIVINT: Oracle Arena was massive for the Warriors in their first round, at times waking thunderous echoes of the “We Believe” experience in 2007. Vivint Smart Home Arena has a well-earned reputation for hurling loud insults at visiting players. The Utah crowd had better be careful, though, because the Warriors tend to thrive off crowd abuse. EDGE: Oracle.

PREDICTION: Warriors in four, five if they get bored.