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The Sports Report: Clippers win to take 3-1 series lead over Denver

Patrick Beverley points something out
(Associated Press)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. I apologize for no newsletter yesterday, but I learned a valuable equation: Heat + Smoke + Fire + Ashes = Major asthma attack. Now, let’s get to the news.

Andrew Greif on the Clippers: Clippers guard Patrick Beverley was sprinting upcourt during Wednesday’s fourth quarter just shy of midcourt when Nikola Jokic reached out and whacked him in the chest with his left arm.

Beverley flew downcourt for two more steps before stopping immediately and moving toward Denver’s 7-footer with unclear intentions. Clad in matching salmon-colored polo shirts, the entire Clippers coaching staff leaped out of their sideline seats. It was easy to anticipate the worst.

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Only two days earlier, Beverley had raised the ire of the Nuggets when, after the Clippers’ victory in Game 3 of this Western Conference semifinal, said that Jokic was difficult to guard because of his “flailing.” Denver’s coach, Michael Malone, responded the next day with a verbal fastball, up and in: “I don’t listen to Patrick Beverley a whole lot.”

Yet Wednesday’s war of words never became Thursday’s show of hands.

Instead of approaching Jokic, Beverley walked toward his own bench with a smile and palms raised, assuring his coaches he would do no harm. Nothing, in the end, came from the moment. But it said everything about the Clippers’ 96-85 victory to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.

During a night the Clippers controlled from start until finish, there were moments where their composure was tested and their will could have been rattled by a Nuggets team that has already survived a 3-1 deficit in this postseason.

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Each time, the Clippers’ cooler heads, and crisper execution, prevailed. And because of it, the franchise is one win away from its first ever appearance in a conference finals.

No. 2 Clippers vs. No. 3 Denver
Second round
All times Pacific

Game 1: Clippers 120, Denver 97
Game 2: Denver 110, Clippers 101
Game 3: Clippers 113, Denver 107
Game 4: Clippers 96, Denver 85
Game 5: Friday, TBD, TNT
Game 6*: Sunday, TBD, ESPN
Game 7*: Tuesday, TBD, ESPN

*-if necessary

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LAKERS

Broderick Turner on the Lakers: They all have a role to play for the Lakers, and in this second-round playoff series against the small-ball centric Houston Rockets, that role could evolve from game to game or even quarter to quarter.

Knowing this, there haven’t been any complaints about how they are being used. Instead, centers JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard are cheering on their teammates and staying prepared for whenever their moment might arrive.

Backup forward Markieff Morris has been productive with increased playing time. Reserve guard JR Smith has seen limited time, but he has stayed locked into the games.

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All of them are veterans just looking to do their part to help the Lakers work toward the franchise’s 17th NBA championship.

“Role acceptance is a huge part in any successful team and our guys have really excelled with that throughout the year,” coach Frank Vogel said to reporters on a videoconference call Wednesday. “They know we have high aspirations about what our group can accomplish. It’s not about the individual in anything we do. Particularly in the playoffs, there are certain series where one player’s skill set may make them more meaningful than it will in a different series. So, we have the flexibility, versatility to do those types of things, adjust from one half to another, from one game to another and our guys have been wonderful about just playing their part and doing whatever is asked of them.”

No. 1 Lakers vs. No. 4 Houston
Second round
All times Pacific

Game 1: Houston 112, Lakers 97
Game 2: Lakers 117, Houston 109
Game 3: Lakers 112, Houston 102
Game 4: Today, 4 p.m., TNT
Game 5: Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN
Game 6*: Monday, TBD, TNT
Game 7*: Wednesday, TBD, TNT

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*-if necessary

DODGERS

Jack Harris on the Dodgers: Kiké Hernández wasn’t sure words such as honor and pride were enough, or if language existed to convey the depth of his feelings.

Instead, he used the diamond as his canvas and his bat as the paint brush, honoring his native Puerto Rico’s preeminent sporting idol in perhaps the most profound way possible.

On Roberto Clemente Day, Hernández homered in his first at-bat, sending a high fly ball into the left field seats in the second inning of the Dodgers’ extra-inning 6-4 win against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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Like other Puerto Rican MLB players Wednesday, Hernández had Clemente’s No. 21 on his jersey. After he crossed home plate, he patted the number and pointed to the sky.

“It was great, very fitting,” manager Dave Roberts told SportsNet LA minutes later. “To get him a start, get him in there to wear 21, homer – and I know he gave a little something as he crossed home plate – very happy for Kiké.”

Hernández was more than happy to honor one of his heroes.

Almost half-a-century after Clemente’s tragic death, when his fight en route to help Nicaraguan earthquake victims crashed in the ocean on New Year’s Eve in 1972, the legacy of baseball’s first Latin American Hall of Famer is still held high.

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“It’s special,” said Edwin Ríos, who also wore 21 on Wednesday as the Dodgers’ only other Puerto Rican player. “As a Puerto Rican, you grow up looking up to Roberto Clemente for everything he did and what he stands for.

“I don’t want to say [he was] the perfect human, but he put everybody else before himself. He died to go take food and clothes to people in Nicaragua. It’s crazy the person he was. If I can be half the person he was, I think I’ll be OK.”

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Dodgers could get postseason home games, then a bubble

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ANGELS

Maria Torres on the Angels: José Molina isn’t sure when he heard the name Roberto Clemente for the first time.

The Angels catching coach, and longtime former major leaguer who won the World Series with the Angels in 2002, was born in Puerto Rico just a few years after Clemente’s death in a 1972 airplane crash. Clemente had been a National League MVP, a World Series champion, a perennial All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner, and a Hall of Fame inductee. The Puerto Rican outfielder was synonymous with baseball in his homeland. One didn’t have to try hard to find mention of Clemente.

But Molina does remember the first time Clemente’s legacy truly resonated with him. He was a young teenager preparing to turn pro, which he eventually did when the Chicago Cubs drafted him in 1993 out of Maestro Ladi High in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico. All he really knew about Clemente were his Hall of Fame credentials — and the Clemente-themed lesson Molina’s father, Benjamin Sr., often shared.

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“Always my dad told me, ‘Just play with pride,’” Molina said before the Angels’ 7-3 loss to Texas on Wednesday. “And I think that’s what Roberto did. He played the game with pride.”

Molina didn’t pass on the opportunity to wear the No. 21 in Clemente’s honor on Wednesday in Arlington, Texas. For the first time since Major League Baseball began celebrating Roberto Clemente Day in 2002, all Puerto Rican players, coaches and managers were permitted by the league and the Clemente family to switch to No. 21. Anyone else wishing to pay tribute to Clemente could wear a numbered patch.

LAFC

Damir Kreilach scored, Andrew Putna had a career-high eight saves and Real Salt Lake beat LAFC 3-0 on Wednesday night.

Kreilach’s header in the ninth minute gave RSL a 1-0 lead. Mikael Chang lofted an entry to Kreilach between the penalty spot and the top of the 6-yard box for the finish that slipped under the crossbar and just over the fingertips of leaping goalkeeper Pablo Sisniega.

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Salt Lake (3-2-5) rebounded from a 4-0 loss to Minnesota United on Sunday to snap a three-game winless streak.

Pablo Ruiz first-timed a corner kick by Albert Rusnak that was deflected by LAFC’s Jordan Harvey but Justin Meram controlled it, side-stepped, and then paused as a defender slid by before chipping in from seven yards out to double the advantage in the 47th minute.

Rusnak capped the scoring when he converted from the penalty spot in the 79th after Harvey was called for a hand ball in the area.

LAFC (3-4-3) has lost back-to-back games and four of its last five.

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RAMS

Gary Klein on the Rams: The Rams announced Wednesday they had agreed to terms with cornerback Jalen Ramsey on a five-year contract. Terms were not disclosed but the deal is worth as much as $105 million, with $71.2 million in guarantees, a person with knowledge of the situation said.

Ramsey, 25, will earn about $21 million per season. That smashes the record Tre’Davious White of the Buffalo Bills established last week when he signed a five-year, $82.5-million deal that included $55 million in guarantees.

Ramsey was not made available to reporters Wednesday as the Rams continued preparations for Sunday night’s opener against the Dallas Cowboys at SoFi Stadium. He previously was scheduled to speak with reporters Friday.

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USC FOOTBALL

Ryan Kartje on USC: nother top prospect and key returner is cutting short his USC career to declare for the NFL draft.

Alijah Vera-Tucker, a potential first-round talent who was set to anchor the Trojans offensive line, announced Wednesday that he will opt out of the upcoming Pac-12 season, whenever that may be, to train for the 2021 draft.

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“Best believe I’m going to miss this family” he wrote on Twitter. “There is nothing like putting that USC uniform and running out of that tunnel at the Coli with y’all. I know that the climb to greatness won’t stop for any of us.”

Vera-Tucker is the second Trojan starter in the trenches to declare his intention to skip the season. Defensive tackle Jay Tufele announced last month that he would enter the draft and signed with an agent, leaving USC shorthanded on its defensive front.

Losing Vera-Tucker is an even more devastating blow to an offensive line that could ill afford to lose any depth. As a sophomore last season, Vera-Tucker emerged as USC’s most consistent lineman from his spot at left guard, earning All-Pac-12 honors by season’s end. His standout season nearly convinced him to declare for the draft last winter, but he chose to return with the promise of replacing Austin Jackson, who was drafted in the first round, at left tackle.

U.S. OPEN

Helene Elliott on the U.S. Open: Serena Williams was caught off-balance as Tsvetana Pironkova’s serve came at her, angling toward the corner, in the eighth game of the second set of their U.S. Open quarterfinal match on Wednesday. It was a pivotal moment: Williams had lost the first set to the steady Bulgarian and had stayed in the second set mainly because of her powerful serve, but Williams knew she’d have to find other ways to win points and push Pironkova into mistakes.

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Serving at 3-4 and love-15, Pironkova blasted a serve to Williams’ left, leaving Williams no time to reposition her feet or turn her body. So Williams switched her racket from her powerful right hand to her left hand and made an effective return, startling Pironkova and eventually winning the game that cleared the way for Williams to continue her quest for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title.

Williams wasn’t dazzling in coming back for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory at Arthur Ashe Stadium except for hitting 20 aces, her most in eight years. She didn’t dominate Pironkova, who made a remarkable run in her first tournament in three years and first as the mother of a son.

Williams, herself the mother of a 3-year-old daughter, needed every resource she owned to advance to the semifinals on Thursday against Victoria Azarenka, a 6-1, 6-0 winner over Elise Mertens, but her inconsistent performance wasn’t a sign of decline.

NBA PLAYOFFS SCHEDULE

SECOND ROUND
EASTERN CONFERENCE

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No. 1 Milwaukee vs. No. 5 Miami

Game 1: Miami 115, Milwaukee 104
Game 2: Miami 116, Milwaukee 114
Game 3: Miami 115, Milwaukee 100
Game 4: Milwaukee 118, Miami 115 (OT)
Game 5: Miami 103, Milwaukee 94

No. 2 Toronto vs. No. 3 Boston Celtics

Game 1: Boston 112, Toronto 94
Game 2: Boston 102, Toronto 99
Game 3: Toronto 104, Boston 103
Game 4: Toronto 100, Boston 93
Game 5: Boston 111, Toronto 89
Game 6: Toronto 125, Boston 122 (2 OT)
Game 7*: Friday, TBD, TNT

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* – If necessary

NHL PLAYOFFS SCHEDULE


All Times Pacific
Conference finals
Eastern Conference

No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 6 NY Islanders

Game 1: Tampa Bay 8, NY Islanders 2
Game 2: Tampa Bay 2, NY Islanders 1
Game 3: Friday, 5 p.m., USA
Game 4: Sunday, noon, NBC
Game 5*: Tuesday, 5 p.m., NBCSN
Game 6*: Thursday, Sept. 17, 5 p.m., NBCSN
Game 7*: Saturday, Sept. 19, 4:30 p.m., NBC

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Western Conference
No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights vs. No. 3 Dallas Stars

Game 1: Dallas 1, Vegas 0
Game 2: Vegas 3, Dallas 0
Game 3: Today, 5 p.m., NBCSN
Game 4: Saturday, 4 p.m., NBC
Game 5: Monday, 5 p.m., NBCSN
Game 6*: Wednesday, 5 p.m., NBCSN
Game 7*: Friday, Sept. 18, 6 p.m., NBCSN

*-if necessary

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific.

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Lakers vs. Houston, 4 p.m., TNT

Dodgers at Arizona, 6:30 p.m., Sportsnet LA, AM 570

Angels at Texas, 1 p.m., FSW, KLAA 830

Sparks vs. Washington, 7 p.m., CBS Sports Network, Spectrum Sportsnet

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THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1933 — Fred Perry wins his first U.S. men’s singles title with a 6-3, 11-13, 4-6, 6-0, 6-1 victory over Australian Jack Crawford.

1961 — Australia’s Roy Emerson upsets countryman Rod Laver to win the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association championship. Darlene Hard wins the women’s title for the second straight year.

1962 — Rod Laver becomes the first man since Don Budge in 1938 to win the Grand Slam beating Roy Emerson 6-2, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, at the U.S. Open. Margaret Smith becomes the first Australian woman to win the U.S. Open with a 9-7, 6-4 win over Darlene Hard.

1966 — Muhammad Ali knocks out Karl Mildenberger in the 12th round in Frankfurt, Germany, to retain his world heavyweight title.

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1967 — John Newcombe beats Clark Graebner to win the men’s title in the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association championships. Billie Jean King wins the singles, doubles and mixed doubles championships. King, who also swept the three titles at Wimbledon, is the first to accomplish the feat of two sweeps in the same year since Alice Marble in 1939.

1972 — The United States men’s basketball team loses its first game in Olympic competition. The Soviet Union wins 51-50 with the help of a controversial ending. Dr. William Jones, secretary general of the International Amateur Basketball Federation, tells the referees to have the players replay the final three seconds and the Soviets score a last-second bucket. The Americans, who had the lead when the buzzer sounded the first time, protest in vain. The U.S. team later refuses to accept the silver medal.

1972 — Ilie Nastase trailing two sets to one and facing break point at 1-3 in the fourth set, comes back to defeat Arthur Ashe, 3-6, 6-3, 6-7, 6-4, 6-3, for the U.S. Open men’s singles title.

1977 — Chris Evert beats Wendy Turnbull 7-6, 6-2 to capture the U.S. Open title for the third straight year.

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1978 — Jimmy Connors becomes the only player to win the U.S. Open on three different surfaces, with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 win over Bjorn Borg. Connors wins the first men’s final played on the Deco Turf II courts at the new USTA National Tennis Center. Connors had won the 1974 U.S. Open on grass and the 1976 U.S. Open on clay courts.

1983 — Martina Navratilova wins her first U.S. Open women’s singles championship, beating Chris Evert Lloyd 6-1, 6-3.

1988 — Steffi Graf becomes the third women to complete the Grand Slam, defeating Gabriela Sabatini 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 in the U.S. Open.

1989 — Boris Becker wins his first U.S. Open by beating top-seeded Ivan Lendl 7-6, 1-6, 6-3, 7-6 in a four-hour struggle in sweltering heat. Lendl, who won three straight Open titles from 1985-87, tied an Open record with his eighth consecutive final, something Bill Tilden did from 1918-25.

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1993 — Pernell Whitaker and Julio Cesar Chavez fight to a majority draw. Two judges score the fight 115-115 and the third scores the fight 115-113 for Whitaker. It’s the first blemish on Chavez’s record who was 87-0 entering the bout.

1994 — Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario becomes the first Spanish woman to win the U.S. Open when she beats Steffi Graf, 1-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4.

1995 — Pete Sampras wins his third U.S. Open men’s singles title, taking down the No. 1 seed and defending champion Andre Agassi, 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5.

1995 — Fuad Reveiz of the Minnesota Vikings sets an NFL record for consecutive field goals, converting from 32 and 27 yards to give him 30 in a row.

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1997 — Mark McGwire joins Babe Ruth as the only players in major league history with consecutive 50-homer seasons by hitting a 446-foot shot off Shawn Estes in the third inning of St. Louis’ game against at San Francisco. Ruth’s 50-homer seasons came in 1927 and 1928.

1998 — The NBA calls off a game because of a labor dispute for the first time in its history. The Oct. 12 exhibition in Tel Aviv between the Miami Heat and Israel’s No. 1 team, Maccabi Elite, is called off because of the lockout imposed by the owners.

2000 — Arizona’s Randy Johnson becomes the 12th player to reach the 3,000 strikeout plateau, fanning a season-high 14 in seven innings as the Diamondbacks lost to Florida 4-3 in 12 innings.

2000 — Marat Safin stuns four-time U.S. Open champion Pete Sampras, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, to become the first Russian to win the U.S. Open men’s singles championship.

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2004 — Zippy Chippy, thoroughbred racing’s lovable loser, makes it 0-for-100 when he finishes last in an eight-horse field at the Three-County Fairgrounds in Northampton, Mass.

2005 — Andre Agassi, 35, outlasts 22-year-old baseliner Robby Ginepri in five sets at the U.S. Open and become the oldest Grand Slam finalist in 31 years. Kim Clijsters captures the first Grand Slam singles title in her fifth appearance in a Grand Slam final, defeating Mary Pierce, 6-3, 6-1.

2006 — Roger Federer defeats Andy Roddick 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 in the U.S. Open final for his third major championship this year and ninth of his career. Federer becomes the first man ever to win back-to-back Wimbledon and U.S. Open crowns for three straight years.

2006 — Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts make fewer mistakes than Eli Manning and the New York Giants in the first NFL game to feature two brothers starting at quarterback. Big brother Peyton is 25-of-41 for 276 yards and a touchdown and the Colts score on five of their first seven possessions to defeat Eli and the Giants 26-21.

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2006 — Chicago barely lets Brett Favre touch the ball, shutting out the three-time MVP for the first time in his 16-year pro career, in a 26-0 win over Green Bay.

2010 — The Bryan brothers win their ninth Grand Slam title, derailing the “Indo-Pak Express” doubles team of India’s Rohan Bopanna and Pakistan’s Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi in the men’s doubles final at the U.S. Open. Bob and Mike Bryan capture their third title at Flushing Meadows and 65th overall with a 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4) victory.

2011 — Vitali Klitschko defeats Polish challenger Tomasz Adamek by technical knockout to retain his WBC heavyweight title in Wroclaw, Poland. The fight is stopped 2 minutes, 20 seconds into the 10th round.

2011 — Alan Moore, a 61-year-old Vietnam veteran and grandfather of five, becomes the oldest player ever to get in a college football game when he kicks an extra point for NAIA Faulkner in its season-opener.

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2012 — Andy Murray wins the U.S. Open in five grueling sets to become the first British man since 1936 to capture a Grand Slam title. Murray beats defending champion Novak Djokovic 7-6 (10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 in his fifth try in the final of a major tournament.

2012 — Jiyai Shin makes a two-putt par on the ninth hole of a playoff and beats Paula Creamer to win the Kingsmill Championship, ending the longest playoff between two players in LPGA Tour history. The players play the 18th hole eight times trying to break the tie before darkness forced suspension of play a day eralier.

2013 — Thomas Bach is elected president of the International Olympic Committee, keeping the powerful sports body in European hands. Bach, a 59-year-old German lawyer, succeeds Jacques Rogge, the Belgian who is stepping down after 12 years.

2013 — Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is fined $100,000 by the NFL for his illegal low block on Minnesota center John Sullivan in the Lions’ season-opening victory on Sept. 8.

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And finally

The 1972 Olympic men’s basketball story. Watch it here.

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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