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The Sports Report: Lakers lose to the Nuggets

Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, left, goes up for a shot attempt as Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James.
Jamal Murray goes up for a shot attempt.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

Tania Ganguli on the Lakers: Denver’s fearless 23-year-old, Jamal Murray, saw his team’s lead slipping away so he hit a smooth three-pointer from just behind the arc. Then he found teammate Paul Millsap, the man who’d never beat LeBron James in a playoff game, inside on the next possession. Then he punctuated a 10-1 Denver run with a deep three-pointer.

Murray sauntered backward in a semi-dance, knowing he’d helped secure at least one win for the Nuggets in the Western Conference finals.

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The Lakers dropped Game 3 of the series, 114-106, which they lead 2-1, despite 30 points and a triple-double from James and 27 points from Anthony Davis. Murray finished the game with 28 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel was clear before the game that he knew the Lakers escaped with a win in a contest they very well could have lost Sunday night.

“Our guys are well aware that we dodged a bullet,” Vogel said before Game 3 at AthenaHealth Arena in Orlando, Fla.

Despite the emotional lift the Lakers got from Davis’ game-winner, there were plenty of flaws in Game 2. They turned over the ball and they gave up a big lead. Denver had reason to believe they could compete with the Lakers.

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On Tuesday, Denver stayed competitive in the first quarter behind Nikola Jokic, who scored 11 points on five-of-seven first-quarter shooting and grabbed four rebounds. They led by two heading into the second quarter, 29-27.

Without Jokic to start the second quarter, the Lakers still fell victim to a 17-2 Nuggets run. At one point in the period, Denver led by 18 points. Although the Lakers trimmed the lead to 10 points by halftime, they trailed in the rebounding margin, 23-11. In all of the second quarter, the Lakers only grabbed four rebounds.

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WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
All times Pacific
No. 1 Lakers vs. No. 3 Denver

Game 1: Lakers 126, Denver 114
Game 2: Lakers 105, Denver 103
Game 3: Denver 114, Lakers 106
Game 4: Thursday, 6 p.m., TNT
Game 5*: Saturday, 6 p.m., TNT
Game 6*: Monday, TBD, TNT
Game 7*: Wed., Sept. 30, TBD, TNT

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DODGERS

Jorge Castillo on the Dodgers: The Dodgers clinched their eighth straight National League West title with a 7-2 win over the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday and it was unlike any of the first seven.

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There was no dogpile on the field or champagne-soaked celebration, just subdued high-fives and hugs as they put on T-shirts commemorating the accomplishment, piped-in crowd noise roared, and “I Love L.A.” serenaded the cutouts in attendance at Dodger Stadium.

They reached the goal in their 55th game with five games to spare in this sprint season with help from the Angels, who beat the San Diego Padres about an hour earlier. The results also gave them the No. 1 seed for the expanded 16-team postseason. They’ll play Game 1 of the wild-card round next Wednesday at Dodger Stadium. The opponent is a mediocre club to be determined.

The Dodgers crushed four home runs and got five solid innings from Dustin May to beat the best team they’ve played this season not named the Padres. May allowed two runs and three hits across five innings. He issued a career-high three walks and struck out five. The 23-year-old right-hander is an important piece to their World Series puzzle with potential to dominate.

May throws 99 mph. His numbers, however, doesn’t exactly match the profile. Pitchers with a repertoire that explosive usually strike out hitters at a high percentage. May doesn’t.

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He entered Wednesday with an 18% strikeout rate, which ranked 81st out of 97 pitchers that have logged at least 40 innings this season. May instead relies on inducing groundballs; he began Tuesday with the seventh-highest groundball rate in the majors. Groundballs are the batted balls most likely to become outs. The Dodgers, in turn, have been the best in the league at converting balls put in play into outs.

But strikeouts are the optimal result for a pitcher because they remove variables – defense and luck among them – from the equation. And in October, when a bloop single or an error can change the course of a series, strikeouts are gold. The Dodgers believe May, who will play a significant role in the postseason, could improve the output by optimizing his pitch selections with two strikes against right-handed hitters.

“Obviously the best thing would to punch guys,” manager Dave Roberts said. “But as long as he can continue to attack the strike zone, he has a good chance to get some outs.”

TENNIS

Helene Elliott on tennis: Fifty years ago today, holding a dollar bill and wearing smiles illuminated by more hope than certainty, nine women changed the course of professional sports.

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Stymied by a system that relegated them to back courts and meager paydays while favoring their male counterparts, eight female tennis players joined influential World Tennis magazine publisher Gladys Heldman to form their own tour on Sept. 23, 1970. To play in the tournament Heldman organized in Houston, each became a contract pro by signing for $1. No one was sure how many additional dollars they would earn.

U.S. tennis officials warned them not to go out on their own. International tennis organizations said they’d be barred from Grand Slams. Kerry Melville Reid and Judy Tegart Dalton were banned by the federation in their native Australia. “We were ostracized by the other players,” Rosie Casals said. “It was, ‘What are you doing? You’re hurting women’s tennis. You’re hurting our chances.’”

They had everything and nothing to lose. The Open Era, which allowed pros and amateurs to compete in the same events, brought bigger earnings for men but not for women. Legendary player and promoter Jack Kramer had said prize money at the prestigious Pacific Southwest tournament in 1970 would be distributed to men in a 10-1 ratio and women would get nothing unless they reached the quarterfinals. That was common: Julie Heldman, Gladys’ daughter, got $800 for winning the 1969 Italian Open, then the fifth-largest tournament in the world.

On that day 50 years ago, they declared they wouldn’t be devalued anymore. “It was a risk. It was a gamble,” San Diego native Valerie Ziegenfuss said. “But at the time, there wasn’t much else. We just said, ‘Wow, this is not looking good, so if we don’t do something, who will?’ To now see what it’s become, it’s amazing.”

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Casals, Ziegenfuss, Reid, Dalton, Billie Jean King, Peaches Bartkowicz, Kristy Pigeon, Nancy Richey and Julie Heldman are the Original Nine, pioneers whose efforts led to the rich payouts elite female tennis players now earn. (This year’s Australian Open singles winners each got about $2.9 million. The U.S. Open singles winners each got a pandemic-reduced $3 million.)

Gladys Heldman’s promotional savvy, King’s star power and the financial backing of Philip Morris chief executive Joe Cullman III made the launch of the Virginia Slims circuit possible, but King considers it as a team effort. “I think I got probably too much attention compared to them. I ended up being the spokesperson for all of us,” King said Tuesday during a phone interview. “The thing we had going was we could always laugh. We always had that common purpose we could go back to. We just had such a purpose and passion for it.”

ANGELS

Maria Torres on the Angels: Shortstop Andrelton Simmons informed the team Monday evening he opted out of the remainder of the season because of COVID-19 concerns, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

Manager Joe Maddon said Tuesday he hadn’t been able to reach Simmons via text message since learning of the decision, which effectively brought Simmons’ career in an Angels uniform to a close. Simmons’ seven-year, $58-million contract expires this fall.

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Maddon was surprised when he received the news of Simmons’ departure while driving from Angel Stadium to his Long Beach home after Monday’s victory over the Texas Rangers. Simmons hadn’t seemed disenchanted with the Angels.

“No [hint], not at all,” Maddon said. “Name in the lineup, ready to go, bumps fists before the game, smiles easily, talks easily, is always willing to converse when we go out to the mound. When I go out to take out pitchers, he’ll be asking questions about different things.”

In a statement provided to The Times, Simmons thanked the Angels for their hospitality. He also said: “Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association developed an environment and system that empowered players and provided us the opportunity to decide on whether to play or opt out of the season. At this moment, I feel this is the best decision for me and for my family.”

MLS

Kevin Baxter on MLS: Major League Soccer released the remainder of its 23-game regular-season schedule Tuesday, which calls for a fourth El Tráfico between LAFC and the Galaxy at Banc of California Stadium on Oct. 25.

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The Galaxy have won the last two meetings of neighborhood rivals and leads LAFC by goal differential in the battle for the final Western Conference playoff berth.

The Galaxy will play 12 times — seven of those at home — in the final 46 days of the regular season, which ends Nov. 8. That includes two home dates with Seattle, the reigning MLS Cup champions, a road game at Colorado and a pair of visits to Portland to play the Timbers and Whitecaps.

LAFC also has home games remaining with Seattle, Houston and Portland, and two trips to Portland four days apart to play the Timbers and Whitecaps. LAFC will also travel to Colorado.

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NBA PLAYOFFS SCHEDULE

CONFERENCE FINALS
EASTERN CONFERENCE

No. 3 Boston Celtics vs. No. 5 Miami Heat

Game 1: Miami 117, Boston 114 (OT)
Game 2: Miami 106, Boston 101
Game 3: Boston 117, Miami 106
Game 4: Today, 5:30 p.m., ESPN
Game 5: Friday, 4:30 p.m., ESPN
Game 6*: Sunday, 4:30 p.m., ESPN
Game 7*: TBD

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*-if necessary

NHL PLAYOFFS SCHEDULE


STANLEY CUP FINAL
All Times Pacific

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars

Game 1: Dallas 4, Tampa Bay 1
Game 2: Tampa Bay 3, Dallas 2
Game 3: Today, 5 p.m., NBCSN
Game 4: Friday, 5 p.m., NBC
Game 5: Saturday, 5 p.m., NBC
Game 6*: Monday, 5 p.m., NBC
Game 7*: Wed., Sept. 29, 5 p.m., NBC

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*-if necessary

WNBA PLAYOFFS SCHEDULE

Semifinals
All times Pacific

No. 1 Las Vegas Aces vs. No. 7 Connecticut Sun

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Game 1: Connecticut 87, Las Vegas 62
Game 2: Las Vegas 83, Connecticut 75
Game 3: Thursday, 4:30 p.m., ESPN2
Game 4: Sunday, TBD
Game 5*: Tuesday, TBD

No. 2 Seattle Storm vs. No. 4 Minnesota Lynx

Game 1: Seattle 88, Minnesota 86
Game 2: Thursday, 6:30 p.m., ESPN2
Game 3: Sunday, TBD
Game 4*: Tuesday, Sept. 29, TBD
Game 5*: TBD

*-if necessary

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TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific.

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

Angels at San Diego, 1 p.m., FSW, KLAA 830

Vancouver at LAFC, 7:30 p.m., Youtube TV, 710 ESPN

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Galaxy at Real Salt Lake, 6:30 p.m.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1926 — Gene Tunney beats Jack Dempsey with a 10-round decision to retain the world heavyweight title.

1952 — Rocky Marciano knocks out Jersey Joe Walcott in the 13th round to retain the world heavyweight title.

1979 — St. Louis’ Lou Brock steals his 938th base to break Billy Hamilton’s record as the Cardinals beat New York Mets 7-4 in 10 innings.

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1979 — The Houston Oilers overcome a 24-0 deficit to beat the Cincinnati Bengals 30-27 in overtime.

1983 — Gerry Coetzee knocks out Michael Dokes in the 10th round to win the WBA heavyweight title in Richfield, Ohio.

1992 — Manon Rheaume becomes the first woman to play in one of the four major pro sports leagues when she takes the ice in the first period for the NHL expansion Tampa Bay Lightning in an exhibition game. The 20-year-old goalie faces nine shots and allows two goals in St. Louis’ 6-4 victory.

1995 — Keyshawn Johnson catches 13 passes for 171 yards, becoming the first player in NCAA history with 12 straight 100-yard receiving games, as USC beats Arizona State 31-0.

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2000 — Ben Matthews ties an NCAA record with five interceptions, leading Bethel past Gustavus 14-13. Matthews ties the all-division record shared by eight players.

2007 — For the first time in NFL history, two players have 200-plus yards receiving in the same game — whether they were opponents or teammates — in Philadelphia’s 56-21 rout of Detroit. Philadelphia’s Kevin Curtis has 11 receptions for 221 yards and Detroit’s Roy Williams catches nine passes for 204. Detroit’s Jon Kitna sets a franchise record with 446 yards passing.

2007 — Green Bay’s Brett Favre wins his NFL-record 150th game as a starter, beating San Diego 31-24. His 240th straight start ties him for second on the all-time list.

2012 — The Tennessee Titans become the first team in NFL history to score five touchdowns of at least 60 yards in a game in their 44-41 overtime win over Detroit. The scorers are Tommie Campbell with a 65-yard punt return; Jared Cook’s 61-yard reception from Jake Locker; Darius Reynaud’s 105-yard kick return; Nate Washington’s 71-yard reception from Locker; and Alterraun Verner’s 72-yard fumble return. The Lions also become the first team in NFL history to score two touchdowns in the final 18 seconds of regulation to either take the lead or force overtime. Detroit quarterback Shaun Hill throws a 3-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson with 18 seconds remaining and then connected with Titus Young on a 46-yard TD as time expires to force overtime.

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2012 — Denver’s Peyton Manning passed for 330 yards in a 31-25 loss to Houston. It’s Manning’s 64th career 300-yard game, passing Dan Marino (63) for the most in NFL history.

2012 — Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles rushes for 233 yards, including a 91-yard TD run in the Chiefs’ 27-24 overtime win over New Orleans. Ryan Succop kicks six field goals, one to force overtime in the final seconds and a 31-yarder in overtime for the Chiefs.

And finally

Don Drysdale’s Hall of Fame induction speech. 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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