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The Sports Report: Lakers win their 17th NBA title

LeBron James, left, and Anthony Davis celebrate in the closing seconds of Game 6 of the NBA Finals
LeBron James, left, and Anthony Davis celebrate in the closing seconds of Game 6 of the NBA Finals as the Lakers win their 17th championship.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

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

Bill Plaschke on the Lakers: From the heavens, they were touched.

To the heavens, they have soared.

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On the wings of the fallen Kobe Bryant and the prayers of a restless city, the Lakers have once again reached basketball’s glorious peak.

At AdventHealth Arena near Orlando, Fla., on Sunday night, Los Angeles’ most beloved sports franchise ended a decade-long drought by defeating the Miami Heat, 106-93, to capture its 17th NBA championship.

The clinching blowout, in which the overmatched Heat were quickly swarmed and suffocated, gave the Lakers a four-games-to-two victory in an NBA Finals that ended in exhausted hugs and bold proclamations.

With the 17 titles — a dozen which were won in Los Angeles — the Lakers have finally equaled the number won by the hated Boston Celtics and thus can claim at least a share of the title of greatest NBA franchise ever.

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By becoming the first player to win the NBA Finals MVP award with three different franchises — while winning his fourth title overall — the Lakers’ LeBron James can surely claim at least a share of the title with Michael Jordan as greatest player ever.

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Lakers defeat Heat in NBA Finals to capture record-tying 17th title

Anthony Davis seems to have found his NBA home with the Lakers

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Lakers win brings fireworks show as fans descend on Staples Center chanting ‘Kobe, Kobe!’

Photos from Lakers’ NBA championship victory over the Miami Heat

Lakers winning 17th NBA title sets off social media frenzy

The Lakers are your 2020 NBA Champions. What will you remember about the season?

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NBA FINALS
All times Pacific
Lakers vs. Miami

Game 1: Lakers 116, Miami 98
Game 2: Lakers 124, Miami 114
Game 3: Miami 115, Lakers 104
Game 4: Lakers 102, Miami 96
Game 5: Miami 111, Lakers 108
Game 6: Lakers 106, Miami 93

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RAMS

Gary Klein on the Rams: Jared Goff passed for 309 yards and accounted for three touchdowns, Darrell Henderson scored two touchdowns and Aaron Donald and Troy Reeder combined for seven sacks in a victory that completed the Rams’ sweep of what appears to be the NFL’s weakest division with a 30-10 win over Washington.

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Next Sunday’s marquee matchup against the defending NFC West champion San Francisco 49ers figures to be a much tougher test than the ones the Rams (4-1) faced while dispatching the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Washington (1-4).

The NFC East is seemingly so bad — and for the taking — it was one of the reasons Washington coach Ron Rivera gave for replacing quarterback Dwayne Haskins with Kyle Allen, and elevating Alex Smith to the backup.

Allen was knocked out of the game in the second quarter, enabling Smith to play for the first time since suffering a gruesome leg injury in 2018 that required 17 surgeries.

“One of the most amazing things in football history,” Goff said of Smith’s comeback, adding, “I’ll be able to tell people forever that I watched that, that I saw that happen.”

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But Donald and Reeder, starting in place of leading-tackler Micah Kiser, spoiled Smith’s otherwise heroic return. Donald had four sacks, Reeder three. Smith completed nine of 17 passes for 37 yards.

“I was standing there watching him warm up thinking, ‘Wow, this guy went from almost losing his leg to being able to play football again,’ ” Reeder said.

The Rams endured rain throughout the game — and their third cross-country trip in four weeks — to give coach Sean McVay a victory in the stadium where he spent seven seasons as a Washington assistant.

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Rams’ 30-10 victory over Washington by the numbers

Aaron Donald and Rams show Alex Smith no mercy, but appreciation for his comeback

Alex Smith’s first game since horrific injury a moment of pride for his father

DODGERS

Mike DiGiovanna on the Dodgers: Joe Torre and Joe Girardi rarely stressed over ninth-inning pitching decisions in the 15 years they guided the New York Yankees to the playoffs from 1997 to 2013.

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Both had the good fortune of managing the best closer in history, Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera, the cut-fastball specialist who went 8-1 with an 0.70 ERA and converted 42 of 47 save opportunities in 96 postseason games for a franchise that won World Series titles in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will have no such luxury as he navigates a best-of-seven National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves, which opens Monday night at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, and — he hopes — an eventual World Series.

Kenley Jansen’s struggles have turned what used to be a ninth-inning exclamation point into a question mark, forcing Roberts to base late-game pitching decisions on matchups instead of slotting relievers into defined roles.

But Roberts need not fret. As the Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox and Washington Nationals proved in the last three Octobers, teams can win championships without lock-down closers and without sticking to traditional bullpen blueprints.

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All it takes is for pitchers to shelve their egos and for flexibility and ingenuity on the part of the manager, pitching coach and front office. By necessity or design, these have become the most important ingredients of playoff bullpen management.

“I think, with our guys, it’s understanding what hitters they’re gonna get, and whatever the leverage [situation], they’re gonna be ready,” Roberts said. “They’re all a big part of what we’re trying to do, and their buy-in is important. Now, it’s about winning games. Everyone in that clubhouse understands that.”

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Dodgers match up as superior to the Braves everywhere but in the bullpen

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Dodgers refine their offensive approach to adapt to playoff baseball, Globe Life Field

Andrew Friedman’s handprints are evident on all four teams in MLB playoffs

Atlanta Braves a formidable obstacle in the Dodgers’ path to the World Series

Braves-Dodgers schedule

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The Dodgers will be the home team for Games 1, 2, 6 and 7. All times are Pacific. All game at Arlington, Texas.

Game 1: Tonight, 5 p.m., Atlanta vs. Dodgers, Fox
Game 2: Tuesday, TBD, Atlanta vs. Dodgers, FS1
Game 3: Wednesday, TBD, Dodgers vs. Atlanta, TBD
Game 4: Thursday, TBD, Dodgers vs. Atlanta, TBD
Game 5*: Friday, TBD, Dodgers vs. Atlanta, TBD
Game 6*: Saturday, TBD, Atlanta vs. Dodgers, TBD
Game 7*: Sunday, TBD, Atlanta vs. Dodgers, TBD

*-If necessary

CHARGERS

Sam Farmer on the NFL: So far this season, the Chargers haven’t had a problem with positive COVID-19 tests.

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But when the NFL moved the schedule around Sunday in order to postpone Monday’s game between Denver and New England, no one had a bigger reshuffling than the Chargers.

The NFL was looking to move the minimum amount of games, and the solution it chose essentially was redrawing the Chargers’ schedule.

The changes:

—The Chargers’ week off, originally scheduled for Week 10, has been changed to this week, beginning after they play at New Orleans on Monday night.

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—Jacksonville at the Chargers moves from Week 8 to Week 7.

—Chargers at Denver move from Week 11 to Week 8.

—Chargers at Miami moves from Week 7 to Week 10.

—New York Jets at the Chargers moves from next Sunday to Week 11.

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After an additional member of the Patriots tested positive for the virus Sunday — joining quarterback Cam Newton and cornerback Stephon Gilmore — the NFL decided to postpone the game, which already had been moved from Sunday to Monday. Now it will be played next Sunday.

LAFC

Kevin Baxter on LAFC: With four starters missing to international duty and two others to injury, LAFC coach Bob Bradley had to go to the end of his shallow bench just to field a starting lineup Sunday.

Then things got really bad.

Thirteen minutes after kicking off against the reigning MLS champions, LAFC saw two more players hobble off to the locker room. Before the afternoon was over Bradley had used a 16-year old for a full half at forward, got 77 minutes from a defender who hadn’t gone that long in 15 months and played a 19-year old who wasn’t even on the team six days ago.

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But rather than mourning the circumstances, LAFC went to work, pressing the visiting Seattle Sounders all over the field and escaping with a gutsy 3-1 victory, arguably the signature win of what has been a difficult season.

FRENCH OPEN

For years, Rafael Nadal pursued, and achieved, greatness at the French Open and other major tournaments. He never made a big deal out of his trophy total or the way he kept gaining on rival Roger Federer in the Grand Slam standings.

Now, thanks to a flawless performance against Novak Djokovic in the final at Roland Garros on Sunday, Nadal is finally there — tied with Federer at 20 major singles championships, more than any other man in tennis history.

Adding to his own French Open record trophy with No. 13 on its red clay, Nadal delivered a remarkably dominant 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 victory over the No. 1-ranked Djokovic.

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“He keeps going. No holding him back, it seems like. It’s amazing. I mean, I admire all his achievements,” said Djokovic, who had won his last five Grand Slam finals. “There’s not much you can say. All the superlatives you can use, he deserves them.”

When Nadal ended it with an ace, he dropped to his knees, smiled widely and pumped his arms. It’s the fourth time he’s won his favorite tournament without ceding a set.

“The love story that I have with this city, and with this court, is unforgettable,” Nadal said.

MLB PLAYOFFS

All times Pacific
AL Championship Series
Houston Astros vs. Tampa Bay Rays
all games at San Diego
Tampa Bay is home team in Games 1, 2, 6 and 7

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Game 1: Tampa Bay 2, Houston 1
Game 2: Today, 1 p.m., TBS
Game 3: Tuesday, TBD, TBS
Game 4: Wednesday, TBD, TBS
Game 5*: Thursday, TBD, TBS
Game 6*: Friday, TBD, TBS
Game 7*: Saturday, TBD, TBS

*-if necessary

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific.

Dodgers vs. Atlanta, 5 p.m., Fox

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THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1920 — In the final race of his career, 3-year-old Man o War defeats 1919 Triple Crown winner Sir Barton in a match race, the Kenilworth Park Gold Cup. Sent off at odds of 1-20, Man o War wins by seven lengths for his 14th consecutive victory.

1940 — Tennessee registers its 17th consecutive regular-season shutout with a 53-0 rout of Tennessee-Chattanooga. The record streak started on Nov. 5, 1938, also against Tennessee-Chattanooga.

1946 — The No. 2 Texas Longhorns beat No. 1 Oklahoma 28-7. It’s the eighth 1-2 matchup in AP poll history and the first time the second-ranked team wins the game.

1976 — Don Murdoch of the New York Rangers ties an NHL record for rookies with five goals in a 10-4 victory over the Minnesota North Stars.

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1986 — Walter Payton becomes the first NFL player to accumulate 20,000 all-purpose yards in the Chicago Bears’ 20-7 victory over the Houston Oilers. Payton has 76 yards rushing and 30 yards receiving for a career total of 20,045.

1991 — Doug Flutie of the British Columbia Lions breaks Warren Moon’s CFL record for yards passing in a season with a 582-yard performance in a 45-38 overtime loss to Edmonton.

1992 — Art Monk of the Washington Redskins becomes the NFL’s career reception leader when he catches a 10-yard sideline pass in the fourth quarter of a 34-3 victory over Denver. Monk’s seven catches move him past former Seattle star Steve Largent, who retired after the 1989 season with 819 receptions.

1997 — James Stewart of the Jacksonville Jaguars becomes the fourth player in NFL history and the first since 1963 to rush for five touchdowns. All the TDs are for less than 10 yards, and he finishes with 102 yards on 15 carries in Jacksonville’s 38-21 victory over Philadelphia.

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2003 — Michael Schumacher wins a record sixth world title. He clinches the Formula One championship by two points after finishing eighth in the Japanese Grand Prix. Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello wins the season-ending race.

2007 — Philadelphia forward Jesse Boulerice is suspended 25 games by the NHL for striking Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler across the face with his stick, the longest single-season ban in league history. Boulerice’s hit came late in Philadelphia’s 8-2 win over Vancouver on Oct. 10.

2008 — Washington, the only team in NFL history to open a season with no offensive turnovers through its first five games, fumbles four times in six possessions in its 19-17 loss to St. Louis.

2009 — Brent Seabrook scores 26 seconds into overtime and the Chicago Blackhawks matched the biggest comeback in NHL history, rallying from a five-goal deficit to beat the Calgary Flames 6-5. Chicago fell behind 5-0 in the first period before overtaking the Flames.

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2016 — Auston Matthews takes 40 minutes to get into the NHL record book. In the highest-scoring debut in modern NHL history, Matthews scores four goals for the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 5-4 loss to Ottawa. Kyle Turris scores 37 seconds into overtime to give the Senators the season-opening victory. The 19-year-old Matthews, who was the 12th first overall pick to score in his NHL debut, gets his fourth goal with 3 seconds left in the second period.

And finally

Dodgers vs. Cardinals in 1985 NLCS Game 1. 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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