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The Sports Report: Lakers legend Elgin Baylor dies at 86

Elgin Baylor stands next to a statue, just unveiled, honoring him outside Staples Center in 2018.
(Reed Saxon / Associated Press)

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

Bill Plaschke on Elgin Baylor: For years it was the saddest sound in Los Angeles sports, the public greeting of the retired Elgin Baylor at a Lakers home game.

Silence.

The ovation given other Lakers legends was absent. The affection showered upon all former Lakers was missing. Nobody stood. Nobody cheered. Nobody loved.

For 22 years, this cold shoulder was mostly because Baylor was a Clippers executive. Then, after Baylor finally left wretched owner Donald Sterling, the Lakers fans just never seemed to notice him.

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The first great Los Angeles Laker was the most forgotten Laker.

Baylor, who died Monday at age 86, deserved better.

“I’ve always said he was one of those players who never got enough credit,” Jerry West told The Times’ Broderick Turner. “He never really talked about it.”

The quiet Baylor truly never complained; he was kind and gentle soul who never wanted to call attention to himself. But as the Lakers and the NBA meteorically soared from a winter distraction into a worldwide brand, his was a legacy lost.

He was a pioneering Laker in a town with short memories. He was a champion Laker who never won a championship. He was the flashiest of athletes in an era from which there is scant video evidence of his greatness. He was a social justice fighter who never got his day in court.

He would outjump you, outplay you, outsmart you, but he never allowed himself to outshine you. He was always just Elgin.

“You get him one on one, talk to him, and he would tell you point blank — ‘There was nobody better than me when I was playing out there,’” Marques Johnson told The Times’ Dan Woike. “But publicly, he wasn’t the guy to get out there and toot his own horn … always playing second fiddle, no matter how great you are.”

Baylor was the Laker who bridged the gap between Minneapolis and Los Angeles … yet he was overshadowed in that era by West. He played in eight NBA Finals without winning a title, then knee problems forced him to retire nine games into the Lakers’ first championship season in 1971-72 … with the team embarking on its historic winning streak the very next game.

“When he retired, we won 33 straight games. I wonder what he felt like,” West said by phone. “With me, I would have probably felt like, ‘Oh, my God, how can I be just this incredible player and without me, we win 33 straight games and win a championship?’ I could never bring myself to ask him that. Never.”

In his best scoring season in 1961-62, Baylor averaged 38.3 points a game … yet he missed nearly half the games because he was serving in the Army. He still holds one of the NBA’s most revered scoring records with 61 points in an NBA Finals game … yet his shooting aura has long since been eclipsed by Kobe Bryant.

“I really believe he was the first Showtime,” Magic Johnson told Turner. “He was Showtime before Showtime.”

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Elgin Baylor, Lakers legend and former Clippers executive, dies at 86

Jerry West on Elgin Baylor: ‘A great human being’

NCAA MEN’S TOURNAMENT

Ben Bolch on UCLA: Coach Mick Cronin joked that he didn’t want his team to stumble its way into four turnovers before the first television timeout against a team that forces them in bunches.

It turned out the Bruins didn’t have that many before the game was essentially over.

Needing to be smart and composed, UCLA emphatically checked both boxes during one of its most complete victories of the season Saturday afternoon at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The Bruins are sticking around the nation’s new college basketball capital a while longer after stomping Abilene Christian 67-47 in an NCAA tournament second-round game, sparking an impromptu group dance on the court.

UCLA (20-9) advanced to a regional semifinal for the first time since 2017 and became the fifth team to advance past the First Four weekend since that format started in 2011.

UCLA’s Johnny Juzang scored 17 points and Cody Riley powered his way to 12 points and 12 rebounds for a team that just seems to be hitting its stride after playing for the third time in five days.

The Bruins committed only eight turnovers and will play second -seeded Alabama in a regional semifinal next weekend.

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Ryan Kartje on USC: Over eight long years on the path back from hoops obscurity to the Sweet 16, Andy Enfield made sure to make note of the mile markers. He was quick to remind of incremental progress, quick to defend his plans, quick to scrounge up obscure statistics to show how far they’d come in dragging USC’s basketball program back from the depths.

There would be no need for reminders on Monday, not as USC dominated Kansas, 85-51, in Indianapolis, bullying the bluebloods into submission in the second round of the West Region. Not as USC (24-7) stamped its ticket to its first Sweet 16 since 2007. Not as its offense rolled from long range and its defense rocked the Jayhawks, grinding them down to chalk.

As Enfield walked off the floor at Hinkle Fieldhouse, he raised clenched fists in triumph. Eight years after his last trip to the Sweet 16 with Florida Gulf Coast had earned him the job with USC, the Trojans had clawed their way back to the tournament’s second weekend, where they’ll face Oregon, with a chance to go to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2001.

“USC basketball is on the rise,” Enfield said. “Over the last 80 years, it’s been like a roller coaster. A lot of great players, great coaches, great teams. But we’ve tried to sustain the success. Build a program and sustain the success, and I think beating a team like Kansas to go to the Sweet 16, that’s a step in the right direction.”

That doesn’t mean the chip he constantly carried on his shoulder was gone. Not by any means. In his opening remarks, Enfield was sure to thank a pair of CBS analysts he’d heard pick Kansas and call his teams “undisciplined” on the air.

“Imagine if we were disciplined,” he joked.

It’s difficult to envision a more dominant effort than what USC unleashed on Kansas, which, until Monday, had never lost in the tournament by more than 18 points. The Trojans had a bigger lead by halftime, their stalwart defense holding the Jayhawks to a miserable 29% from the field, the same paltry percentage USC held Drake to in its first-round rout.

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Check out the men’s bracket here

March Madness: How to watch, stream every 2021 NCAA tournament game

Dylan Hernández: Mick Cronin’s Westwood spell is transforming Bruins into NCAA bluebloods

NCAA WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT

Thuc Nhi Nguyen on UCLA: Even after three years of sharing the court with Michaela Onyenwere, Natalie Chou is still impressed by UCLA’s All-American.

Onyenwere led UCLA to a 69-48 win over 14th-seeded Wyoming on Monday in the first round of the NCAA tournament and moved into fifth on UCLA’s all-time scoring list with 25 points and seven rebounds. She is tied with Nirra Fields and 20 points behind Rehema Stephens for fourth.

“I’ve never met anyone as athletic as her and consistent as her,” said Chou, a redshirt senior who had 15 points and six rebounds. “Every day, I’m amazed at what Mik can do because she’s an amazing player, an amazing athlete, and amazing person.”

With Onyenwere and sophomore Charisma Osborne (15 points, 10 rebounds), the third-ranked Bruins (17-5) overpowered Wyoming from the start. Onyenwere had 11 points in the first quarter, the same as the entire Wyoming team.

While the Cowgirls (14-9) were making their second NCAA tournament appearance in school history, UCLA is pushing for its fifth consecutive appearance in a regional semifinal.

The Bruins play No. 6 Texas on Wednesday in the second round of the Hemisfair Region.

CLIPPERS

Andrew Greif on the Clippers: At first, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue tried getting his team’s attention by burning a timeout only 32 seconds into Monday’s third quarter.

Hours after center Ivica Zubac acknowledged that the team’s defense could be “much better [at] communicating,” the Clippers had just lost track of Atlanta’s Tony Snell, allowing Kawhi Leonard’s former high school teammate to run to a corner unnoticed and drain a wide-open three-pointer. Lue barely spoke to players during the timeout. Players were left to sort out how they were trailing by 18 points.

When that didn’t stem the trouble, Lue was even less subtle. Down 21 with 6 minutes 29 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Lue removed all five starters and inserted an all-bench lineup featuring rotation players Terance Mann and Nicolas Batum alongside little-used Patrick Patterson, Luke Kennard and Amir Coffey.

It wasn’t a white flag. It was a challenge.

By the fourth quarter’s end, Clippers owner Steve Ballmer was shaking his fists in the air in giddy joy, Kennard was bounding up the court, howling at the roof of an empty Staples Center, and the once-dead Clippers finished off the once-cruising Hawks for a 119-110 victory that left Lue pumping his fist in the final moments.

The difference was the bench, whose frenetic defense and 21-10 run to end the third quarter lit the fuse of a comeback that ended Atlanta’s eight-game winning streak in stunning fashion.

After trailing 88-66 with 4:15 remaining in the third quarter, the Clippers outscored the Hawks 53-22.

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Clippers trade former first-round pick Mfiondu Kabengele to Kings

ANGELS

Jack Harris on the Angels: The Angels announced Monday that single-game tickets for April will go on sale this week.

With state coronavirus guidelines allowing up to about 9,200 fans at Angel Stadium when the season begins next month, the team will make single-game tickets for their first 12 games available to the general public on Friday at 9 a.m. PDT. There will also be a pre-sale on Wednesday and Thursday for those who register on the team’s website by Tuesday.

It’s not yet known how many single-game tickets will be available for each contest, including the Angels’ opening-day matchup against the Chicago White Sox on April 1. The club is also making tickets available to season-seat holders, mini-plan holders and others with leftover credits. A team spokesman said those customers have already been contacted.

RAMS

Gary Klein on the Rams: Receiver Josh Reynolds, who played in a rotational role for the Rams for three seasons before becoming a starter in 2020, agreed to terms with the Tennessee Titans on Monday, according to multiple reports.

Reynolds, 26, was a fourth-round draft pick in 2017. He has caught 113 passes for 1,450 yards and nine touchdowns. In 2018, Reynolds had a career-best five touchdown catches. Last season, he had a career-best 52 receptions for 618 yards and two touchdowns.

KINGS

Ryan Donato scored the tiebreaking goal early in the third period, Martin Jones delivered one of his best performances in net all season and the San Jose Sharks beat the Kings 2-1 on Monday night.

Donato scored shortly after San Jose killed off its fifth penalty in as many chances. He skated around the Los Angeles net and sent in a backhand shot that hit defenseman Kurtis MacDermid and eluded Jonathan Quick to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead.

Both goals for San Jose went in off the unlucky MacDermid.

“We didn’t give up much,” coach Todd McLellan said. “Both their goals were off one of our players. Sometimes it’s not your night. We put in a good effort.”

DUCKS

Ryan Suter and Nick Bjugstad scored, Cam Talbot made 24 saves and the Minnesota Wild returned home with a 2-1 win against the Ducks on Monday night.

Bjugstad scored his fifth goal of the season 3:42 into the third period to break a 1-all tie as Minnesota set a franchise record with its ninth straight victory on home ice.

Troy Terry scored for Anaheim, which has lost six of seven. Ryan Miller made 21 saves in his fifth consecutive start for the Ducks.

NCAA MEN’S TOURNAMENT RESULTS, SCHEDULE

All times Pacific
Second round
Monday’s results

West Regional
No. 1 Gonzaga 87, No. 8 Oklahoma 71
No. 7 Oregon 95, No. 2 Iowa 80
No. 6 USC 85, No. 3 Kansas 51
No. 5 Creighton 72, No. 13 Ohio 58

East Regional
No. 1 Michigan 86, No. 8 LSU 78
No. 2 Alabama 96, No. 10 Maryland 77
No. 4 Florida State 71, No. 5 Colorado 53
No. 11 UCLA 67, No. 14 Abilene Christian 47

Saturday’s schedule
Third round

Midwest Regional
No. 8 Loyola of Chicago vs. No. 12 Oregon State, 11:40 a.m., CBS
No. 2 Houston vs. No. 11 Syracuse, 6:55 p.m., TBS

South Regional
No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 5 Villanova, 2:15 p.m., CBS
No. 3 Arkansas vs. No. 15 Oral Roberts, 4:25 p.m., TBS

Sunday’s schedule
Third round

West Regional
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 5 Creighton, 11 a.m., CBS
No. 6 USC vs. No. 7 Oregon, 6:45 p.m., TBS

East Regional
No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 4 Florida State, 2 p.m., CBS
No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 11 UCLA, 4:15 p.m., TBS

NCAA WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE, RESULTS

All times Pacific
Monday’s Results
First round

Alamo Regional
No. 2 Louisville 74, No. 15 Marist 43
No. 3 Georgia 67, No. 14 Drexel 53
No. 13 Wright State 66, No. 4 Arkansas 62
No. 5 Missouri State 70, No. 12 UC Davis 51
No. 6 Oregon 67, No. 11 South Dakota 47
No. 7 Northwestern 62, No. 10 Central Florida 51

Mercado Regional
No. 2 Texas A&M 84, No. 15 Troy 80
No. 3 Arizona 79, No. 14 Stony Brook 44
No. 4 Indiana 63, No. 13 VCU 32
No. 12 Belmont 64, No. 5 Gonzaga 59
No. 11 BYU 69, No. 6 Rutgers 66
No. 7 Iowa State 79, No. 10 Michigan State 75

Hemisfair Regional
No. 2 Maryland 98, No. 15 Mount St. Mary’s 45
No. 3 UCLA 69, No. 14 Wyoming 48
No. 6 Texas 81, No. 11 Bradley 62
No. 7 Alabama 80, No. 10 North Carolina 71

Today’s schedule
Second round

Mercado Regional
No. 1 North Carolina State vs. No. 8 South Florida, Noon, ESPN2

River Walk Regional
No. 4 Kentucky vs. No. 5 Iowa, 12:30 p.m., ESPNU
No. 3 Tennessee vs. No. 6 Michigan, 2 p.m., ESPN2
No. 2 Baylor vs. No. 7 Virginia Tech, 4 p.m., ESPN2
No. 1 Connecticut vs. No. 8 Syracuse, 6 p.m., ESPN

Hemisfair Regional
No. 4 West Virginia vs. No. 5 Georgia Tech, 2:30 p.m., ESPNU
No. 1 South Carolina vs. No. 8 Oregon State, 4 p.m., ESPN

Alamo Regional
No. 1 Stanford vs. No. 8 Oklahoma State, 6 p.m., ESPN2

Wednesday’s schedule
Second round

Alamo Regional
No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 6 Oregon, Noon, ESPN2
No. 5 Missouri State vs. No. 13 Wright State, Noon, ESPNU
No. 2 Louisville vs. No. 7 Northwestern, 2 p.m., ESPN2

Mercado Regional
No. 4 Indiana vs. No. 12 Belmont, 2 p.m., ESPNU
No. 3 Arizona vs. No. 11 BYU, 4 p.m., ESPNU
No. 2 Texas A&M vs. No. 7 Iowa State, p.m., ESPN2

Hemisfair Regional
No. 2 Maryland vs. No. 7 Alabama, 10 a.m., ESPN2
No. 3 UCLA vs. No. 6 Texas, 6 p.m., ESPN2

Check out the women’s bracket here

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1939 — Long Island University finishes the season undefeated after a 44-32 victory over Loyola of Chicago in the NIT championship.

1948 — Alex Groza and Ralph Beard combine for 26 points to lead Kentucky to a 58-42 win over Baylor in the NCAA basketball championship.

1956 — Bill Russell led San Francisco to an 83-71 victory over Iowa in the NCAA basketball championship.

1957 — North Carolina defeat Wilt Chamberlain and Kansas in triple-overtime to win the NCAA men’s championship. The Tar Heels win 54-53 to finish the season with a perfect 32-0 record.

1968 — Lew Alcindor scores 34 points to lead UCLA to a 78-55 win over North Carolina in the NCAA basketball championship.

1974 — N.C. State ends UCLA’s streak of seven national championships with an 80-77 victory in double overtime of the NCAA tournament semifinals. David Thompson leads the Wolfpack with 28 points and 10 rebounds, while teammate Tom Burleson scores 20 and pulls down 14 rebounds.

1979 — Larry Holmes knocks out Osvaldo Ocasio in the seventh round in Las Vegas to retain his WBC heavyweight title.

1991 — London beats Frankfurt 24-11 in the first World League of American Football game.

1993 — Winnipeg’s Teemu Selanne sets an NHL rookie points record in a 5-4 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Selanne scores two goals and an assist to give him 111 points, surpassing the 109 that Peter Stastny got with the Quebec Nordiques in 1980-81.

1994 — Wayne Gretzky scores his 802nd goal, passing Gordie Howe as the greatest goal-scorer in NHL history. The Los Angeles Kings center scores in the second period for his 62nd NHL record.

1996 — Michelle Kwan caps a near-perfect season by winning the women’s title in the World Figure Skating Championships for the United States’ first singles sweep since 1986.

1997 — Laura Davies becomes the first LPGA player to win the same tournament four consecutive years, holing a 3-foot par putt on the first hole of a playoff with Kelly Robbins in the Standard Register Ping.

2002 — Brendan Shanahan of the Red Wings scores his 500th career goal, breaking a scoreless tie at 7:48 of the third period. Detroit beat Colorado 2-0.

2002 — Iowa State’s Cael Sanderson becomes the first undefeated four-time NCAA wrestling champion at the NCAA Championships. Sanderson beats Lehigh’s Jon Trenge, 12-4, to win at 197 pounds and finish his career with a perfect 159-0 record.

2003 — Tiger Woods closes with a 4-under 68 to win the Bay Hill Invitational four straight times. Woods becomes the first player since Gene Sarazen in the Miami Open (1926-30) to win the same event four straight times.

2005 — Indiana’s Reggie Miller becomes the 13th NBA player to score 25,000 career points during the Pacers’ 100-93 win over San Antonio.

2007 — Kobe Bryant becomes the second player in NBA history to score at least 50 points in four straight games when he scores 50 in the Lakers’ 111-105 win at New Orleans. Only Wilt Chamberlain has more, scoring at least 50 points in seven consecutive games during the 1961-62 season.

2010 — The NFL changes its overtime rules for playoff games to give both teams an opportunity to get the ball. Team owners vote 28-4 in favor of the proposal at the NFL meetings. Minnesota, Buffalo, Cincinnati and Baltimore oppose the change.

2013 — Michigan breezes through Virginia Commonwealth’s vaunted pressure with a clinical performance and advances to the round of 16 with a 78-53 rout. VCU was relentless in a 46-point rout of Akron in the second round. The 71-point swing by VCU — from a 46-point win to a 25-point loss — is the largest in NCAA tournament history.

2013 — Wichita State knocks out top-seeded Gonzaga out of the NCAA tournament with a 76-70 victory. The Shockers hit a season-high 14 3-pointers, including five straight shots from behind the arc down the stretch.

And finally

Career highlights for Elgin Baylor. Watch them 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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