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The Sports Report: Clippers rout the Bucks

Milwaukee Bucks guard Bryn Forbes knocks the ball from the hands of Clippers center Ivica Zubac.
Milwaukee Bucks guard Bryn Forbes knocks the ball from the hands of Clippers center Ivica Zubac.
(Associated Press)

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

Andrew Greif on the Clippers: For the Clippers, Monday wasn’t just a win. It felt like a closed circle.

One month after the Clippers failed to score during the final four minutes of a loss at Milwaukee, a defeat that sent the team into the All-Star break riding a three-game losing streak surrounded by questions about their clutch performances, a blitz of fourth-quarter offense allowed the Clippers to put Monday’s win — their sixth straight — out of reach long before the final minutes.

Playing without Paul George, who was a late scratch because of a sore right foot, and also down starting center Serge Ibaka and Patrick Beverley, the Clippers made five of their first 16 three-point tries to fall behind by 12 in the first half before making 14 of 18 after halftime en route to a 129-105 rout of the Bucks.

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Marcus Morris scored 25 points, Kawhi Leonard added 23 and Luke Kennard — who started in place of George — had 21, including a fourth-quarter stretch in which he made four consecutive three-pointers. Reggie Jackson added 20 points to help blow out one of the East’s best teams.

“You can see all of the things coming together,” coach Tyronn Lue said.

NCAA MEN’S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

Ryan Kartje on USC’s men’s basketball team: Evan Mobley is the most imposing player still standing in this NCAA tournament, a surefire top-three NBA draft pick with prowess in the paint and relentless rim protection, capable of bending any game to his will. But as USC drubbed Drake in the first round, crushed Kansas in the second and rolled over Oregon on its way to the Elite Eight for the first time in two decades, the Trojans haven’t needed their 7-footer in a starring role.

Of course, Mobley still dominated defensively and passed deftly out of double teams, his presence alone enough to unravel opposing game plans. On Sunday, he put an innocent Oregon freshman on a poster with a thunderous two-handed slam. But through three games, in which he has averaged a mere 12.3 points, USC hasn’t needed the freshman’s full complement of superpowers.

If there has ever been a time for the Trojans’ star to take over, though, it’s Tuesday, when USC faces off with Gonzaga, college basketball’s equivalent of the Avengers, in perhaps the most consequential game in program history.

No two tournament teams have been more dominant than USC and Gonzaga. In their quest to become the first undefeated champion since Indiana in 1976, the Bulldogs have won their first three tournament games by an average of more than 25 points. The sixth-seeded Trojans, who haven’t been to the Final Four since 1954, have nearly matched that pace, winning by an average of more than 21.

Both have relied on balance to rout the opposition. But while Gonzaga and its trio of All-Americans have ridden that approach to a perfect 29-0 record this season, winning all but one of those games by double digits, USC (25-7) has just recently found its stride. A month ago, no one would have anticipated the Trojans, who ranked among the worst three-point shooting teams in the Pac-12, knocking down almost 51% of their attempts from deep during the first three rounds.

“They’ve been coming at people from a lot of different directions,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of the Trojans. “They’ve been shooting the three-ball incredibly well. The guards have really stepped up. But all the while, you have to pay a lot of attention to both Mobley brothers [Evan and Isaiah]. That’s the dilemma you face defensively.”

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Ben Bolch on UCLA men’s basketball: Halfway up the stands inside the old basketball barn, Mick Cronin’s biggest fan turned into his harshest critic, a father wondering what his son was doing after having cheered what appeared to be his greatest triumph only moments earlier.

Hep Cronin was shown pumping his fists on the Hinkle Fieldhouse video board with his son’s UCLA Bruins holding a three-point lead over Alabama with only four seconds to play in the NCAA tournament East Region semifinal. For years, father and son had discussed just what to do in this sort of situation: foul before the other team can get off a three-pointer that could tie the score.

“Every time somebody blows a game not fouling,” Hep would say later, recalling his exchanges with the son he had coached and mentored, “we call each other and say, ‘Whoop, they did it again.’ ”

So Hep was horrified late Sunday night when he watched the Crimson Tide inbound the ball to a quick guard who ran away from two defenders, finding a teammate who rose for a three-pointer that deadlocked the score with only four-tenths of a second left in the second half.

“I think that’s when I ripped my mask off and the security guard wasn’t happy,” Hep said. “I ripped it off and was ready to throw it in the stands, I was so mad.”

Anger turned into elation once the Bruins scored the first seven points of overtime. Hep turned to a friend and told him that the blunder didn’t matter, they were going to win anyway.

UCLA was advancing, a nationally televised family reunion continuing, father Hep outlasting Loyola Chicago’s Sister Jean as the feel-good fan story of the NCAA tournament and part of the postseason run of a lifetime for a Cincinnati high school coaching legend and his son.

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Check out the men’s bracket here

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

DODGERS

Jorge Castillo on the Dodgers: The Dodgers reported for spring training with an excess of starting pitching, a problem any team would love to face. The club has seven viable major league starters, and the race for the final rotation spot came down to three: Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin and David Price.

On Monday, manager Dave Roberts officially ended the competition, announcing that May will be the team’s fifth starter, at least to begin the season.

“I think it was easy, it was tough,” Roberts said, “just a lot of variables that I really don’t want to get into.”

Roberts explained that Price, Gonsolin and Jimmy Nelson, the eighth starter on the depth chart, will be used as “leverage” relievers for multiple innings. The manager added that they also could finish games. The trio might be deployed in hybrid roles similar to how Julio Urías was used in 2019, when the Dodgers limited his innings during the regular season by inserting him for a few every few days.

ANGELS

Jack Harris on the Angels: Shohei Ohtani’s storybook spring training ended in nightmarish fashion Monday at Dodger Stadium.

After dazzling in his return to a full-time two-way role in Cactus League play this month, Ohtani struggled mightily in his final start as a pitcher against the Dodgers, failing to locate his fastball and surrendering three home runs. Then it got worse.

Ohtani exited the game in the third inning alongside a trainer with a blister on his right throwing hand. General manager Perry Minasian said the team believes it was caught early. He didn’t immediately have an update on Ohtani’s status going forward. Ohtani’s first regular-season outing is scheduled to be Sunday against the Chicago White Sox.

Ohtani said he developed the blister during his previous pitching outing on March 21 and was actually happy it peeled off Monday, which he hopes will give him enough time to let it recover and still make his start against the White Sox as scheduled this weekend.

LAKERS

Broderick Turner on the Lakers: A smile began to spread across his face when Andre Drummond was asked about how LeBron James and Anthony Davis convinced him to join them on the Lakers in their quest to repeat as NBA champions.

Drummond paused a few seconds before answering, smiling while discussing his communications with James and Davis in helping him to make a decision to sign with the Lakers on Sunday after he had cleared waivers following a buyout from the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“I made my decision based on what was best for me, not because of what anybody told me,” Drummond, chuckling while answering, said during his introductory news videoconference from the Lakers’ practice facility Monday. “Definitely in talking to this team, talking to those guys about how I fit on the team was a fun process for me and having that conversation with those two guys and what they were looking for from me was something I was willing and excited to do, especially for this franchise.

“I’m not here to do anything besides win.”

KINGS

Tomas Nosek scored in the second period and the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Kings 4-1.

Alec Martinez, Reilly Smith and Nicolas Hague also scored for Vegas, which has won 14 of 18 and improved to 14-2-1 at home. Jonathan Marchessault had two assists. Robin Lehner stopped 24 shots.

The Golden Knights have won six in a row, their longest win home winning streak in two years.

Matt Roy scored for the Kings and Jonathan Quick had 20 saves. Quick came into the game with a 6.05 goals-against average and .814 save percentage in two appearances against Vegas this season.

DUCKS

Philipp Grubauer got his 100th career win with a 13-save night to lead the Colorado Avalanche past the Anaheim Ducks 5-2.

Grubauer has 57 wins since joining Colorado before the 2018-19 season and notched his 21st this season.

Danton Heinen and Troy Terry scored for the Ducks. Ryan Miller made several highlight saves but was overwhelmed by 48 shots. He finished with 43 saves for Anaheim, which had its two-game win streak snapped.

NCAA MEN’S TOURNAMENT RESULTS, SCHEDULE

All times Pacific
Monday’s results
Elite Eight

Midwest Regional
No. 2 Houston 67, No. 12 Oregon State 61

South Regional
No. 1 Baylor 81, No. 3 Arkansas 72

Today’s schedule
Elite Eight

West Regional
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 6 USC, 4:15 p.m., CBS

East Regional
No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 11 UCLA, 6:57 p.m., CBS

Saturday’s schedule
Final Four

No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 2 Houston, 2 p.m. or 5:30 p.m, CBS
TBD vs. TBD, 2 p.m. or 5:30 p.m., CBS

Monday’s schedule
Championship
6 p.m., CBS

NCAA WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE, RESULTS

All times Pacific
Monday’s results
Elite Eight

River Walk Regional
No. 1 Connecticut 69, No. 2 Baylor 67

Mercado Regional
No. 3 Arizona 66, No. 4 Indiana 53

Today’s schedule
Elite Eight

Hemisfair Regional
No. 1 South Carolina vs. No. 6 Texas, 4 p.m., ESPN

Alamo Regional
No. 1 Stanford vs. No. 2 Louisville, 6 p.m., ESPN

Friday’s schedule
Final Four

TBD vs. TBD, 3 p.m. or 6:30 p.m., ESPN
No. 1 Connecticut vs. No. 3 Arizona, 3 p.m. or 6:30 p.m., ESPN

Sunday’s schedule
Championship
3 p.m., ESPN

Check out the women’s bracket here

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1940 — Indiana routs Kansas 60-42 for the NCAA basketball championship.

1943 — Ken Sailors scores 16 points to lead Wyoming to a 56-43 victory over Georgetown in the NCAA basketball championship.

1981 — Sophomore guard Isiah Thomas scores 23 points to lead Indiana to a 63-50 victory over North Carolina to win the NCAA basketball title.

1986 — Texas wins the women’s NCAA basketball title with a 97-81 victory over USC.

1987 — Keith Smart’s 16-foot jump shot gives Indiana a 74-73 victory over Syracuse for the NCAA men’s basketball championship.

1991 — Darryl Plandowski scores 1:57 into the third overtime to lift Northern Michigan to its first NCAA hockey title with an 8-7 victory over Boston University in the second-longest championship game ever.

1995 — Maine beats Michigan 4-3 in triple overtime, the longest hockey game in NCAA tournament history, to advance to the NCAA title game.

1997 — Betsy King, an LPGA Hall of Famer, overcomes a three-shot deficit over the last eight holes for her third Dinah Shore title.

2001 — Michael Phelps becomes the youngest American swimmer to set a world record, winning the 200-meter butterfly in the USA Swimming Championships in 1 minute, 54.92 seconds. Phelps, 15, breaks the record of 1:55.18 set by Olympic gold medalist Tom Malchow in June.

2013 — Wichita State holds off mighty Ohio State in the West Regional final to earn its first trip to the Final Four since 1965 with a 70-66 victory over the Buckeyes. The ninth-seeded Shockers are the fifth team seeded ninth or higher to reach the Final Four since seeding began in 1979.

2013 — Syracuse shuts down Marquette with a 55-39 win in the East regional final and reached the Final Four for the first time in a decade. The Golden Eagles’ 39 points are a record low for a team in an NCAA tournament regional final since the shot clock was introduced in 1986. The 94 combined points was also a record low for a regional final.

2014 — Aaron Harrison makes a 3-pointer from about 24 feet with 2.3 seconds left to lift Kentucky to a 75-72 win over Michigan and the program’s 16th trip to the Final Four. Eighth-seeded Kentucky is the first all-freshman starting lineup to make the Final Four since the Fab Five at Michigan in 1992.

2014 — Shabazz Napier scores 17 of his 25 points in the second half, and UConn beats Michigan State 60-54 to return to the Final Four a year after the Huskies were barred from the NCAA tournament. The Huskies rally from a nine-point second-half deficit to become the first No. 7 seed to reach the Final Four since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

2017 — TCU beat Georgia Tech 88-56 to win the NIT championship under first-year coach Jamie Dixon. The Horned Frogs (25-15) double their win total over a 12-21 season.

And finally

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s Super Bowl halftime show. 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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