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The Sports Report: Lakers outlast the Denver Nuggets

Kyle Kuzma shoots as Michael Porter Jr. defends during the first half.
(Associated Press)

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

Dan Woike on the Lakers: They were pawns in an international controversy and supporting actors in an unthinkable tragedy. They had their life’s work threatened by a pandemic, only to seize an unprecedented opportunity inside the NBA’s self-constructed bubble.

And even as their superstars battled injuries, the hope that things would be OK once they returned sustained them.

Through all of it, they were remarkably steady, displaying championship-level toughness physically and mentally. But even champions have their limits.

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“Our team is a little shook right now,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel acknowledged before Monday’s 93-89 win over Denver.

It was a stunning admission from Vogel, the man who repeatedly has said his team was good enough to win even if LeBron James and Anthony Davis were out, that the Lakers’ depth would carry them through the choppy waters guaranteed by playing a compressed schedule during a pandemic.

Monday night at Staples Center, the frustrations didn’t zap any of the Lakers’ fight, the team missing James and Dennis Schroder and still grinding out a tough win — just their second since April 18.

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LeBron James says whoever set up play-in games ‘needs to be fired’

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CLIPPERS

Patrick Beverley
(Associated Press)

Andrew Greif on the Clippers: Even when he was hurt, Clippers guard Patrick Beverley couldn’t be kept away from the court.

During the last six weeks, as he was healthy enough for just two games because of a reinjured knee and fractured hand, Beverley spent many a timeout inside Staples Center chatting with officials near his team’s huddle. Sometimes he approached with the air of a lawyer litigating a non-call. Often the conversations ended with laughter, Beverley smiling behind a gaiter.

Those conversations will resume Tuesday when the Clippers host Toronto, with the team hopeful Beverley will have the opportunity to stay on the court even longer soon.

After Beverley played 5-on-5 Sunday, the team wanted to see “how he’s feeling with his hand and the strength of it, if it’s swollen or not,” coach Tyronn Lue said before practice Monday. The team later ruled Beverley out against the Raptors, giving him two extra days before the next game, Thursday against the Lakers.

Upon his return, Beverley, who averages 8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists, won’t represent a one-man panacea for all that has led to a three-game losing streak that ties the Clippers’ longest this season. Despite that, the team became the third in the Western Conference to clinch a playoff berth Sunday because of the Lakers’ loss. But as guard Reggie Jackson outlined the ways he believed the Clippers (43-22) must improve with seven games remaining, they lined up with Beverley’s strengths.

DODGERS

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Dustin May tosses the ball on the mound after he gave up a two-run home run.
Dustin May
(Associated Press)

Jorge Castillo on the Dodgers: The Dodgers broke spring training this year with a somewhat surprising decision: Dustin May, not David Price or Tony Gonsolin, would assume the fifth spot in the starting rotation. They banked on May taking the next step in his development, on his ability to progress from a young kid occasionally making hitters look foolish with his nasty pitches to a dominant major league pitcher consistently shutting down lineups every five or six days.

He made strides in that direction in the season’s first month, culminating in setting a career high with 10 strikeouts against the San Diego Padres in his fourth start. He had command of his curveball. Batters swung and missed. He was taking the next step.

That development came to a disturbing halt Saturday in Milwaukee when he winced and signaled to the dugout after throwing his 28th pitch, a 94-mph fastball that went wide. It’ll be the last pitch he throws in 2021.

The worst-case scenario was confirmed Monday when an MRI exam revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament. May will undergo Tommy John surgery to reconstruct the ligament on May 11 in Los Angeles. The club didn’t disclose if May has a complete or partial tear. Rehabilitation timetables are generally 12 to 16 months. Anything longer and there’s a chance he doesn’t pitch for the Dodgers again until 2023.

“When you’re developing and now you get the year cut short, that impacts development,” manager Dave Roberts said. “What Dustin has done is he’s just matured more as a major league ballplayer. His work in between starts has been way more focused, way more consistent, there’s a routine in there, and he’s been pitching really well. To not be able to build on that is really unfortunate.”

ANGELS

Mike DiGiovanna on the Angels: A day after he was drilled in the right elbow by a 93.4-mph fastball, Angels right-hander Shohei Ohtani was scratched from Monday night’s scheduled start against the Tampa Bay Rays at Angel Stadium.

Left-hander José Quintana took Ohtani’s place and took a beating in a 7-3 loss, giving up five runs and six hits in a 32/3-inning start that could jeopardize his spot in the rotation, but the pitcher was the least of the team’s concerns.

Of far greater significance was a potentially serious injury to third baseman and cleanup man Anthony Rendon, who had to be helped off the field after fouling a pitch from sidearm-throwing Ryan Thompson off his left knee in the eighth inning.

The play was eerily reminiscent of one in July 2019, when then-Angels infielder Tommy La Stella fouled a ball off his right leg and suffered a fractured tibia. Rendon, who had recently returned from a left-groin strain, was replaced by Scott Schebler, who struck out to end the inning.

KINGS

Anze Kopitar in action
Anze Kopitar
(Associated Press)

Anze Kopitar had a goal and an assist to reach 999 career points and the L.A. Kings put a big dent in the Arizona Coyotes’ playoff hopes with a 3-2 win.

Kopitar scored in the second period and had an assist on Alex Iafallo’s goal, putting him within one point of becoming the fourth Kings player to reach 1,000 for his career.

Trevor Moore also scored and Jonathan Quick had 17 saves before leaving after the second period with an upper-body injury. Cal Petersen stopped 15 shots and helped the Kings withstand a wild late flurry by the Coyotes in relief.

Jakob Chychrun scored his 17th goal, which leads all NHL defensemen, and Christian Dvorak scored for the Coyotes. Darcy Kuemper had 22 saves.

DUCKS

Robert Bortuzzo got his first goal of the season and Brayden Schenn also scored, leading the St. Louis Blues to a 3-1 victory over the Ducks.

Jordan Binnington had 19 saves to earn his 70th career win, becoming the 10th goaltender in Blues history to reach the mark. The Blues have won seven of their last nine against the Ducks and are 5-1-1 this season against Anaheim.

Ryan O’Reilly added an empty-netter to seal the win.

Ryan Getzlaf scored for Anaheim and John Gibson had 29 saves.

USC FOOTBALL

Munir McClain
(Shotgun Spratling / For The Times)

Ryan Kartje on the Trojans: Munir McClain, the USC receiver suspended last fall amid a federal inquiry into apparent unemployment fraud on campus, has re-entered the NCAA transfer portal, six months after opting to withdraw his name the first time.

His decision to leave USC marks the messy end of a relationship that swiftly soured last fall, when federal agents first arrived on USC’s campus asking questions about the sophomore receiver.

McClain was first suspended from USC’s football team last September as he emerged as one focus of a federal probe into unemployment fraud. McClain told The Los Angeles Times last fall that he applied for and received pandemic unemployment assistance benefits last summer. By late October, federal agents were on USC’s campus, questioning his USC teammates about McClain and whether they were approached about fraudulently filing for unemployment benefits. Some were given subpoenas to appear before a grand jury.

For months, McClain’s family maintained that he’d done nothing wrong and that his due process rights were being violated by USC.

At the start of spring practice, with no resolution in sight from USC, McClain remained suspended and sidelined. On Monday, he officially re-entered the transfer portal.

WNBA

The WNBA signed a multiyear deal with Google on Monday to be the presenting partner for the league’s playoffs, while also announcing that 25 games will be nationally broadcast on ABC and ESPN in celebration of the league’s 25th season.

Google will be the presenting sponsor for the national telecasts with the technology giant’s sponsorship efforts aimed to help champion women’s sports. Google is the latest business to join the league as a “WNBA Changemaker,” a program that Commissioner Cathy Engelbert started last year.

Changemakers are intended to provide direct support to the WNBA in its ongoing business transformation across marketing, branding, and player and fan experience. AT&T, Deloitte U.S. and Nike were the first three companies to join the program.

The league’s schedule of national broadcasts on ABC begins May 15, the second day of the regular season, with a doubleheader. Washington hosts Chicago at 10 a.m. PST while Seattle hosts Las Vegas at 1 p.m. PST.

The Sparks’ first game on ABC will be June 5, when they host Chicago at noon. The Sparks also are featured on an ABC broadcast June 20 vs. New York at 1 p.m.

AUTO RACING

Bobby Unser holds three fingers aloft after winning his third Indianapolis 500.
(Associated Press)

Bobby Unser, a beloved three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and part of the only pair of brothers to win “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” has died. He was 87.

He died Sunday at his home in Albuquerque of natural causes, Indianapolis Motor Speedway said Monday.

Unser was one of the greatest racers in the history at the speedway, capturing the race in 1968, 1975 and 1981.

“He is part of the Mt. Rushmore of Indy,” said Dario Franchitti, another three-time Indy 500 winner.

Younger brother Al Unser is one of only three drivers to win the Indy 500 four times — 1970, 1971, 1978 and 1987. The Unser family tradition stretched to Al Unser’s son, Al Unser Jr., who won the Indy 500 in 1992 and 1994.

“Bobby was a ferocious competitor on the track, and his larger-than-life personality made him one of the most beloved and unique racers we have ever seen,” said Roger Penske, the current speedway owner but the team owner for Unser’s winning car at the 1981 Indy 500.

“Beyond his many wins and accomplishments, Bobby was a true racer that raised the performance of everyone around him. He was also one of the most colorful characters in motorsports.”

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1905 — Belmont Park in New York opens for its first thoroughbred meet.

1935 — Omaha, ridden by Willis Saunders, wins the Kentucky Derby by 1 1/2 lengths over Roman Soldier. Omaha goes on to win the Triple Crown.

1946 — Assault, ridden by Warren Mehrtens, wins the Kentucky Derby by eight lengths over Spy Song on his way to the Triple Crown.

1957 — Iron Liege, ridden by Bill Hartack, wins the Kentucky Derby by a nose when jockey Willie Shoemaker, aboard Gallant Man, misjudges the finish line. Shoemaker is in front but stands the saddle before the finish.

1968 — Dancer’s Image, ridden by Bob Ussery, wins the Kentucky Derby by 1 1/2 lengths over Forward Pass. Three days later, Dancer’s Image is disqualified when traces of a painkiller are found in tests. Forward Pass, ridden by Ismael Valenzuela, is declared the winner.

1968 — The Pittsburgh Pipers beat New Orleans Buccaneers 122-113 in Game 7 to win the first ABA championship.

1969 — The Montreal Canadiens win the Stanley Cup with a four-game sweep, beating the St. Louis Blues 2-1.

1994 — Charles Barkley scores 56 points, including a playoff-record 38 in the first half, to lead the Phoenix Suns to a 140-133 victory over the Golden State Warriors.

1999 — The New Jersey Devils become the first top-seeded team to lose in the first round of the playoffs in consecutive years when they are beaten 4-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7.

2000 — Keith Primeau ends the third-longest game in NHL history by scoring at 12:01 of the fifth overtime to give the Philadelphia Flyers a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, tying their Eastern Conference semifinal series at two games apiece.

2003 — Detroit becomes the seventh NBA team to advance after falling behind 3-1 in a series, beating Orlando 108-93.

2008 — In the eighth-longest game in NHL history, Dallas eliminates San Jose in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals. In a game that lasts 5 hours, 17 minutes, the Stars beat the Sharks 2-1 after Brenden Morrow scores a power play goal 9:03 into the fourth overtime.

2009 — Cleveland’s LeBron James, unstoppable at both ends of the floor this season, is named the NBA’s MVP. James, who easily outdistanced Kobe Bryant of the Lakers in the voting, averaged 28.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.2 assists.

2009 — Alex Ovechkin records his first NHL playoff hat trick and scores the winning goal in Washington’s 4-3 win over Pittsburgh in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference series. Sidney Crosby of the Penguins also scores three goals.

2013 — Floyd Mayweather comes back from a year’s absence to win a unanimous 12-round decision over Robert Guerrero in their welterweight title fight in Las Vegas. All three judges score the bout 117-111 and Mayweather remains unbeaten in 44 fights.

2016 — J.R. Smith makes seven 3-pointers and the Cleveland Cavaliers drain an NBA-record 25 3s in a 123-98 win over the Atlanta Hawks in Game 2 of the second round. Cleveland finishes 25 of 45 behind the arc, with 10 players making at least one 3. Cleveland’s 25 3s are the most in any game — regular or postseason.

And finally

Keith Primeau ends the third-longest game in NHL history. 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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