The Sports Report: Clippers fall to the Knicks, Lakers defeat Suns
Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.
Andrew Greif on the Clippers: Clippers coach Tyronn Lue’s wish list entering the regular season’s final week includes two bold-faced items: finish an injury-plagued season healthy, and earn the Western Conference’s third playoff seed.
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There was progress on the first front Sunday at Staples Center. A 106-100 loss to New York, meanwhile, made the Clippers’ path to accomplishing the second goal more difficult.
For the first time since he returned from a foot injury May 1, Kawhi Leonard was cleared to play in 12-minute stretches, a development that allowed the All-Star to play the entire first and third quarters, as had been his norm. He played 36 minutes, scoring 29 points.
With Leonard’s minutes limit lifted, Lue was allowed to play his desired rotations. When Leonard sat, All-Star Paul George returned to leading a bench unit that begins the second and fourth quarters, and he added 18 points. Using a tightened nine-man rotation that didn’t include Luke Kennard or Terance Mann, Lue looked like he was providing a potential playoff preview.
Leonard appeared to hurt his ankle after tripping near the Clippers’ bench following his first basket, and he still is nursing the left hand he hurt after falling hard out of bounds in last week’s win against the Lakers. But he downplayed those as to be expected after nearly 70 games and said he’d been through “worse situations.”
“Just gotta keep fighting through it,” he said. “You know, put up shots, gotta get used to it and I’m not gonna be worried about it.”
Sunday’s result was ensured by the midrange masterclass of Knicks reserve Derrick Rose, and a Clippers offense that rarely gave itself chances to beat one of the NBA’s stingiest defenses.
By making his first six shots, all on jumpers or floaters in the midrange, Rose was on his way to a season-high-tying 25 points, and every basket was met by full-throated cheers in a Knicks-heavy crowd of 2,578. As fans filed out of the arena, the concourse became a cacophony of New York cheers.
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Dan Woike on the Lakers: If you were Monty Williams, maybe you wouldn’t want to think about it either.
His Phoenix Suns have become one of the West’s best teams, navigating this pandemic season avoiding peril while getting amazing performances from the ageless Chris Paul and the unconscious Devin Booker, a bonafide superstar duo.
But the prize for all their growth this season could be the Los Angeles Lakers, armed with a rested LeBron James and an awakened Anthony Davis. You don’t have to strain to imagine the Suns wishing they could see what’s behind any other door.
“We haven’t even gotten that far,” Williams said before the Lakers’ 123-110 victory Sunday at Staples Center.
But it’s as conceivable as any of the playoff scenarios available to the Lakers, the team quite possible headed to the play-in tournament with their full compliment of players available.
The Lakers are hopeful starting point guard Dennis Schroder will be available to return before the end of the regular season once he clears COVID-19 protocols, Frank Vogel said. And more importantly, James has looked impressive in recent workouts and is expected to also be back this week, according to sources. He could even return in one of the Lakers’ last two home games, either Tuesday against the Knicks or Wednesday against the Rockets.
Add those returns to what the Lakers have gotten from Davis over his last three games, and it would be a problem for anyone – maybe especially the Suns.
If the Lakers fall into the play-in tournament and win their first game, they’d secure the No. 7 seed and a possible meeting with Phoenix (currently battling with Utah for the top seed) in the first round. That might be great news for Davis, who feasted against undersized defenders like Torrey Craig and Jae Crowder and slower defenders like Frank Kaminsky and Dario Saric.
Davis had 42 points, on 13-of-27 shooting from the field, his most since scoring 43 in the series clincher against Portland last year in the bubble. He also contributed 12 rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocked shots.
DODGERS vs. ANGELS
Jack Harris on the Dodgers-Angels game: Alex Claudio nodded his head and skipped off the mound. Mike Mayers flexed his arms and clenched his fists. Raisel Iglesias pointed up to the sky.
All Sunday afternoon, the Angels bullpen faced the slimmest of margins. Against a Dodgers lineup that had scored 14 runs the night before, and amid their own recent struggles late in close games, they were asked to protect a one-run lead over five innings.
They answered with one of their best collective outings of the year.
The Angels claimed this weekend’s Freeway Series with a 2-1 win in Sunday’s rubber match, their bullpen closing the door in a game that saw all three runs scored in the third inning.
Chris Taylor initially gave the Dodgers a lead with an RBI single in the top of that frame. Then Jared Walsh answered with a two-run ground-rule double.
After that, the clubs traded zeros. Dodgers starter Trevor Bauer was good, giving up just four hits and two runs in six innings while striking out nine. But the Angels bullpen was better, following up José Quintana’s short one-run start with five scoreless innings.
For the Angels (15-18), the series victory was a sigh of relief, helping the club salvage a couple of wins from a homestand that began with a four-game sweep to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Joe Maddon disputes report that Albert Pujols was confrontational on day of release
John Cherwa on horse racing: Medina Spirit, winner of this year’s Kentucky Derby, tested positive for an anti-inflammatory after the race, once again putting trainer Bob Baffert in the middle of another drug scandal.
The announcement of an overage for the drug betamethasone was made by Baffert outside Barn 33 at Churchill Downs on Sunday morning.
Should it eventually be proven the horse did have 21 picograms of the drug in his system, 11 picograms over the allowable limit, he would be stripped of his Kentucky Derby win and disqualified. A picogram is one-trillionth of a gram. Betamethasone is a legal drug administered by injection and commonly used to treat joint pain. It cannot be given less than 14 days in advance of a race.
Baffert called it “the biggest gut punch in racing for something I didn’t do.” He said the horse has never been treated with betamethasone and will provide veterinarian records to prove it. Medina Spirit is normally stabled at Santa Anita.
“I don’t know what’s going on in racing right now but there is something not right,” said Baffert, visibly shaken. “I don’t feel embarrassed, I feel like I was wronged. We’re going to do our own investigation. We’re going to be transparent with the racing commission like we’ve always been. We’re going to show them everything. In California everything is documented, every day. This horse was never treated with that and he’s a great horse. He doesn’t deserve this.”
TRACK AND FIELD
Helene Elliott on track and field: DK Metcalf shifted from foot to foot, wearing a black singlet and a serious expression as he prepared to run his heat of the 100-meter dash at the Golden Games at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut.
His steely focus was like that of the sinewy sprinters beside him on Sunday, but his 6-foot-4, 229-pound frame gave away that he was different. A wide receiver with the Seattle Seahawks who ran the 40 in 4.33 seconds at the NFL combine, Metcalf took on near-legendary status with his spectacular, touchdown-saving rundown of Arizona’s Budda Baker after Baker had intercepted a Russell Wilson pass last October. That blazing speed meant he should be competing in the Olympics, right?
Hold on a second — at least. Being fast in football isn’t the same as being fast on the track, and the 100 requires mastering quick, tricky phases. But USA Track and Field officials, seeing a chance to bring attention to a sport that has lost favor among spectators, invited him to run on Sunday at renovated Hilmer Lodge Stadium. Metcalf, who was a hurdler in high school but hadn’t run the 100, gladly accepted.
Why do it? “Why not?” he said. “Just another way to test my body, test myself against different athletes besides just doing football training all day.”
Although sprinter Noah Lyles had said Metcalf should “be prepared to get your butt kicked,” Metcalf didn’t embarrass himself. His reaction time of 0.181 wasn’t the worst but he struggled in the back half of the race and finished the last of nine in his heat in 10.363 seconds, missing the Olympic trials automatic qualifying time of 10.05 seconds. He didn’t advance to the final, which was won by Pasadena native Cravon Gillespie in 9.96 seconds.
But in no way was Metcalf a loser. He pushed himself beyond familiar turf and put track and field in a spotlight it hasn’t enjoyed for a while. “These are world-class athletes. They do this for a living,” Metcalf said. “It’s very different from football speed, from what I just realized.
“Personally, it was a good experience. Anybody else who has a different opinion, you’re entitled to your own opinion. But I think I did very well for myself.”
Gillespie agreed. “He actually competed very well,” Gillespie said. “It’s good for the sport. Everybody’s talking about it. It gives track and field a bigger platform. I was getting tagged on Twitter. It’s definitely good having him around. I feel like it helped the sport tremendously.”
Newbury Park achieves greatness in 3,200 meters at Arcadia Invitational
Thuc Nhi Nguyen on beach volleyball: The moment the ball left Sammy Slater’s left hand, the USC senior thought something was off. Her serve on championship point floated to the back corner of the court, drifting to her left as she watched it sail.
“Out, out, out,” a UCLA player called. The ball dropped in. The Trojans were national champions.
Slater’s ace on championship point clinched USC’s third NCAA beach volleyball title and first since 2017 in a 3-1 victory over No. 1 UCLA in Gulf Shores, Ala., on Sunday. The win gave USC its 108th NCAA title overall and Dain Blanton his first national championship as a head coach after he took over for Anna Collier, who retired in 2019.
Blanton won two NCAA titles as a volunteer assistant coach for the Trojans from 2015-18. In 2019, he worked on ESPN’s NCAA tournament broadcast when the Bruins beat USC in the final. Moving through different roles across college beach volleyball helped Blanton see the talent throughout the sport, but he knew that this year’s team could reach another level.
Thu Nhi Nguyen on the Sparks: The Sparks are adding forward Gabby Williams, but won’t have the former University of Connecticut star until next season.
The Sparks will trade No. 10 overall pick Stephanie Watts and the rights to 2020 second-round pick Leonie Fiebich to the Chicago Sky for Williams, according to a source. Williams will remain on the suspended list for the 2021 season as the French national team member fulfills her international obligations during the Olympic year, but is expected to join the Sparks with a contract extension next year.
Williams, 24, averaged 7.7 points and 4.0 rebounds per game in 2020. She was drafted fourth overall by the Sky in 2018 after helping UConn to back-to-back national championships in 2015 and 2016.
“We’re excited to bring Gabby Williams into the L.A. Sparks organization,” general manager and coach Derek Fisher said in a statement. “At just 24 years old, Gabby is a versatile player who still has the potential to make a major impact in this league. She fits into what we’re building in Los Angeles and we look forward to the future with her in a Sparks uniform.”
THIS DATE IN SPORTS
1913 — Donerail, ridden by Roscoe Goose, comes from fifth place in the stretch to upset Ten Point by one-half length and win the Kentucky Derby, paying a record $184.90.
1919 — Sir Barton, ridden by Johnny Loftus, leads the whole way to win the Kentucky Derby by five lengths over Billy Kelly. Sir Barton, the first to capture the Triple Crown, is one of three maidens to win the Derby.
1941 — Whirlaway, ridden by Eddie Arcaro, wins the Preakness Stakes by 5½ lengths over King Cole.
1969 — The plans for the NFL-AFL merger are completed. The NFL will consist of two conferences of 13 teams, the AFC and NFC. The NFL will move three franchises, Baltimore, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, to the AFC.
1970 — Bobby Orr’s goal gives Boston its first Stanley Cup in 29 years. The Bruins beat the St. Louis Blues 4-3 for a four-game sweep.
1973 — The New York Knicks win the NBA title in five games with a 102-93 victory over the Lakers.
1997 — Ato Boldon speeds to a mark of 9.89 seconds in the 100 meters at the Modesto Relays, becoming the sixth man in history to go faster than 9.90 seconds.
2001 — The XFL folds after one season. The football league, founded by the World Wrestling Federation and jointly owned by NBC, was a TV ratings disappointment.
2002 — Boston and Detroit play the lowest-scoring game in the NBA playoffs since the shot clock was introduced in the 1954-55 season. The Celtics edge the Pistons 66-64; the 130-point total is far below the previous low of 142 registered three times.
2005 — Miami’s Dwyane Wade becomes the fifth player in NBA history with at least 30 points, 15 assists and five rebounds in a playoff game, joining Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Walt Frazier and Oscar Robertson. Wade’s 31 points, 15 assists and seven rebounds lead the Heat to a 108-102 victory over Washington.
2006 — Cam Ward makes 28 saves in Carolina’s 3-2 win over New Jersey to become the second NHL goalie to win his first seven postseason starts. The 22-year-old rookie joins Tiny Thompson, who did it for Boston in 1929-30.
2009 — Russia defends its gold medal at the world ice hockey championship, beating Canada 2-1 on in a rematch of last year’s final.
2014 — Michael Sam is picked by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round of the NFL draft, becoming the first openly gay player drafted by a pro football team. Sam, who played at Missouri and was the Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year, is taken with the 249th overall pick out of 256.
2016 — Stephen Curry becomes the first unanimous NBA MVP, earning the award for the second straight season after leading the defending champion Warriors to a record-setting season. Curry is the 11th player in league history to be voted MVP in consecutive seasons and the first guard to do so since Steve Nash in 2004-05 and 2005-06. Curry received 1,310 points from the 131 media voters.
2018 — Rafael Nadal breaks John McEnroe’s record of 49 straight sets won on the same surface after beating Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-4 in the third round of the Madrid Open. Nadal extends his winning streak to 50 consecutive sets on clay, eclipsing the mark McEnroe established on carpet in 1984.
2018 — The Winnipeg Jets advance to the first Western Conference final in their short history after knocking off the NHL’s best team in the regular season. Tyler Myers and Paul Stastny score 2:06 apart in the first period, and the Jets stun the Nashville Predators 5-1 in their first Game 7.
Vin Scully discusses the Sword of Damocles. Watch and listen here.
Until next time...
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