The Sports Report: Lakers even series; Clippers falling into abyss

Lakers forward LeBron James scores in front of Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne during the Lakers' 109-102 victory.
Lakers forward LeBron James scores in front of Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne during the Lakers’ 109-102 victory in Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference quarterfinals on Tuesday.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

Howdy, I’m your host, Austin Knoblauch, filling in for Houston Mitchell, who’s on vacation (probably trying to sell a Shohei Ohtani home-run ball on eBay). Let’s get right to the news.

Dan Woike on the Lakers: The Phoenix Suns’ home arena rocked, music blaring during a fourth-quarter timeout, a few more minutes of magic away from a 2-0 series lead against the Lakers.


The momentum the Lakers had built was gone, the Suns riding Devin Booker and Cameron Payne to erase a double-digit lead. It was a one-point game.

Problem was, there was still time on the clock.

“We stayed poised. We stayed comfortable,” Lakers star Anthony Davis said. “…We didn’t overreact.”

Lakers forward Anthony Davis celebrates a defensive stop against the Phoenix Suns.
Lakers forward Anthony Davis celebrates a defensive stop against the Phoenix Suns during the Lakers’ win in Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference quarterfinals Tuesday.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

LeBron James hit a spinning, one-footed, turnaround jump shot that ended with him nearly in the courtside seats. Alex Caruso and Davis teamed up to turn Suns center Deandre Ayton away in the paint and Davis stepped into a three-point shot, holding his follow-through in the dry, desert air while he screamed in celebration.

In the big moments, the Lakers dominated, knotting the series with the feisty Suns in a 109-102 victory Tuesday night in Game 2 of the first round of the playoffs.

While it was “Beat L.A.” chants that punctuated the final moments of Game 1, the Lakers fans in the building responded with “Let’s go La-kers!” And James, just for good measure, responded to their cheers with one last, deep three, a dagger to ensure Phoenix’s fight wouldn’t be enough.


With the shot through the net, James raised both hands, the Lakers wrapping up a game in which they looked like they’d realized the kind of team they could be — injuries and illness preventing that from happening any sooner.

Lakers-Suns schedule for first-round playoff series.
(Tim Hubbard / Los Angeles Times)

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Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic celebrates after beating the Clippers.
Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) celebrates after beating the Clippers in Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference quarterfinals on Tuesday.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Andrew Greif on the Clippers: Barely two games into what was supposed to be a postseason of redemption, the Clippers gathered on their own baseline Tuesday night with 4:49 remaining to save a series swiftly heading toward the rocks.

Some of the Clippers’ huddles earlier inside Staples Center in Game 2 had appeared fractious, with defensive miscommunications leading to heated discussion. But after cutting their 13-point deficit from only two minutes earlier to just five after a pair of three-pointers by Marcus Morris — his first of the entire series — this one appeared focused, with players and coaches clapping as coach Tyronn Lue drew on a dry-erase board.

With their postseason resilience and preparedness under scrutiny yet again, the story of the Clippers’ final four minutes was the same as their previous 92 in this postseason — one missed opportunity after another, all leading to a 127-121 defeat and a two-game deficit with the series now heading to Dallas for the third and fourth games.

Instead of the Clippers pounding their chests after a game-saving recovery, Mavericks guard Luka Doncic ran from one side of the court to the other in celebration. After 39 points, seven points and seven rebounds, he waved to a crowd of easily 100 fans who had stayed behind, once the Clippers’ fans had filed out. After a pair of layups in the final three minutes — one on Patrick Beverley to push Dallas ahead by seven, flexing after it went in, and the other 90 seconds later to go up nine — he ran into the stands behind his bench to shake hands with Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki. And this was after Doncic made one high-arching three-pointer in the third quarter that made Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes stand up and swing an arm in disbelief.

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer took in all of the postgame scene while standing several rows deep, talking with a team executive.

His fourth-seeded team was built to win 16 games of playoff basketball. Now it is in a perilous position two losses into the first round.

Clippers-Mavericks first-round playoff schedule.
(Tim Hubbard / Los Angeles Times)


Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw receives an ovation from fans as he walks off the field.
Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw receives an ovation from fans as he walks off the field during the eighth inning of a 9-2 win over the Houston Astros on Tuesday.
(Eric Christian Smith / Associated Press)

Jorge Castillo on the Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw’s first start at Minute Maid Park since living a nightmare in October 2017 ended Tuesday night with a warm ovation after 7 2/3 brilliant innings in the Dodgers’ 9-2 win over the Houston Astros. He walked off the field satisfied, with his head down, before subtly tipping his cap the to Dodgers faithful populating the hostile territory.

Kershaw’s previous outing between those lines is one he’ll never forget. He gave up six runs and lost two leads over 4 2/3 innings opposite the Astros in Game 5 of the 2017 World Series. He didn’t generate a swing-and-miss with any of his 51 breaking balls. The Dodgers went on to lose in seven games. Two years later, the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme was exposed, placing Kershaw’s struggles in a different light.

Kershaw returned Tuesday to hold the Astros to one run and four hits until he was pulled with two outs in the eighth inning. He threw just 81 pitches. He recorded six strikeouts without a walk. He produced seven whiffs, six with breaking balls.

“I don’t really know how to express it,” Kershaw said. “It did feel like a little more important game, but maybe that’s just because there was a full crowd.”


Members of the Lakers, including LeBron James, third from left, kneel before Game 4 against the Nuggets.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Bill Plaschke on how the death of George Floyd changed him: Before, when LeBron James preached, I would pass.

During his postgame news conferences, the Lakers star would answer all the basketball questions, then somebody would ask something about social justice and I would drift off.

My tape recorder was running, but my attention had shut down. I was there, but I wasn’t. I understood him, but I didn’t. I tried to relate, but I couldn’t.

George Floyd changed all that.

A year ago, Floyd’s murder by the knee of Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin resulted in a video that couldn’t be ignored and protests that couldn’t be avoided. The pandemic lockdown had removed all distractions and negated all excuses. Racial injustice was on our TV sets and in our streets, and we had nowhere to go and we couldn’t look away.

While I have written about racial injustice throughout my 25 years as an L.A. Times sports columnist — campaigning for more Black head football coaches, detailing the Donald Sterling debacle, highlighting the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray and Eric Garner, marking the anniversary of the Rodney King riots — I was always able to quickly leave those stories to cover another game or profile another athlete. I could easily treat the injustice like a temporary condition that didn’t really affect me.

George Floyd made me slow down. George Floyd made me sit with it, absorb it, feel it. When the murder inspired sports stars to speak out as social leaders, I finally started listening — really listening.


Damarra Atkins paid her respects to George Floyd at a mural at George Floyd Square on April 23 in Minneapolis.
(Julio Cortez / Associated Press)

J. Brady McCollough on the impact George Floyd’s death had on collegiate sports: A year ago, Domani Jackson saw a side of America that had existed to him only in history books. A child of mixed race, he had grown up on West Coast Marine bases where interracial marriages were commonplace, and it was within that inclusive bubble that he grew into one of the best high school football players in the country.

At the close of his sophomore year at Santa Ana Mater Dei, all of the nation’s big-time college programs were circling the top cornerback in the 2022 recruiting class. What none of his suitors could have known then was how the murder of George Floyd by a police officer on May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis would end up altering their pursuit of a player who lived in Southern California.

The nationwide protest that defined the pandemic summer would find its way into the living rooms of the Los Angeles area’s top young football players. Two weeks after Floyd’s death, Ceyair Wright, a coveted cornerback prospect in this year’s class, reached out to Jackson and 16 other Southland recruits about participating in a video that told the world how they felt about police brutality and racial injustice.

On June 18, the players posted the video on social media.

“Throughout history,” Wright began, “African Americans have faced seemingly unsurmountable adversities. We’ve been beaten, killed and discriminated against.”

“We can’t ever be the same,” Jackson said.


Mike DiGiovanna on the Angels: An ear-piercing crack of the bat sent another Jo Adell drive deep into the Las Vegas night and left Russ Langer, the longtime radio voice of the triple-A Aviators, a bit confused.

“There is the 10th home run of the year by Jo Adell,” Langer said as Monday’s blast cleared the left-field wall at Las Vegas Ballpark and landed on the roof of the Golden Knights’ practice facility, “and what he’s still doing playing for the Salt Lake Bees, I don’t have any idea.”

Nor do plenty of Angels fans who wonder why the hot-hitting outfield prospect remains at triple A while star center fielder Mike Trout is sidelined by a right-calf strain for two months and the team is stuck in last place.

Adell, 22, entered Tuesday with a .270 average, 1.063 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 10 homers — six in the last week — and 19 RBIs in 17 games.

But there are other numbers causing the Angels to proceed with caution: Adell had 27 strikeouts and six walks in 81 plate appearances through Monday, a reflection of his tendency to chase pitches outside the strike zone.

And though he made a diving catch Sunday, Adell got turned around on a fly ball and fell down as it dropped for a double on Saturday.

“He’s making some strides, but he’s not there yet defensively,” Angels general manager Perry Minasian said before Tuesday night’s 11-5 victory over the Texas Rangers at Angel Stadium.


First round
All times Pacific


No. 1 Utah vs. No. 8 Memphis

Memphis 112, Utah 109
Today: at Utah, 7 p.m., TBT
Saturday: at Memphis, 6:30 p.m., ESPN
Monday: at Memphis, 6:30 p.m., TNT
*Wed., June 2: at Utah, TBD, TBD
*Friday, June 4: at Memphis, TBD, TBD
*Sunday, June 6: at Utah, TBD, TBD

No. 2 Phoenix vs. No. 7 Lakers

Phoenix 99, Lakers 90
Lakers 109, Phoenix 102
Thursday: at Lakers, 7 p.m., TNT
Sunday: at Lakers, 12:30 p.m., ABC
Tuesday: at Phoenix, TBD, TBD
*Thur., June 3: at Lakers, TBD, TBD
*Sat., June 5: at Phoenix, TBD, TBD

No. 3 Denver vs. No. 6 Portland

Portland 123, Denver 109
Denver 128, Portland 109
Thursday: at Portland, 7:30 p.m., NBATV
Saturday: at Portland, 1 p.m., TNT
Tuesday: at Denver, TBD, TBD
*Thur., June 3: at Portland, TBD, TBD
*Sat., June 5: at Denver, TBD, TBD

No. 4 Clippers vs. No. 5 Dallas

Dallas 113, Clippers 103
Dallas 127, Clippers 121
Friday: at Dallas, 6:30 p.m., ESPN
Sunday: at Dallas, 6:30 p.m., TBT
*Wed., June 2: at Clippers, TBD, TBD
*Fri., June 4: at Dallas, TBD, TBD
*Sun., June 6: at Clippers, TBD, TBD


No. 1 Philadelphia vs. No. 8 Washington

Philadelphia 125, Washington 118
Today: at Philadelphia, 4 p.m., NBATV
Saturday: at Washington, 4 p.m., ESPN
Monday: at Washington, 4 p.m., TNT
*Wed., June 2: at Philadelphia, TBD, TBD
*Fri., June 4: at Washington, TBD, TBD
*Sun., June 6: at Philadelphia, TBD, TBD

No. 2 Brooklyn vs. No. 7 Boston

Brooklyn 104, Boston 93
Brooklyn 130, Boston 108
Friday: at Boston, 5:30 p.m., ABC
Sunday: at Boston, 4 p.m., TNT
*Tuesday: at Brooklyn, TBD, TBD
*Thur., June 3: at Boston, TBD, TBD
*Sat., June 5: at Brooklyn, TBD, TBD

No. 3 Milwaukee vs. No. 6 Miami

Milwaukee 109, Miami 107
Milwaukee 132, Miami 98
Thursday: at Miami, 4:30 p.m., TNT
Saturday: at Miami, 10:30 a.m., TNT
*Tuesday: at Milwaukee, TBD, TBD
*Thur., June 3: at Miami, TBD, TBD
*Sat. June 5: at Milwaukee, TBD, TBD

No. 4 New York vs. No. 5 Atlanta

Atlanta 107, New York 105
Today: at New York, 4:30 p.m., TNT
Friday: at Atlanta, 4 p.m., ESPN
Sunday: at Atlanta, 10 a.m., ABC
*Wed., June 2: at New York, TBD, TBD
*Fri., June 4: at Atlanta, TBD, TBD
*Sun., June 6: at New York, TBD, TBD

*-if necessary


First round
All times Pacific

East Division
Pittsburgh vs. NY Islanders

New York 4, Pittsburgh 3 (OT)
Pittsburgh 2, New York 1
Pittsburgh 5, New York 4
New York 4, Penguins 1
New York 3, Pittsburgh 2 (2OT)
Today: at New York, 3:30 p.m., NBCSN
*Friday: at Pittsburgh, TBD

Washington vs. Boston

Washington 3, Boston 2 (OT)
Boston 4, Washington 3 (OT)
Boston 3, Washington 2 (2 OT)
Boston 4, Washington 1
Boston 3, Washington 1
Boston wins series, 4-1

Central Division

Carolina vs. Nashville

Carolina 5, Nashville 2
Carolina 3, Nashville 0
Nashville 5, Carolina 4 (2OT)
Nashville 4, Carolina 3 (2OT)
Carolina 3, Nashville 2 (OT)
Thursday: at Nashville, 6:30 p.m., NBCSN
*Saturday: at Carolina, TBD

Florida vs. Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay 5, Florida 4
Tampa Bay 3, Florida 1
Florida 6, Tampa Bay 5 (OT)
Tampa Bay 6, Florida 2
Florida 4, Tampa Bay 1
Today: at Tampa Bay, 5 p.m., CNBC
*Friday: at Florida, TBD

North Division

Toronto vs. Montreal

Montreal 2, Toronto 1
Toronto 5, Montreal 1
Toronto 2, Montreal 1
Toronto 4, Montreal 0
Thursday: at Toronto, 4 p.m., NBCSN
*Saturday: at Montreal, TBD
*Monday: at Toronto, TBD

Edmonton vs. Winnipeg

Winnipeg 4, Edmonton 1
Winnipeg 1, Edmonton 0
Winnipeg 5, Edmonton 4 (OT)
Winnipeg 4, Edmonton 3 (3OT)
Winnipeg wins series, 4-0

West Division

Colorado vs. St. Louis

Colorado 4, St. Louis 1
Colorado 6, St. Louis 3
Colorado 5, St. Louis 1
Colorado 5, St. Louis 2
Colorado wins series, 4-0

Vegas vs. Minnesota

Minnesota 1, Vegas 0 (OT)
Vegas 3, Minnesota 1
Vegas 5, Minnesota 2
Vegas 4, Minnesota 0
Wild 4, Vegas 2
Today: at Minnesota, 6 p.m., NBCSN
*Friday: at Vegas, TBD

*-if necessary


1925 — In Detroit’s 8-1 win over the Chicago White Sox, Ty Cobb becomes the first to collect 1,000 career extra-base hits. He finished his career with 1,139.

1959 — Harvey Haddix of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches 12 perfect innings before losing to the Milwaukee Braves, 1-0 in the 13th on an error, a sacrifice and Joe Adcock’s double.

1985 — Danny Sullivan misses almost certain disaster and holds off Mario Andretti and the rest of the fastest field in auto racing to win the Indianapolis 500. On the 119th lap, Sullivan spins his racer 360 degrees, narrowly avoiding both the wall and Andretti.

1987 — Boston’s Larry Bird steals an inbounds pass from Detroit’s Isiah Thomas and feeds over his shoulder to a cutting Dennis Johnson for the winning basket as the Celtics pulls out an improbable 108-107 win over Detroit in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

1988 — The Edmonton Oilers, with MVP Wayne Gretzky leading the way, beat the Boston Bruins 6-3 to complete a four-game sweep and win their fourth Stanley Cup in five years.

1991 — Rick Mears passes Michael Andretti with 12 laps to go and wins his fourth Indianapolis 500, by 3.1 seconds. Mears joins A.J. Foyt and Al Unser as the only four-time winners.

1994 — Haiti’s Ronald Agenor wins the longest match since the French Open adopted the tiebreaker. Agenor takes the 71st and final game of a second-round match with David Prinosil of Germany. His five-hour, 6-7 (4-7), 6-7 (2-7), 6-3, 6-4, 14-12 victory involves the most games in a French Open match since 1973.

2000 — New Jersey finishes the greatest comeback in a conference final when the Devils win the last three games of the series, beating the Flyers 2-1 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final. Patrik Elias scores his second goal of the game with 2:32 to play for the win.

2004 — Andy Roddick loses at the French Open — to Frenchman Olivier Mutis, who is ranked 125th. With the five-set loss, Roddick joins Andre Agassi and eight other compatriots on the way home, making it the first Grand Slam tournament in more than 30 years without a U.S. man in the third round.

2005 — Americans Andy Roddick, James Blake and Vince Spadea fail to make it through the opening week at the French Open. For the second year in a row — and the second time at a Grand Slam event in more than 30 years — no American man makes it out of the second round.

2008 — Syracuse wins its 10th NCAA men’s lacrosse championship, beating defending champion Johns Hopkins 13-10 behind three goals from Dan Hardy. The crowd of 48,970 at Foxborough, Mass., is the largest to see an NCAA championship outdoors in any sport — the BCS football championship game isn’t an NCAA event.

2012 — Toronto FC ends its MLS record nine-game losing streak to open a season with a 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Union on a late goal by Danny Koevermans.

2013 — Tony Kanaan ends years of frustration by finally winning the Indianapolis 500. Kanaan drives past Ryan Hunter-Reay on a restart with three laps to go, then coasts across the finish line under yellow when defending race winner Dario Franchitti crashes far back in the field. The Brazilian finished second in 2004 and twice finished third.

And finally

Angels two-way marvel Shohei Ohtani hit a 117-mph home run on Tuesday night. Watch it here.

Until next time...

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