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The Sports Report: Clippers won’t have Kawhi Leonard for Game 6

Paul George flexes his muscles after scoring against the Utah Jazz during the first half of Game 5.
(Associated Press)

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

Andrew Greif on the Clippers: Forward Kawhi Leonard will not play in Game 6 against the Utah Jazz on Friday night at Staples Center because of a strained right knee, coach Tyronn Lue said Thursday evening. Lue said there was no injury update beyond that.

Leonard injured his right knee in the Clippers’ Game 4 victory during a collision with Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic while on a drive. Leonard missed the Game 5 win on Wednesday that gave the Clippers a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. Fellow All-Star forward Paul George led the Clippers’ 119-111 win with 37 points and 16 rebounds.

Leonard, who was selected All-NBA for the fifth time and chosen All-Defensive team for a seventh, averaged 27.1 points a game against the Jazz after leading the Clippers to a first-round series win over Dallas in which he averaged 32.1 points.

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The Clippers are 12-9 without Leonard in the lineup and 6-5 when Leonard sits but George plays.

Game 6 is set for a 7 p.m. tipoff at a full-capacity Staples Center.

“I want to win a championship. That’s my main focus,” Lue said of the historical importance for the Clippers to advance past the second round for the first time in franchise history.

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What to expect at Clippers-Jazz Game 6 with capacity crowd at Staples Center

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ANGELS

Shohei Ohtani throws a pitch Thursday.
Shohei Ohtani throws a pitch Thursday.
(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

Jack Harris on the Angels: Every roar was a little louder, every gasp a little more intense.

And when the evening crescendoed, Angel Stadium sounded like normal again.

For the first time since 2019, there were no capacity limits at the Angels home ballpark on Thursday. And on what became a de facto “reopening day” game, Shohei Ohtani treated the 30,709 in attendance to another two-way treat over the first six innings before Taylor Ward provided a raucous exclamation point in the seventh inning with his first career grand slam.

The Angels went on to win 7-5 against the Detroit Tigers, taking the first of a four-game series that is representing the greatest return to normalcy at their home stadium yet.

The last season and a half had been played under coronavirus pandemic restrictions, barring fans from entry last season then limiting capacity to 33% for the first 34 home games this year.

But on Thursday, the Angels’ first home game following California’s lifting of pandemic limitations two days earlier, the sea of once empty seats disappeared. The once muffled reactions of sparsely populated stands were gone.

Instead, the venue’s biggest crowd in 627 days was given plenty to cheer, the Angels bouncing back from a three-game sweep at the hands of the Oakland A’s earlier this week behind big games from Ohtani and Ward.

Making his 10th start on the mound and seventh two-way outing of the season, Ohtani shined early on. As a pitcher, he gave up only one run and five hits, striking out five batters while throwing a season-high proportion of sliders.

He overcame some early command issues, made a couple impressive plays defensively, and dialed up two double plays to lower his season ERA to 2.70 and produce his third six-inning outing in his past four starts -- something he achieved only

GOLF

Russell Henley hits from a 17th-hole fairway bunker during the first round of the U.S. Open.
Russell Henley hits from a 17th-hole fairway bunker during the first round of the U.S. Open.
(Associated Press)

Mark Zeigler on the U.S. Open: Russell Henley played in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in 2014, in his third year as a pro after a decorated college career at Georgia. Made a 40-foot birdie putt on 18 just to break 80 on the South Course. Missed the cut by six strokes.

“I don’t really remember (much) besides just leaving the course feeling like I just got beat up,” Henley said. “I played in that one time and really struggled, and it was like, well, I’ll just not play it from now on.”

So he didn’t.

He returned to Torrey Pines this week after sneaking into the U.S. Open, ranking 59th in late May when the top 60 received exemptions (before slipping to his current 63rd). A little bit different experience this time.

Henley shot a 4-under 67 to take the first-round lead after a morning fog delay that lasted 90 minutes, and that included a bogey on his opening hole that brought flashbacks to 2014. The only similarity with his other trip around Torrey South was a birdie on 18, although this one required a putt 34 feet shorter.

Also at 4 under was South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen, who didn’t tee off until after 3 p.m. and had two holes left when play was suspended just before 8. Players were allowed to finish their current hole (and Rory McIlroy’s group quickly hit their tee shots on 18 even though Sergio Garcia, in the group ahead, was still in the fairway).

Oosthuizen and Henley were unexpected figures atop the leaderboard. Oosthuizen, because he has never led a major after the first round in his previous 49 starts. Henley, because he has no top 10s and eight missed cuts in 26 career appearances in majors.

As a college junior, Henley tied for low amateur at the 2010 U.S. Open but never finished higher than 25th as a pro. He didn’t qualify in 2019 and 2020.

“I don’t feel like it’s a huge surprise just because I do feel like I’ve played some good golf in some bigger events in the last year,” said Henley, 32, who last won on the PGA Tour in 2017. “But in terms of putting four rounds together at a U.S. Open, I’ve struggled with that. So I’m just going to keep trying.

“I’m just trying to hang in there.”

————

In alternate world, Joe Neuheisel barely misses chance to play in U.S. Open

TENNIS

Japan's Naomi Osaka prepares to serve to United States' Jennifer Brady
Naomi Osaka at this year’s Australian Open.
(Associated Press)

Helene Elliott on tennis: Naomi Osaka, the No.-2 ranked female tennis player in the world, has withdrawn from Wimbledon but intends to compete in the Tokyo Olympics, her representatives said in a statement issued Thursday.

Osaka, a four-time Grand Slam tournament winner, pulled out of this year’s French Open after saying she had experienced anxiety while participating in news conferences. She initially said she would play but would skip the mandatory media sessions. However, she withdrew after organizers of the four Grand Slam events said they might ban her from their tournaments if she continued to violate media availability rules.

When she announced her withdrawal she said for the first time publicly she had suffered long bouts of depression since her victory over Serena Williams in the 2018 U.S. Open final, a disclosure that opened discussions about the potentially adverse effects highly charged competition and its accompanying obligations can have on players’ mental health.

Osaka, 24, was born in Japan to a Haitian father and Japanese mother. She lived in Japan until she was 3 and her family moved to the United States. Her success and her ability to speak Japanese have made her immensely popular among sports fans in her native country, which she represents in international competition. She has a wide-ranging endorsement portfolio and is a favorite subject in fashion and lifestyle publications. She lives in Los Angeles.

“She is taking some personal time with friends and family,” the statement about her withdrawal from Wimbledon said. “She will be ready for the Olympics and is excited to play in front of her home fans.”

Rafael Nadal, the third-ranked men’s player in the world, also withdrew from Wimbledon on Thursday and added he will not compete at the Tokyo Olympics. Nadal, 35, is coming off a dramatic semifinal loss to Novak Djokovic at the French Open, where he had prevailed 13 times on the clay of Roland-Garros. Nadal was the flag bearer for Spain in the 2016 Rio Olympics and won a gold medal in doubles. He previously had won a gold medal in singles in 2008.

“The fact that there has only been 2 weeks between RG and Wimbledon didn’t make it easier on my body to recuperate after the always demanding clay court season,” Nadal said on social media. They have been two months of great effort and the decision I take is focused looking at the mid and long term.”

OLYMPICS

Simone Manuel in 2019
(Associated Press)

Nathan Fenno on swimming: Simone Manuel, the first female Black swimmer to win an individual gold medal at the Olympics, won’t have the opportunity to defend the victory at the Tokyo Games.

Manuel failed to advance to the finals of the 100-meter freestyle at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials Thursday, sending ripples of shock through the CHI Health Center.

The 24-year-old finished ninth in the semifinals in 54.17 seconds. That time was more than two seconds slower than the American record Manuel set in 2019.

“I know I did everything I possibly could to be here,” Manuel said during a raw, tearful news conference. “That makes me proud. I stayed strong through this process even though I wanted to give up.”

Manuel is one of U.S. swimming’s brightest stars — an enormous picture of her is on the outside of the arena alongside Katie Ledecky and Caeleb Dressel. While the historic victory at the Rio Olympics in 2016 thrust Manuel onto the world stage, she continued to improve, winning back-to-back world titles in the 100 freestyle in 2017 and 2019. Manuel totaled seven medals at the world championships in 2019, the most ever by a female swimmer.

But during the news conference, Manuel revealed she was diagnosed with overtraining syndrome earlier this year. That led to taking three weeks away from the pool in March and April.

USC

Ryan Kartje on the Trojans: After winning a NCAA women’s title, then losing its coach just one day later, USC has moved swiftly in replacing one of the nation’s top track and field coaches with a Trojan track legend.

Quincy Watts, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and current Trojans top assistant, has been named USC’s director of track and field and cross country, the university announced on Thursday.

Watts replaces Caryl Smith Gilbert, the NCAA women’s track and field coach of the year, who led USC’s women’s team to the second NCAA title of her tenure last weekend and the men to a fifth-place finish before announcing she was taking the same job at Georgia.

Watts, 50, was a natural successor. A former Woodland Hills Taft High and USC track star, Watts was the 1992 NCAA 400-meter champion with the Trojans. This season, as USC track and field had one of its finest seasons in program history, Watts was named national outdoor women’s assistant coach of the year by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Assn.

NBA PLAYOFFS SCHEDULE/RESULTS

SECOND ROUND
All times Pacific

WESTERN CONFERENCE

No. 1 Utah vs. No. 4 Clippers
Utah 112, Clippers 109
Utah 117, Clippers 111
Clippers 132, Utah 106
Clippers 118, Utah 104
Clippers 119, Utah 111
Tonight: at Clippers, 7 p.m., ESPN
*Sunday: at Utah, 12:30 p.m., ABC

No. 2 Phoenix Suns vs. No. 3 Denver Nuggets
Phoenix 122, Denver 105
Phoenix 123, Denver 98
Phoenix 116, Denver 102
Phoenix 125, Denver 118

EASTERN CONFERENCE

No. 1 Philadelphia vs. No. 5 Atlanta
Atlanta 128, Philadelphia 124
Philadelphia 118, Atlanta 102
Philadelphia 127, Atlanta 111
Atlanta 103, Philadelphia 100
Atlanta 109, Philadelphia 106
Tonight: at Atlanta, 4:30 p.m., ESPN
*Sunday: at Philadelphia, 5 p.m., TNT

No. 2 Brooklyn Nets vs. No. 3 Milwaukee Bucks
Brooklyn 115, Milwaukee 107
Brooklyn 125, Milwaukee 86
Milwaukee 86, Brooklyn 83
Milwaukee 107, Brooklyn 96
Brooklyn 114, Milwaukee 108
Milwaukee 104, Brooklyn 89
Saturday: at Brooklyn, 5:30 p.m., TNT

NHL PLAYOFFS SCHEDULE/RESULTS

STANLEY CUP SEMIFINALS
All times Pacific

No. 1 Vegas vs. No. 4 Montreal

Vegas 4, Montreal 1
Montreal 3, Vegas 2
Today: at Montreal, 5 p.m., USA
Sunday: at Montreal, 5 p.m.: NBCSN
Tuesday: at Vegas, 6 p.m., NBCSN
*Thursday: at Montreal, 5 p.m., USA
*Saturday, June 26: at Vegas, 5 p.m., NBCSN

No. 2 Tampa Bay vs. No. 3 New York Islanders

New York 2, Tampa Bay 1
Tampa Bay 4, New York 2
Tampa Bay 2, New York 1
Saturday: at New York, 5 p.m., USA
Monday: at Tampa Bay, 5 p.m., NBCSN
*Wednesday: at New York, 5 p.m., NBCSN
*Friday, June 25: at Tampa Bay, 5 p.m., NBCSN

*-if necessary

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1910 — Alex Smith wins the U.S. Open by beating John McDermont and Macdonald Smith in an 18-hole playoff at the Philadelphia Cricket Club. Smith beats McDermont by four strokes and Macdonald Smith by six.

1921 — The University of Illinois wins the first NCAA track and field championships with 20¼ points. Notre Dame finishes second with 16¾ points.

1941 — Joe Louis knocks out Billy Conn in the 13th round at the Polo Grounds in New York to retain the world heavyweight title.

1960 — Arnold Palmer beats amateur Jack Nicklaus by two strokes to win the U.S. Open.

1967 — Jack Nicklaus shoots a record 275 to beat Arnold Palmer for the U.S. Open. Nicklaus breaks Ben Hogan’s 1948 record by one stroke.

1972 — Jack Nicklaus wins the U.S. Open by three strokes over Bruce Crampton and ties Bobby Jones’ record of 13 major titles.

1975 — Bobby Orr of the Boston Bruins wins the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman for the eighth consecutive year.

1984 — Fuzzy Zoeller shoots a 3-under 67 to beat Greg Norman by eight strokes in the 18-hole playoff at Winged Foot GC for the U.S. Open title.

1986 — California’s Don Sutton becomes the 19th pitcher in baseball history to win 300 games as he pitches a three-hitter to give the Angels a 5-1 triumph over the Texas Rangers.

1990 — Hale Irwin makes an 8-foot birdie putt on the 91st hole to beat Mike Donald in the first sudden-death playoff to decide the U.S. Open. It is the third U.S. Open title for the 45-year-old Irwin, the oldest winner in the tournament’s history.

1995 — Michael Johnson becomes the first national champion at 200 and 400 meters since 1899 as he captures both races at the USA-Mobil Championships.

2000 — Tiger Woods turns the 100th U.S. Open into a one-man show, winning by 15 strokes over Ernie Els and Miguel Angel Jimenez. Woods’ 15-stroke margin shatters the Open mark of 11 set by Willie Smith in 1899 and is the largest in any major championship — surpassing the 13-stroke victory by Old Tom Morris in the 1862 British Open.

2006 — Phil Mickelson’s bid for a third consecutive major ends with a shocking collapse when he bungles his way to a double bogey on the final hole, giving the U.S. Open to Geoff Ogilvy.

2017 — Brooks Koepka breaks away from a tight pack with three straight birdies on the back nine at Erin Hills and closes with a 5-under 67 to win the U.S. Open for his first major championship.

2017 — Diana Taurasi scores 19 points to break the WNBA career scoring record in the Phoenix Mercury’s 90-59 loss to the Sparks. Taurasi finishes with 7,494 points, passing Tina Thompson’s mark of 7,488.

And finally

Tiger Woods wins the 2000 U.S. Open in record fashion. 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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