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The Sports Report: Another day, another loss for the Lakers

Anthony Davis and Portland center Jusuf Nurkic battle for a rebound.
(Steve Dipaola / Associated Press)
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Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Looking for Rams news? That comes in our special Super Bowl newsletter that you will get at 6 a.m. each day until the day after the Super Bowl. If you are subscribed to this newsletter, you are automatically subscribed to the Super Bowl newsletter.

Dan Woike on the Lakers: Russell Westbrook sat on the end of the bench – the spot where he spent the Lakers’ fourth-quarter comeback in Los Angeles one night earlier.

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It wasn’t turnovers, missed shots or poor defense that landed him there against the Trail Blazers, though. It was a sore back – an injury forcing him out of the Lakers’ starting lineup for the first time this season.

The timing of it all couldn’t have been more dramatic – the trade deadline one day in front of the team and sort of a pivot point against the Milwaukee Bucks one night behind.

In what could be his final look as a Laker, Westbrook patrolled the sidelines in a bright orange shirt, khaki pants and baseball cap – more engaged and animated as a spectator than as a player, when he typically sits stoically on the bench.

With or without him, the Lakers still looked like a careless basketball team, too many mistakes and not enough intensity and execution against a Portland team in the middle of trading away most of their best players.

The Lakers turned the ball over 21 times in a 107-105 loss, any shot for good vibes going into Thursday’s noon trade deadline carelessly coughed up.

Instead of converting a 2-on-1 fastbreak, LeBron James had a pass intercepted, Portland making them pay with a three-pointer. Another chance at cutting the lead was spoiled by an offensive foul. And needing one last stop, Anthony Davis could only helplessly watch Portland grab a game-sealing offensive rebound.

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After the Lakers’ lopsided loss to the Bucks on Tuesday, Westbrook aired his frustrations with inconsistencies with the Lakers’ lineups and Frank Vogel’s rotations. He also said he earned the right to close games.

Both James and Davis also voiced their own frustrations, James flatly saying that the Lakers weren’t close to being as good as the Bucks and Davis warning that the team needs to turn things around before they get worse.

All of this came while sources withing the team made it clear that the roster, as currently constructed, was probably flawed beyond repair. And Westbrook, despite playing in each of the Lakers’ games this season prior to Wednesday, still wasn’t comfortable on the floor.

“I think it’s important for everyone to be able to communicate. Through our frustrations this year, we have communicated. And I do think that’s healthy,” Vogel said pregame.

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Commentary: Lakers’ latest loss another low point, deepening locker-room frustration

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WINTER OLYMPICS

Note: Our Olympics coverage is done in real time, so if you don’t want to know what happened before you watch TV today, skip down to the TV schedule.

Helene Elliott on figure skating: Twenty years after a young Nathan Chen watched the figure skating competition at his hometown Salt Lake City Olympics and decided he wanted to be like them, a virtuoso Chen became an Olympic gold medalist.

Chen, who trains at Great Park Ice in Irvine, on Thursday blended the power and musicality that have made him a world champion three times and took them to the next level to become the eighth American man to win a figure skating singles gold medal. Chen retained the lead he had built with his short program by performing an animated and accomplished free skate to an Elton John medley, finishing with 332.60 points and living out the dream he had kept close to his heart since 2002.

That dream had eluded him four years ago in Pyeongchang, where a mistake-filled effort consigned him to 17th after the short program and only a superhuman free skate elevated him to fifth. This time, he was surefooted and unbeatable at Capital Indoor Stadium as he ended the reign of two-time Olympic gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan.

Afterward, Chen hugged coach Rafael Arutyunyan, whom he has followed from rink to rink for many years because he trusted that Arutyunyan could guide him toward the top of the skating world. Chen’s belief was as sure as his skating.

Hanyu, who stood eighth after the short program, put up a brave and admirable fight but finished fourth.

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All in all, it was a dazzling display that should have dominated the figure skating conversation at the Olympics, but the spotlight was deflected away by reports that 15-year-old Kamila Valieva had tested positive for a banned heart medication before she won the European championship, a month before she arrived in Beijing and led the Russian Olympic Committee to a gold medal in the team event.

The Russian newspaper RBC reported Valieva tested positive for Trimetazidine, which is used to treat angina. It is listed among the drugs prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency. According to many reports, she practiced on Thursday while the men’s finale was taking place. Because Valieva is younger than 16, she can’t be officially identified if she is guilty of a doping violation, according to the World Anti-Doping Code.

Donovan Carrillo of Mexico, who practices on an under-sized rink in Leon, battled to hold on to a few landings but hit a quadruple toe loop (putting his hand down) to earn 138.44 points for his performance and 218.13 overall. He finished 22nd among the 24 men who qualified for the free skate, but in his own way he was as much a winner as anyone else who graced the ice Thursday.

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From Thuc Nhi Nguyen: Chloe Kim, the teenage snowboarding sensation from the 2018 Olympics, successfully defended her halfpipe title Thursday, winning gold for the United States at the Beijing Games.

The 21-year-old Torrance native won the United States’ second gold medal of the Games following Lindsey Jacobellis’ victory in snowboard cross Wednesday. Kim posted a score of 94.00 on her first run, capping it off with a 1080 spin that left Kim overcome with joy as she crossed the finish line. Queralt Castellet of Spain took silver and Sena Tomita of Japan finished with bronze.

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Germany is making the Olympic luge competition its own national showcase once again.

Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt won the doubles title on Wednesday night, their third consecutive gold medal in the event.

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They finished two runs in 1 minute, 56.653 seconds, holding off fellow Germans Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken by 0.099 seconds.

Austria’s Thomas Steu and Lorenz Koller survived a wobble just before the finish line to get the bronze.

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South Korea’s Hwang Daeheon won the 1,500 meters in Olympic short track speedskating.

Hwang stuck his skate in front at the tight finish of the 10-man final Wednesday night at the Capital Indoor Stadium.

Steven Dubois of Canada took silver. Semen Elistratov of the Russian Olympic Committee earned bronze.

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Germany’s Vinzenz Geiger has won a Nordic combined gold, rallying from a 1-minute, 26-second deficit to cross the finish line first in a 10K cross-country race after ranking 11th in ski jumping earlier in the day.

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Joergen Graabak of Norway earned silver Wednesday night, and Lukas Greiderer of Austria took bronze.

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Thursday’s TV schedule

USA NETWORK

11:30 p.m. Wednesday – 12:30 a.m.

Women’s cross-country skiing – 10 kilometers (Live)

12:40 a.m. – 3 a.m.

Men’s ice hockey – Finland vs. Slovakia (Live)

3 a.m. – 5 a.m.

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Mixed freestyle skiing – Aerials final (Live)

Women’s cross-country skiing – 10 kilometers

5 a.m. – 7:30 a.m.

Men’s ice hockey – United States vs. China (Live)

7:30 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.

Men’s curling – United States vs. Sweden

Women’s speedskating – 5,000 meters

1:45 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Women’s skeleton (Live)

Men’s ice hockey – United States vs. China (Live)

Team luge relay

8:10 p.m. – 10:45 p.m.

Women’s ice hockey – United States vs. Czech Republic (Live)

NBC

11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

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Men’s snowboard cross final

Women’s cross-country skiing – 10 kilometers

Team luge relay

5 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Women’s Alpine skiing – Super G (Live)

Men’s snowboarding halfpipe final (Live)

Mixed team freestyle skiing – Aerials final

8:35 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.

Women’s ice hockey – United States vs. Czech Republic (Live)

Women’s skeleton

CNBC

2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Women’s curling – United States vs. Denmark

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Beijing Olympics live: Latest news and results from the 24th Winter Games

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ERIC KAY TRIAL

Jorge Castillo on the trial: On the first full day of testimony in the trial of Eric Kay, a former Angels employee charged with giving pitcher Tyler Skaggs the drugs that led to his death, Debbie Hetman testified that her son admitted he had an issue with Percocet nearly six years before he was found dead in a suburban Dallas hotel room in July 2019.

Hetman spent 50 minutes on the witness stand in U.S. District Court on Wednesday. Shortly into her testimony she said Skaggs informed the family of his problem after the 2013 season and went to a family physician to seek help. Percocet, an opioid, is a mixture of oxycodone and acetaminophen.

Hetman testified that Skaggs was prescribed medication to “wean off” the drug, but Skaggs chose not to take it. Instead, she said, he quit “cold turkey.”

“It was probably the most painful thing he’d been through,” Hetman said.

A few hours earlier Wednesday, Andrew Heaney, one of Skaggs’ best friends on the Angels, reiterated during cross-examination that he didn’t know Skaggs abused drugs. He did say: “It’s safe to say at least a few” major leaguers sought opioid painkillers from people outside of team doctors.

Skaggs was found dead in Room 469 at the Hilton Dallas/Southlake Town Square on the afternoon of July 1, 2019, two weeks before his 28th birthday.

USC BASKETBALL

Utah made 14 three-pointers on the way to a 91-69 victory over the visiting USC Trojans in women’s basketball. USC goes to 9-12 overall and 2-9 in Pac-12 play with its seventh straight defeat. Utah improves to 14-7, 5-4.

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Utah finished the first half with 11 straight points to move ahead 48-28 by halftime as the Utes hit six first-half three-pointers and shot 43.8% from the field in the first half.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1908 — Tommy Burns knocks out Jack Palmer in the fourth round to defend his world heavyweight title in London.

1949 — Joe Fulks of Philadelphia scores 63 points in a 108-87 win over Indianapolis to set an NBA scoring record which would last for nearly a decade.

1952 — The Baltimore Bullets play the 48-minute game without making a single substitution and beat the Fort Wayne Pistons 82-77.

1962 — Jim Beatty becomes the first American to break the 4-minute mile indoors with a 3:58.9 in Los Angeles.

1968 — Peggy Fleming wins the women’s Olympic figure skating gold medal in Grenoble, France.

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1969 — LSU’s Pete Maravich scores 66 points in a 110-94 loss to Tulane.

1971 — Former first baseman Bill White becomes the first black announcer in major baseball league history, signing to join the New York Yankees WPIX broadcast team.

1972 — Guy Lafleur becomes the first rookie in the NHL’s modern era to have three hat tricks in a season. Lafleur scores three goals and adds an assist in the Canadiens’ 7-1 win against the Chicago Black Hawks.

1989 — K.C. Jones of the Boston Celtics and Lenny Wilkens of the Cleveland Cavaliers are elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame. Also elected is William “Pop” Gates, who played during the game’s barnstorming years in the 1930s and 1940s.

1991 — Charles Barkley of the Philadelphia 76ers, playing with a stress fracture in his left foot, becomes the NBA All-Star MVP with 17 points and 22 rebounds after leading the East to a 116-114 victory.

1992 — Bonnie Blair becomes the first woman to successfully defend an Olympic gold medal in 500-meter speed skating and the first American woman in any sport to win gold medals in consecutive Olympics.

1998 — Picabo Street, Alpine skiing’s comeback kid, overcomes a mistake about midway through her run and charges to an Olympic gold by one-hundredth of a second in the women’s super-G — the games’ first Alpine medal after three days of snow-related postponements.

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2003 — Detroit’s Brett Hull becomes the sixth NHL player to score 700 regular-season goals. Hull beats San Jose’s Evgeni Nabokov with a wrist shot in a 5-4 win over the Sharks.

2007 — Jaromir Jagr has three assists in the New York Rangers’ 5-2 win over Washington and becomes the 12th player in NHL history to score 1,500 points.

2017 — Golden State’s Draymond Green becomes the first player in NBA history to record a triple-double with fewer than 10 points scored. Green had 12 rebounds, 10 assists, 10 steals and 4 points in a 122-107 win over Memphis. Green also had five blocks, which made him the first player to record 10 steals and five blocks in a game since steals and blocks were first tracked in 1973-74.

2018 — Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla wins the first gold medal of the Pyeongchang Games and Norwegian cross-country skier Marit Bjoergen takes silver in the women’s 15-kilometer skiathlon to become the most decorated female Winter Olympian ever. Bjoergen captures her 11th career medal, breaking a three-way tie with Russian Raisa Smetanina and Italian Stefania Belmondo.

Supplied by the Associated Press

And finally

Brett Hull scores his 700th goal. Watch and listen here.

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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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