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The Sports Report: Lakers defeat the Cavaliers

LeBron James looks to pass against Isaac Okoro, left, and Lamar Stevens.
(Ron Schwane / Associated Press)
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Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

From Dan Woike: Here the Lakers were, down double digits early, their will already broken by just the slightest pressure. Monday night, it was an offensive rebound that snapped their early momentum and sucked the life out of them.

It’s a scene that’s repeated itself in cities all over the NBA map — the Lakers folding after a blown call, a missed rotation, a bricked jumper or, in this case, a phantom box out.

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The Cavaliers would go on to score 31 of the next 42 points, the latest chapter in the Lakers’ ineptitude to stare down adversity being written in real time.

But LeBron James hates to lose. And he really really hates losing in Cleveland.

It’s happened only once as an opponent — March 29, 2011 — and thanks to a triple-double combined with yet another strong game from Russell Westbrook, it still hasn’t happened a second time.

Fighting back against the Cavaliers’ early pressure instead of wilting under it, the Lakers won 131-120.

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NCAA MEN’S TOURNAMENT

From Ben Bolch: His team was completing its pregame walk-through when Mick Cronin noticed North Carolina’s latest walkover, the Tar Heels appearing well on the way to stomping out Baylor’s bid to repeat as national champions.

At that moment, North Carolina led by 25 points.

“So I was curious,” Cronin would later recall while contemplating UCLA’s next opponent in the NCAA tournament, “as to who the heck the one seed was, from what I was watching.”

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It became harder to tell over the game’s final minutes, the eighth-seeded Tar Heels stumbling amid a controversial ejection and a flurry of turnovers. They regained their footing in overtime to take down the top seed.

The game was a lot like North Carolina’s first season under coach Hubert Davis. Early promise gave way to turmoil and doubts before ultimately being replaced by joy and a feeling that a happy ending could be in the works.

Having gone from the rubble of the bubble to big-time trouble, the Tar Heels (26-9) will try to topple the fourth-seeded Bruins (27-7) on Friday night in an East Region semifinal. It will be a battle of blue bloods at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, not to mention varying shades of blue on the uniforms vying for supremacy.

“You can’t be playing better than Carolina is playing,” Cronin said after his team defeated St. Mary’s to reach a battle of national brands. “They’re shooting the lights out.”

Sweet 16
Thursday’s schedule

West
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 4 Arkansas, 4:09 p.m., CBS
No. 2 Duke vs. No. 3 Texas Tech, 6:39 p.m., CBS

South
No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 11 Michigan, 4:29 p.m., TBS
No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 5 Houston, 6:59 p.m., TBS

Friday’s schedule

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East
No. 3 Purdue vs. No. 15 Saint Peter’s, 4:09 p.m., CBS
No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 8 North Carolina, 6:39 p.m., CBS

Midwest
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 4 Providence, 4:29 p.m., TBS
No. 10 Miami vs. No. 11 Iowa State, 6:59 p.m., TBS

NCAA WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT

NCAA tournament
Schedule and results

Second round
Monday’s results

Spokane Region
No. 6 Ohio St. 79, No. 3 LSU 64

Wichita Region
No. 3 Michigan 64, No. 11 Villanova 49
No. 4 Tennessee 70, No. 12 Belmont 67

Bridgeport Region
No. 1 North Carolina St. 89, No. 9 Kansas St. 57
No. 2 Connecticut 52, No. 7 Central Florida 47
No. 3 Indiana 56, No. 11 Princeton 55
No. 5 Notre Dame 108, No. 4 Oklahoma 64

Greensboro Region
No. 5 North Carolina 63, No. 4 Arizona 45

DODGERS

From Jack Harris: Chris Taylor’s new four-year, $60-million contract with the Dodgers had been public knowledge for a while. An offseason surgery he had on his right elbow, however, came as a bit of news at Dodgers camp Monday morning.

Speaking to reporters for the first time this spring, the Dodgers utility man discussed both winter developments, happy to have both out of the way going into the season.

“Hopefully I’ll feel good going in this year,” Taylor said. “And my arm will be a little better.”

Taylor said he quietly dealt with elbow discomfort over the final two months of last season, the pain bothering him most when he would extend his arm at the end of a swing.

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“It was something I could manage and like, just kind of get worked on and get it loose,” he said. “Just kind of had to manage the workload more than anything.”

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Braves GM insists his tears over losing Freddie Freeman to Dodgers were real

Hernández: Cody Bellinger says he’s still an MVP-type player. He has another chance to prove it

DODGERS POLL

We want to hear from you. Do you think Trevor Bauer should pitch again for the Dodgers? Click here to vote.

ANGELS

From Bill Shaikin: The Angel Stadium land sale moved one giant step closer to completion Monday, when a judge ruled the city of Anaheim had not violated the state’s public transparency law in negotiating the deal.

“There is no basis to nullify the decision to sell the stadium site,” Orange County Superior Court Judge David Hoffer wrote in his tentative ruling Monday.

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Hoffer dismissed what was presented as key evidence — declarations by city Councilman Jose Moreno and former City Manager Chris Zapata — as “not credible” and said he had considered six claims made by a citizens’ group that sued the city to stop the deal.

“None of these claims have merit,” Hoffer wrote.

RAMS

From Gary Klein: Matthew Stafford is not ready to go there yet.

New addition Allen Robinson joined a Rams receiving corps that now includes Robinson, Cooper Kupp and Van Jefferson — with on-the-mend free agent Odell Beckham Jr. apparently still mulling a decision about where he will play in 2022.

Stafford on Wednesday declined to say whether it was the NFL’s best.

“Looks pretty good on paper,” the Rams quarterback said during a videoconference with reporters. “It’s on us to go out there and make sure that it comes to life.”

It’s mainly on Stafford, who last week signed a four-year extension that could be worth as much as $160 million, with $135 million guaranteed.

Stafford was one of the main reasons Robinson signed with the Super Bowl-champion Rams, and he also was a big factor in offensive tackle Joe Noteboom’s and center Brian Allen’s decisions to re-sign with the team.

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“I appreciate the way they feel about me,” Stafford said, “and the best thing I can say is the feeling is mutual.”

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‘Who’s this 99 guy on the Rams?’ Urban Meyer, meet Aaron Donald

DUCKS

Filip Forsberg scored two goals in the third period of a five-point performance, and Matt Duchene added two power-play goals in the final minutes of the Nashville Predators’ 6-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.

Forsberg capped his spectacular night by setting Nashville’s single-season franchise record with his 35th goal, scoring into an empty net with 2:03 to play.

Roman Josi and Ryan Johansen also scored for the Predators, who pulled even with Minnesota on points for second place in the Central Division with their sixth win in nine games.

Troy Terry scored his 30th goal of the season for the Ducks, who have lost seven straight (0-5-2).

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USC FOOTBALL

From Ryan Kartje: New USC inside receivers coach Dave Nichol stepped away from the team to focus on a “private medical matter,” USC announced Monday, one day before the team was set to open spring practice.

Luke Huard, who joined USC’s staff as an offensive analyst last month, will serve in his place while Nichol is away.

As USC’s associate head coach for offense, Nichol was expected to play a major role. He was hired to USC’s staff in December after spending the previous two seasons at Mississippi State under Mike Leach, who also helped launch Lincoln Riley’s coaching career.

HORSE RACING

From John Cherwa: Trainer Bob Baffert continued his legal losing streak in Kentucky on Monday when a circuit court judge denied his wish for a stay on his 90-day suspension while the case moves through the regulatory process. He has one more appeal he can file, this one with the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

The suspension stems from a positive test for an legal anti-inflammatory, but not legal on race day, after Medina Spirit won last year’s Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission suspended Baffert for 90 days not just for Medina Spirit but also because he had four medication violations in about a year. However, two of those violations in Louisiana were deemed the result of contamination, which is generally out of a trainer’s control, and the winning placings were restored.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1932 — The blue lines are eliminated with the center red line used to determine offsides in an experiment by the NHL. With both teams out of playoff contention, the league tries it in the New York Americans’ 8-6 victory over Boston.

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1952 — The St. John’s Redmen avenge an earlier 41-point loss, beating top-ranked Kentucky 64-57 in the East Regional championship game of the NCAA Division I Men’s Tournament. St. John’s, led by Bob Zawoluk’s NCAA tournament record 32 points, advances to its first Final Four.

1953 — The United States beats host Chile, 49-36 to win the first FIBA World Championship for Women basketball tournament.

1958 — Vern Hatton and Johnny Cox combine for 54 points to give Kentucky an 84-72 victory over Seattle in the NCAA basketball championship.

1959 — Montreal Canadiens forward Dickie Moore sets an NHL record for most points in a season with 96. He scores a goal and an assist in a 4-2 win at New York.

1969 — Lew Alcindor scores 37 points to lead UCLA to the NCAA men’s basketball title with a 97-72 win over Purdue. Alcindor is chosen as MVP for the third straight year.

1969 — West Chester State beats Western Carolina 65-39 to win the first women’s collegiate national championship. The game is played using the six-player format.

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1986 — Trevor Berbick wins a unanimous 15-round decision over Pinklon Thomas in Las Vegas for the WBC heavyweight title.

1994 — The NFL announces the addition of the 2-point conversion, the league’s first scoring change in 75 seasons.

1997 — Tara Lipinski’s jumps, the cleanest and the surest in women’s figure skating, lift the 14-year-old into history as the youngest women’s world champion.

2000 — Pat Verbeek of the Detroit Red Wings scores twice in a 2-2 tie with Calgary to become the 28th player in NHL history with 500 goals.

2007 — Kobe Bryant becomes the fourth player in NBA history to score at least 50 points in three straight games. Bryant scores 60 points in the Lakers’ 121-119 win over Memphis. Bryant joins Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan.

2008 — The first of two assists Colorado captain Joe Sakic has in a 7-5 loss to Edmonton are the 1,000th of his career. He is the 11th player in NHL history to reach the milestone.

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2011 — The NFL owners vote to make all scoring plays subject to review by the replay official and referee.

2013 — Florida Gulf Coast, a school so new it wasn’t eligible for the NCAA men’s tournament until last year, upsets second-seeded Georgetown 78-68 in the second round of the South Regional. The Eagles used a 21-2 second-half run to pull away from the Hoyas and hold on in the final minute to become the seventh No. 15 seed to beat a No. 2.

2015 — Oklahoma advances in the NCAA tournament with a 72-66 victory over Dayton. Sooners coach Lon Kruger becomes the second coach to take four schools to the round of 16.

Supplied by the Associated Press

And finally

UCLA defeats Purdue in the 1969 NCAA men’s tournament final. Watch and listen 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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