Newsletter: Sports Report: Paul George rumbles back into spotlight after long injury absence
Howdy, I’m your host, Iliana Limón Romero, filling in for Houston Mitchell, who’s probably tinkering with his preferred Dodgers opening day lineup. Let’s get right to the news.
From Andrew Greif: Paul George looked like himself again.
His team does as well.
Forty-three games and 97 days after he began resting a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right, shooting elbow, the All-Star wing needed only two minutes to flash his elite defensive form, one quarter to regain his offensive rhythm and one game to enliven a dragging Clippers team and end its five-game losing streak.
George used his in-and-out dribble to freeze a defender in the paint, scored in bunches amid a game-changing third-quarter push and ended Utah Jazz possessions with his quick hands. All of it looked familiar.
So did the Clippers’ rally Tuesday night.
Down 25 points in the third quarter, the Clippers roared back behind George’s 34 points, six assists, four steals and two rebounds for a 121-115 victory at Crypto.com Arena that marked their fourth comeback of at least 24 points this season, the most by an NBA team in the last 25 seasons, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Backup center Isaiah Hartenstein turned to wing Terance Mann with the Clippers down 25 and remarked that they had been in similar situations before. In fact, only nine months earlier, a 25-point rally by the Clippers ended Utah’s season in the playoffs’ second round.
Go beyond the scoreboard
Get the latest on L.A.'s teams in the daily Sports Report newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.
“It’s literally the same thing,” said Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, who scored 33 points.
This was not George’s first recovery from a long injury layoff either, with leg and shoulder injuries costing him months earlier in his career, experiences he called important in keeping his optimism that he could return strong.
“I was always optimistic I could come back and play,” George said. “I just kept the guys encouraged — ‘At some point, I will return.’ ”
Enjoying this newsletter? Consider subscribing to the Los Angeles Times
Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a subscriber.
From Broderick Turner: The latest update on LeBron James and Anthony Davis was pretty simple:
“Yeah, they’re both out,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said before his shorthanded team faced the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night.
And not long after, the Lakers got knocked out by the Mavericks, 128-110, and Luka Doncic’s 34 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists. The loss also knocked the Lakers out of 10th place in the West, the last spot to make the postseason play-in tournament with seven games remaining.
“Not good enough. In any way,” Vogel said about his team, which never led and trailed by as many as 37 points. “This is one of the most prolific offenses in the league. The Luka Doncic pick-and-roll is as tough to prepare for, is as tough of an action to slow down, as any in the league. And with a lot of guys out we had to come in and execute at a high level.
“And we executed very poorly to start the game and really that whole first half, with what our game plan was. And then as we tried to adjust to look at some Plan Bs and Plan Cs, we just didn’t execute well enough and play with enough toughness, IQ, intelligence, focus and fight in that half. So, not acceptable and just a poor performance across the board. Coaches, players, everybody.”
From Kevin Baxter: The World Cup qualifying tournament was just getting started when the players on the U.S. team realized they had a problem.
It had nothing to do with the roster or injuries or even the playing style. It was the locker room sound system. It wasn’t loud enough for some of the dressing rooms the team was using.
“Since I’ve been with the national team, we’ve had this tiny little Bose speaker. Can’t hear the music,” said defender DeAndre Yedlin, whose 72 appearances leads all national team players. “I don’t know why it took eight years or however long it took, but finally we got a nice speaker that we can play.
“We’re pretty excited about it.”
The speaker, which the team christened 10 days ago, appears to have arrived just in time because the U.S. may have reason to celebrate Wednesday night after the final game of what has been an arduous seven-month, 14-game qualifying competition.
The top three teams in the eight-team tournament advance directly to this fall’s World Cup in Qatar, and the only way the U.S. can finish lower than third is by losing to Costa Rica by six or more goals. The U.S. hasn’t lost a game that badly since 1979.
Win, draw or lose by five goals, it all ends the same way — with the U.S. in the World Cup and the stain of missing the tournament four years ago partially erased.
But the Americans say they want more. The U.S. has never won a qualifier in Costa Rica, for example, and ending that spell Wednesday would be a fitting coda to the qualifying competition.
Costa Rica, meanwhile, comes into the match in a far more precarious position. Although the Ticos are unbeaten in their last six games, they stand little chance of qualifying directly for Qatar. To pass the U.S., they would have to win Wednesday and overcome a 10-score deficit in goal differential; catching third-place Mexico would require El Tri losing at home to El Salvador and giving up its four-goal advantage in the differential.
From Sam Farmer: It was Patrick Mahomes versus Josh Allen, two of the NFL’s top young quarterbacks going throw for throw in one of the most thrilling playoff games in league history.
As exciting as the game was, the abrupt ending left millions of viewers wanting more, igniting the argument that the nation’s No. 1 sports league needed to rework its overtime rules.
Tuesday, it happened. At the annual league meetings, team owners voted to amend the overtime rules in the postseason to ensure both teams would have an opportunity to possess the ball in the extra period.
That 42-36 victory by Kansas City, in which the Chiefs scored a touchdown on the opening possession of overtime and thereby denied the Bills the chance to answer, was a key factor in causing and swaying the vote.
“In the Buffalo game this year, it was the greatest 20, 30 minutes of football that I’ve ever seen, ever,” said Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay, chairman of the competition committee. “To think that it ended that way definitely brought up the idea of, ‘Hey, is that equitable? Does that work for everybody?’ I have no question that started the discussion. What typically happens in these is they tend to lose momentum as you get further away from the game, and that did not happen in this instance.”
From Gary Klein: Matthew Stafford, Aaron Donald and Cooper Kupp are not the only members of the Rams parlaying Super Bowl-winning performances into new contracts.
Coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead will receive extensions, chief operating officer Kevin Demoff said Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings.
“They’re the architects of this run,” Demoff said.
In five seasons under McVay, the Rams have made two Super Bowl appearances, including a victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium.
Snead and McVay received extensions after the Rams lost to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII at the end of the 2018 season. They have two years remaining on those deals.
“They have an amazing working relationship,” Demoff said. “You’d be foolish, when you look at how hard it is in this league to win, not to try to keep together a pair that’s done it really well.”
From Jack Harris: It started on the back fields at Camelback Ranch.
That’s where, a year ago, Blake Treinen started experimenting with a new pitch, a different kind of slider that would soon change his game.
The veteran Dodgers reliever already threw a breaking ball. But after back-to-back underwhelming seasons, he was looking for a way to improve his arsenal.
So, he began toying with different ways to spin the ball. Assistant pitching coach Connor McGuiness helped him find the right grip. Pitching coach Mark Prior and bullpen coach Josh Bard walked him through numbers, perfecting the new slider’s lateral sweeping shape and pinpointing the best situations to use it.
“It just kind of all came together,” Treinen said. “It was a culmination.”
It culminated in a bounce-back 2021 season for Treinen too. Dominating opponents with his new weapon — the new slider had quadruple the horizontal break of his old one, forming a lethal combination with his repertoire of fastballs — Treinen posted a 1.99 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 72 1/3 innings to reaffirm himself as one of the majors’ best relief pitchers, and one of the Dodgers’ most impactful arms coming into the 2022 campaign.
“It was a game changer,” manager Dave Roberts said. “That slider is death on hitters. And I think a lot of the credit goes to him and our pitching guys. It’s kind of getting the right grip to match your throw. I think that’s kind of the secret sauce.”
From Thuc Nhi Nguyen: For once, Dorian Thompson-Robinson didn’t listen to Chip Kelly.
The quarterback surprised many by announcing in January he’d return to UCLA for a fifth season, skipping on an NFL opportunity (for now) so he could attend to unfinished business in Westwood.
First, he wants to obtain his degree. Then come the next steps in UCLA’s long rebuilding process under Kelly.
“We left a whole lot on the table last year,” Thompson-Robinson said Tuesday after the Bruins’ first spring practice. “Definitely those four games we lost, plus the bowl game, is definitely hurting and definitely left a bad taste in our mouth.”
Thompson-Robinson helped turn the Bruins into the highest-scoring offense in the Pac-12, notching 36.5 points per game behind the best statistical season of his career. He completed 62.2% of his passes for 2,409 yards and 21 touchdowns, and, most importantly, the turnover-prone prospect had only six passes intercepted.
It led to UCLA’s first winning season under Kelly at 8-4, but the Bruins missed out on their first bowl game since 2017 when the Holiday Bowl was canceled because of a COVID-19 outbreak.
It looked like an unceremonious end for Thompson-Robinson’s UCLA career. Most observers figured he was a lock to leave for the NFL. After 37 games and three years as the starter, the Las Vegas native already had left a mark in UCLA’s record books, ranking fourth in total offense (8,456 yards) and touchdown passes (61) and fifth in passing yards (7,541).
From Ryan Kartje: Over his first five seasons as a fixture up front for USC, Andrew Vorhees grew accustomed to unlearning habits. Three offensive line coaches had already come and gone during his tenure, each promising to put his stamp on the Trojans’ maligned line, only to be sent packing soon after.
With each new assistant came new preferred methods or techniques. First, there was Neil Callaway, who was fired in the middle of the 2018 season, when Vorhees was a sophomore. Then there was Tim Drevno, who lasted until the end of 2020. After him came Clay McGuire, who did well in his one season but was swept up by the offseason staff overhaul.
A sixth season at USC meant another new offensive line coach, another new playbook, new techniques, new methods, new everything. And his fifth, Vorhees said, had left “a sour taste in my mouth.” So by the time Lincoln Riley arrived as head coach, Vorhees was leaning toward leaving.
He strongly considered departing for the NFL and had all the necessary conversations, but as soon as Riley took hold of the team, Vorhees could sense that change was afoot. The coach made it clear right away that he intended to “hold us accountable to a higher standard.”
“That’s something that hasn’t necessarily been the case in the past here,” Vorhees said Tuesday.
Thursday’s schedule (all times PDT)
Seton Hall at Middle Tennessee, 4:30 p.m., ESPN3.com
UCLA at South Dakota State, 5 p.m., ESPN3.com
Saturday’s Final Four schedule (all times PDT)
No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 1 Kansas, 3:09 p.m., TBS
No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Duke, 5:49 p.m., TBS
Friday’s Final Four schedule (all times PDT)
No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 1 South Carolina, 4 p.m., ESPN
No. 2 UConn vs. No. 1 Stanford, 6:30 p.m., ESPN
On this date
1940 — Indiana routs Kansas 60-42 for the NCAA basketball championship.
1943 — Ken Sailors scores 16 points to lead Wyoming to a 56-43 victory over Georgetown in the NCAA basketball championship.
1976 — Paul Silas of the Boston Celtics joins Bill Russell and Bill Bridges as the third player in NBA history to collect 10,000 career rebounds before scoring 10,000 career points.
1979 — Robert Parish of Golden State becomes the first Warrior in 10 years (since Nate Thurmond) to get at least 30 points and 30 rebounds in a game. Parish scores 30 points and grabs 32 rebounds in a 114-98 win over the New York Knicks.
1980 — San Antonio’s Larry Kenon scores 51 points and George Gervin adds 37 to lead the Spurs to a 144-124 win over Detroit in the final game of the regular season. Gervin wins the scoring title with a 33.1 points per game and becomes the fifth player to win at least three consecutive scoring titles, joining George Mikan, Neil Johnston, Wilt Chamberlain and Bob McAdoo.
1981 — Sophomore guard Isiah Thomas scores 23 points to lead Indiana to a 63-50 victory over North Carolina to win the NCAA basketball title.
1987 — Keith Smart’s 16-foot jump shot gives Indiana a 74-73 victory over Syracuse for the NCAA men’s basketball championship.
1995 — Maine beats Michigan 4-3 in triple overtime, the longest hockey game in NCAA tournament history, to advance to the NCAA title game.
2001 — Michael Phelps becomes the youngest American swimmer to set a world record, winning the 200-meter butterfly in the USA Swimming Championships in 1 minute, 54.92 seconds. Phelps, 15, breaks the record of 1:55.18 set by Olympic gold medalist Tom Malchow in June.
2007 — American Ryan Lochte pulls off a stunning upset in the 200-meter backstroke, beating the supposedly invincible Aaron Peirsol with a world-record time of 1:54.32. Lochte erases Peirsol’s old mark of 1:54.44 to give Peirsol his first international loss in the 200 since the Sydney Olympics seven years ago.
2007 — Kobe Bryant scores 53 points for his eighth 50-point performance of the season as the Los Angeles Lakers lost to Houston 107-104 in overtime.
2008 — The Boston Celtics hold Miami to an NBA-record low 17 field goals, coasting to an 88-62 victory. The previous record for fewest field goals in a game came against Miami in April 1999, when Chicago managed only 18.
2013 — Syracuse shuts down Marquette with a 55-39 win in the East regional final and reached the Final Four for the first time in a decade. The Golden Eagles’ 39 points are a record low for a team in an NCAA tournament regional final since the shot clock was introduced in 1986. The 94 combined points was also a record low for a regional final.
2014 — Aaron Harrison makes a 3-pointer from about 24 feet with 2.3 seconds left to lift Kentucky to a 75-72 win over Michigan and the program’s 16th trip to the Final Four. Eighth-seeded Kentucky is the first all-freshman starting lineup to make the Final Four since the Fab Five at Michigan in 1992.
2014 — Shabazz Napier scores 17 of his 25 points in the second half, and UConn beats Michigan State 60-54 to return to the Final Four a year after the Huskies were barred from the NCAA tournament. The Huskies rally from a nine-point second-half deficit to become the first No. 7 seed to reach the Final Four since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
Paul George explains what it means to be back on the court with his teammates:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.
Get our high school sports newsletter
Prep Rally is devoted to the SoCal high school sports experience, bringing you scores, stories and a behind-the-scenes look at what makes prep sports so popular.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.