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The Sports Report: Clayton Kershaw pulled after seven perfect innings

Clayton Kershaw
(Craig Lassig / Associated Press)
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Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

From Jack Harris: Clayton Kershaw gave a wide-eyed smile to Gavin Lux as he walked off the field.

He laughed while fist-bumping teammates in the dugout as he descended the stairs.

Then he found catcher Austin Barnes and wrapped him in a quick hug, the only time a dejected look ever crossed his face.

“Sorry,” Kershaw told his catcher, as a perfect day came to an imperfect end.

Barnes looked back at the future Hall of Famer, tapped his side and flashed a grin.

There was nothing for the left-handed legend to be sorry about, not after beginning his 14th Dodgers season Wednesday with a stunning — and almost historic — bang.

In the Dodgers’ 7-0 win over the Minnesota Twins, Kershaw pitched seven perfect innings before being removed by manager Dave Roberts with the pitch count at 80 in his first outing after a lockout-shortened spring training.

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The Dodgers’ combined perfect game bid was broken up an inning later, when Gary Sánchez singled against reliever Alex Vesia to record the Twins’ only hit of the game.

In the aftermath, the rest of the baseball world was ablaze second-guessing the decision. Fans, pundits and even current and former players debated online whether Kershaw should have been allowed to stay in and go for what would have been Major League Baseball’s 23rd perfect game.

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CLIPPERS

From Andrew Greif: Clippers guard Norman Powell turned toward Minnesota’s coaches and reserves and yelled after making his first three-pointer Tuesday.

After Isaiah Hartenstein’s pass to a cutting Terance Mann was redirected to Powell in the corner five minutes later for his third straight made three-pointer, Powell yelled again at his closest defender.

But Powell’s biggest takeaway after Minnesota’s 109-104 play-in tournament victory that leaves the Clippers just one more loss from a finished season? After making his first four shots, he was far too quiet.

“Nine shots for a guy they look to to generate offense and things is not enough,” Powell said.

“I looked at some of the clips, yeah, when we do the small-ball pick and rolls with me and [Paul George], I’m in the middle of the floor, I just got to be more decisive, attack the paint, make those guys commit to their rotation, make them play out of that,” Powell said. “That’s the biggest thing. Just being more aggressive.”

That will not be Powell’s burden to carry alone into Friday’s play-in game against New Orleans at Crypto.com Arena, a game that earns the winner a first-round series against top-seeded Phoenix and the loser a ticket to the offseason.

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Lakers player-by-player report cards for 2021-22 season

NBA PLAYOFFS
All times Pacific
Play-in tournament
Western conference
Wednesday’s result
No. 9 New Orleans 113, No. 10 San Antonio 103
Friday’s schedule
No. 9 New Orleans at No. 8 Clippers, 7 p.m., TNT

Eastern conference
Wednesday’s result
No. 9 Atlanta 132, No. 10 Charlotte 103
Friday’s schedule
No. 9 Atlanta at No. 8 Cleveland, 4:30 p.m., ESPN

KINGS

Nathan MacKinnon had three goals and two assists, Nicolas Aube-Kubel scored twice in a dominant first period and the Colorado Avalanche set a franchise record with their 53rd win by routing the Kings 9-3 on Wednesday night.

Valeri Nichushkin added two goals, Cale Makar had a goal and three assists, Andre Burakovsky also scored and Darcy Kuemper made 29 saves for the Avalanche, who led 4-0 before the game was 11 minutes old.

Colorado won its seventh straight and improved to 53-14-6, besting the 2013-14 and 2000-01 teams for most victories. The Avalanche also moved two points ahead of Florida for the best record in the NHL and are a franchise-best 29-4-3 at home.

Adrian Kempe, Alex Iafallo and Phillip Danault scored for the Kings, who have dropped four of five. Jonathan Quick allowed three goals on 10 shots before he was pulled while starting on consecutive nights for the first time in over four years. Cal Peterson allowed six more goals on 25 shots.

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RAMS

From Gary Klein: Three of coach Sean McVay’s former assistants on offense parlayed their success with the Rams into NFL head coach jobs.

Will Liam Coen be next?

Coen, the Rams’ new offensive coordinator, has yet to run a meeting or help McVay design a play for the Super Bowl champions.

But Coen, a former Rams assistant who was Kentucky’s offensive coordinator last season, is aware that Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur, Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor and Minnesota Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell all saw their career trajectories soar after working closely with McVay. Chargers coach Brandon Staley is a former Rams defensive coordinator.

“If those opportunities come at some point, then great,” Coen said Wednesday during a videoconference with reporters. “It’s obviously the pinnacle of your career in terms of this profession, is getting to be a head football coach in the National Football League. And to say that wasn’t a goal of mine or isn’t a goal of mine, I’d be lying.”

UCLA FOOTBALL

From Thuc Nhi Nguyen: It wasn’t just traffic that stalled Azizi Hearn’s trip from Oceanside to Westwood.

The UCLA defensive back took the long road up the California coast, looping through Tucson, Ariz., and Laramie, Wyo., and turning into the transfer portal twice. Five years after walking on to his first college team, the San Diego-area product is happy to say he’s arrived to his ultimate destination.

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“This is home for me,” Hearn said Wednesday after practice at Spaulding Field on UCLA’s campus.

Less than a month into his UCLA career, the graduate transfer has emerged as the team’s fifth defensive back, jumping in with the top unit as the slot corner. Redshirt senior Stephan Blaylock said last week that Hearn was an early standout in spring camp because he grabbed two interceptions in the first two weeks. He had another pick during one-on-one drills.

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Here are some top storylines to watch as teams prepare for the 2022-23 season

TRACK

From Helene Elliott: Allyson Felix, who became the most decorated American track and field athlete in Olympic competition when she won two medals last summer at the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Games, announced via Instagram she will retire after “one last run” this season. Her feats will be difficult to match.

Felix, 36, was born in Los Angeles and graduated from L.A. Baptist High. She turned pro before college but attended USC and earned a degree in elementary education at her mother’s insistence. She competed in five Olympics, starting in 2004, and won seven gold medals, three silvers, and one bronze. She also has won 19 medals (14-3-2) in outdoor world championship races. The world championships will be held this year in Eugene, Ore., from July 15 through July 24.

“As a little girl they called chicken legs, never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined I’d have a career like this,” she said in her post. “I have so much gratitude for this sport that has changed my life. I have given everything I have to running and for the first time I’m not sure if I have anything left to give.”

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Felix also has made a mark as an advocate for pregnancy care for Black women since she gave birth to a premature daughter, Camryn, in November 2018. She has testified before Congress about the racial disparities in maternal health care. She was among the prominent female athletes who criticized Nike’s inadequate policies for pregnant women and she later co-founded a female-oriented footwear company, Saysh.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1928 — The New York Rangers beat the Montreal Maroons for the Stanley Cup, 3-games-to-2.

1931 — The Montreal Canadiens beat the Chicago Black Hawks 2-0 in the fifth game to win the Stanley Cup after trailing 2-games-to-1.

1948 — The Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup in four games as they beat the Detroit Red Wings 7-2.

1960 — The Montreal Canadiens win their fifth straight Stanley Cup with a four-game sweep of the Toronto Maple Leafs, including tonight’s 4-0 victory.

1962 — Elgin Baylor scores a record 61 points to lead the Lakers to a 126-121 triumph over the Boston Celtics in the NBA finals.

1968 — Bob Goalby wins the Masters when Roberto de Vincenzo of Argentina is penalized for signing an incorrect scorecard.

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1985 — Bernhard Langer beats Curtis Strange, Ray Floyd and Seve Ballesteros by two strokes to win the Masters.

1991 — Ian Woosnam of Wales made a par putt to turn back Tom Watson on the last hole and capture the Masters.

1993 — The NHL’s longest winning streak ends at 17 games as the Pittsburgh Penguins settled for a 6-6 tie with the New Jersey Devils on a late goal by Joe Mullen.

1996 — The Detroit Red Wings wrap up the winningest season in NHL history by defeating Dallas 5-1. The Red Wings finished with 62 victories, beating the 60 wins of the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens.

1996 — Greg Norman shoots a startling 78 in the greatest collapse in Masters history, giving Nick Faldo his third green jacket and sixth major championship.

2002 — Tiger Woods becomes the third player to win back-to-back Masters titles. He closes with a 1-under 71 to claim a three-stroke victory over Retief Goosen.

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2013 — Adam Scott becomes the first Australian to win the Masters, beating Angel Cabrera on the second hole of a playoff on a rainy day at Augusta National.

2016 — Breanna Stewart leads a UConn sweep of the first three picks in the WNBA draft, going first overall to the Seattle Storm. Moriah Jefferson went second to San Antonio and Morgan Tuck third to Connecticut, the first time in draft history that three players from the same school went 1-2-3. It’s a first in any major sport.

And finally

Highlights from Clayton Kershaw’s masterful performance Wednesday. 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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