The Sports Report: Clippers get past a tough Phoenix Suns

Terance Mann drives to the basket between Phoenix's Torrey Craig, left, and Deandre Ayton.
(Darryl Webb / Associated Press)

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

From Andrew Greif: Long, languid strides brought Kevin Durant, the 13-time All-Star in all-black, from one end of Footprint Arena’s court to a chair at its middle Thursday. A personal highlight reel played on a jumbotron overhead, and a midday crowd packed into one side of the arena’s lower bowl howled at the sight of him.

Durant gripped a microphone in his left hand, opened his mouth and tried uttering his first public words as a Phoenix Sun since a trade last week ended Brooklyn’s super-team experiment. But a crowd estimated around 3,000, revved up both by a T-shirt toss featuring the franchise’s gorilla mascot and the prospect of a long-sought championship, let him go no further, their chants of “KD, KD” forcing the player so often impossible to stop to pause.

He hopes to return from a knee injury soon after the league’s All-Star break, later this month, he said, and when he does, he will be accompanied by the pressure he has come to expect being “one of the best players to ever play the game.”


“I know how significant a championship is to a franchise and to a city,” Durant would later say. “I’ve been a part of two of those and I’m looking forward to getting back on that road to try to do it again.”

Just like that, after he’d held up a Suns jersey and hugged his mother, he was gone. And here is where the Clippers come in -- literally through the same tunnel through which had exited, hours later, preparing for warmups ahead of a 116-107 victory. They have not been the West’s most consistent team, like Denver. And they are no longer discussed as its most loaded, like Phoenix.

“It’s a tough trio and it reminds you of the Klay [Thompson], Steph [Curry] and KD, even though CP is a little older now,” said Clippers coach Tyronn Lue, who game-planned for Durant in the Finals while in Cleveland. “... It’s a tough cover, it’s a tough matchup, just interested to see how they play, who they share the basketball. But on paper, it looks really good.”

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From Ben Bolch: Mick Cronin and Tyger Campbell have been in lockstep since Cronin’s arrival nearly four years ago, the feisty coach and his fiery point guard sticking together through nearly every conceivable situation.

Campbell helped spark UCLA’s resurgence on its way to a Final Four, earning Cronin’s trust and the benefit of every doubt even with he endured prolonged struggles.

Their unbreakable bond made what happened Thursday night at Pauley Pavilion stunning.

Campbell began the second half on the bench alongside fellow starting guard Amari Bailey. Cronin presumably did not like their energy and execution as the Bruins fell behind Stanford by as many as eight points on their home court.


But Campbell would help his team have the final say. After re-entering the game, he buried a deep three-pointer. He forced a turnover after getting Cardinal point guard Michael O’Connell to dribble the ball off his own body with pressure defense.

With the Cardinal refusing to go away, Campbell found Will McClendon for a three-pointer. Campbell then made a mid-range jumper to extend the advantage.

The flurry of highlights offset his early malaise while helping the fourth-ranked Bruins hold on for a 73-64 victory that extended their home winning streak to 22 games. Campbell walked off the court with his arm around backup Dylan Andrews’ waist after they had exchanged celebratory hand slaps.

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Home owners: How No. 4 UCLA gained the nation’s longest active home winning streak


From Ryan Kartje: Its tournament hopes hung by a thread, squandered on an unnerving sweep through Oregon. Not even two weeks had passed since USC bested UCLA on this very court, its most triumphant moment of the season to date, but the tenor of the Trojans’ campaign had turned desperate in a flash on the road in Corvallis.


The margin for error was now razor thin as California, the league’s worst team by the widest of margins, caught USC coming off its only weekend sweep of the season. Fortunately for USC, it wouldn’t have many of its own errors to worry about Thursday night. It rolled to a 97-60 victory in which it dominated from start to finish, barely batting an eye in the process.

“It was nice to see some shots go in,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “Last week we didn’t see too many.”


From Jack Harris: The Dodgers are still expecting Clayton Kershaw to play in next month’s World Baseball Classic for Team USA.

U.S. general manager Tony Reagins, however, acknowledged Thursday that “there are some challenges in getting Clayton cleared” for the international tournament.

Kershaw announced his commitment to play for the U.S. team in the WBC — something he’d never before done in his 15-year career — in December, shortly after re-signing with the Dodgers on a one-year, $20-million deal for the 2023 season.

When official rosters for the WBC were unveiled last week, Kershaw was included on the star-studded American team.


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From Sarah Valenzuela: In a move that surprised no one, the Angels named Shohei Ohtani their opening day pitcher once again.

“As long as baseball has been around, you look up bios on pitchers — a lot of the great ones — and how many opening day starts they’ve made,” manager Phil Nevin said after making the announcement. “It’s an honor to do that and [Shohei Ohtani] looked at it the same way. It was an honor to tell him.”

That first game, against the Oakland Athletics, is March 30, his first start of what could be his last season in an Angels uniform.

The plan this season is for Ohtani to pitch on five or six days of rest depending on the schedule, in a rotation that could be rounded out by a swing No. 6 (a pitcher who makes starts and comes out of the bullpen) or a traditional sixth starter.

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It’s anyone’s guess what Angels’ two-way star Shohei Ohtani’s future is

Tim McCarver, Cardinals World Series winner and Hall of Fame broadcaster, dies at 81


From Helene Elliott: The breathlessly overhyped NHL trade rumor market paused briefly this week when the Kings announced they had secured a cornerstone defenseman — but the player in question wasn’t Jakob Chychrun, who’s being held out of Arizona’s lineup for what the Coyotes called trade-related reasons.

Signing 23-year-old Mikey Anderson to an eight-year, $33-million contract wasn’t a splashy move by Kings general manager Rob Blake, but it made sense economically (a $4.125-million salary cap hit) and strategically. Anderson is a strong shutdown defender, fits well with Drew Doughty on the top pair, and is becoming physically assertive. He’s evolving into a potential leader as the Kings move deeper into their post-Stanley Cup era and toward contending again.

The Kings, who will begin the final third of the regular season Friday at Anaheim against the draft lottery-bound Ducks, still have a ways to go before they can be ranked among front-runners for the Cup. For one, there’s that pesky negative goal differential: They’re the only team currently holding a playoff spot that has given up more goals than they’ve scored, 185-184. That’s a galaxy away from the Ducks’ wholly earned minus-92 differential, but it bothers coach Todd McLellan.

“And it’s something that we’ve talked about and addressed,” McLellan said by phone Thursday. “At the point where we did address it I think we were minus-11, and it’s very rare that a team, one, makes the playoffs, and two, has success with that type of differential. So we were conscious of it and we’ve spoken to it and since then, it’s only been two games but we got that number down a little bit. But it has to improve.”


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From David Wharton: Not long after Brittney Griner left a Russian prison, freed in a high-level prisoner swap before Christmas, the women’s basketball star made a surprising announcement.

“I intend to play for the WNBA‘s Phoenix Mercury this season,” she posted on social media.

With league games starting in spring, her return is good news for fans but also raises troublesome questions.

The problem starts with Griner’s potential need to travel on charter planes for security reasons. Though most men’s teams fly private, women’s leagues often scrimp by going commercial, even if it means delays and cramped seats in premium economy. Last summer, half the Sparks team had to sleep in an airport when their flight was canceled.

WNBA stars have responded to Griner’s predicament by offering to contribute to the $25 million or so it would cost for all 12 WNBA teams to make the switch.

“Whatever it takes,” All-Star forward Elena Delle Donne said.

Players paying for their own travel won’t solve what sports economists see as an even bigger problem — a discrepancy in the way men’s and women’s sports are treated as businesses in this country.


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From Kevin Baxter: Angel City FC will kick off its second season with an international exhibition against Mexico’s Club América on March 8 at BMO Stadium.

“It may be considered a friendly, but they’re an exceptional team with great talent,” said Julie Uhrman, Angel City’s president and co-founder. “It’s a club that’s played a number of times in the U.S. They want a global footprint and certainly to start to build their reach here in the U.S., so, it’s exciting to play against them.”

Uhrman said the idea for the game came from Club América, which will be eight matches into its season when it comes to Los Angeles for the exhibition.

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From Sam Farmer: A day that started with butterflies ended with birdies — three in a row — as Tiger Woods navigated Riviera Country Club on Thursday with a round as crisp as the cool afternoon.


Woods, playing his first competitive round in a non-major in 844 days, shot a two-under-par 69 to the delight of the robust gallery capturing his every move with raised cellphone cameras.

“I didn’t really look up as much,” said Woods, 47. “I probably should have, but I didn’t. I was trying to calm myself down all day, trying to figure out what the hell I’m doing out here because I haven’t played. I had to try and figure out what the chess match is going to be.”

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From John Cherwa: One of the reasons the Daytona 500 is different than most any other NASCAR race is that it qualifies most of the field through two 150-mile qualifying races. Only the front row is decided in traditional single-car qualifying.

Sometimes it leads to exciting racing, perilous passing and breath-snatching spins. Other times it can be single-file racing until a spirited but unsuccessful attempt to grab the lead on the final turn. Thursday, you had one of each.

The first race was a bit of a yawner with Joey Logano holding off Christopher Bell to win by a scant 0.018 seconds. But it was the second race that provided the drama for the night when Kyle Busch was leading on Lap 40 of 60 with Daniel Suarez inches off his bumper. The inches became non-existent sending Busch into the wall and out of the race.


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Jimmie Johnson just can’t quit NASCAR. Why the 7-time Cup champ is back at Daytona

Exit strategy: Emergency response to Damar Hamlin resonates with racing’s safety teams


1923 — Cy Denneny of the Ottawa Senators becomes the NHL’s career scoring leader. He scores his 143rd goal to surpass Joe Malone in a 2-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens.

1924 — Johnny Weissmuller sets a world record in the 100-yard freestyle swim with a time of 52.4 seconds.

1926 — Suzanne Lenglen beats Helen Wills 6-3, 8-6 in Cannes, France, in their only tennis match against each other.


1928 — Sweden’s Gillis Grafstrom successfully defends his 1920 and 1924 Olympic figure skating title, with Austrian Willy Bockl finishing in second place as he did four years earlier.

1941 — Joe Louis knocks out Gus Dorazio in the second round in Philadelphia to defend his world heavyweight title.

1955 — Mike Souchak establishes the PGA 72-hole scoring record with a 257 at the Texas Open. Souchak starts with a record-tying 60 at San Antonio’s Brackenridge Park course and ends with a 27-under-par, beating the previous low for a 72-hole event by two shots.

1968 — The Basketball Hall of Fame opens in Springfield, Mass.

1974 — Richard Petty wins his second straight Daytona 500. It’s the fifth Daytona 500 title for Petty, who also won in 1964, 1966, 1971 and 1973.

1992 — Raisa Smetanina wins a gold medal with the Unified Team in the 20-kilometer cross-country relay to set the career Winter Olympics medal record with 10. Smetanina, 39, also becomes the oldest champion and the first to win a medal in five straight Winter Games.

1994 — San Antonio’s David Robinson records the fourth quadruple-double in NBA history with 34 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 blocks in the Spurs’ 115-96 win over Detroit.


1998 — The U.S. women’s hockey team wins the sport’s first Olympic gold medal. Sandra Whyte scores on an empty-netter with 8 seconds left to give the United States a 3-1 victory over Canada.

2010 — Americans Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso finish 1-2 in the downhill at the Vancouver Olympics. It’s the first time since 1984 that the U.S won gold and silver in a women’s Alpine event.

2013 — Danica Patrick wins the Daytona 500 pole, becoming the first woman to secure the top spot for any Sprint Cup race.

2014 — Meryl Davis and Charlie White win the gold medal in ice dance, the first Olympic title in the event for the U.S..

2018 — Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu becomes the first man to successfully defend his Olympic figure skating title since Dick Button in 1952.

Compiled by the Associated Press


And finally

The U.S. women’s hockey team wins gold in 1998. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

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