The Sports Report: Paul George injured as Clippers are edged by Thunder

Clippers center Ivica Zubac and Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander vie for the ball during the first half.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)

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

From Andrew Greif: Four years ago, in the afterglow of one of the most transformative nights in Clippers franchise history, there were some within the organization who found themselves as excited by the additions of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard as they were mournful over the cost.

There was no way the Clippers could have pulled off a trade with Oklahoma City that netted George and, in turn, Leonard’s free-agency commitment without including Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Everyone understood it was the cost of doing franchise-altering business. The haul vaulted the Clippers into instant championship contenders. Losing the 6-foot-6 all-rookie point guard with the can’t-be-bothered pace and preternatural cool stung a little, anyway.

“He’s not going to let you dictate which shot he’s going to take,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said of Gilgeous-Alexander, the league’s leader in drives, before Tuesday’s 101-100 loss to the Thunder. “And that’s what’s really good and nice about him.”


The belief was Gilgeous-Alexander flashed All-Star potential. Four seasons later he realized it, making his first appearance in February, and in the process has pulled the Thunder out of their rebuild phase and into playoff contention. Suddenly, games in late March matter again for Oklahoma City — games like Tuesday at Arena.

The stakes were significant. So was the concern after George left the game with 4 minutes 38 second remaining in the fourth quarter, his right leg appearing to buckle. He stayed on the court for several minutes as teammates and staffers surrounded him and was helped off the floor with the aid of two team employees who helped him keep weight off his leg.

Without George, the Clippers (38-35) lost a close contest, 101-100, with Leonard getting a chance to win it on the final possession but failing to get past Thunder defensive stopper Lu Dort. Leonard finished with 21 points, George 18 and Gilgeous-Alexander a game-high 31.

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From Dan Woike: The Lakers arrived Tuesday at their practice facility and took a team photo.

They’ll begin to know Wednesday if those smiles can be lasting.

The game against the Phoenix Suns in Los Angeles begins the final 10 of a wildly up-and-down season, one in which optimism slowly built over the last month despite the team never reaching .500.

In a normal season, that might signal some sort of moment to begin to sprint, the starter’s pistol firing for a second time to indicate the final lap. In this season, Game 72 is just another must-ish win.

While the game against Phoenix is important, so is the one Friday against Oklahoma City. And the two with Chicago and the games in Minnesota, Houston and Utah, plus the one against the Clippers and two at home to finish the season against the Suns and Jazz.

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Willis Reed, Hall of Fame center for the Knicks, dies at 80

Western Conference

Top six qualify for the playoffs. Nos. 7-10 qualify for tournament to determine final two playoff teams.

1. y-Denver Nuggets, 48-24
2. Memphis Grizzlies, 44-27, 3.5 GB
3. Sacramento Kings, 43-29, 5 GB
4. Phoenix Suns, 38-33, 9.5 GB
5. Clippers, 38-35, 10.5 GB
6. Golden State Warriors, 37-36, 11.5 GB
7. Oklahoma City Thunder, 36-36, 12 GB
8. Dallas Mavericks, 36-36, 12 GB
9. Minnesota Timberwolves, 36-37, 12.5 GB
10. Utah Jazz, 35-36, 12.5 GB
11. Lakers, 35-37, 13 GB
12. New Orleans Pelicans, 35-37, 13 GB
13. Portland Trail Blazers, 31-40, 16.5 GB
14. San Antonio Spurs, 19-53, 29 GB
15. Houston Rockets, 18-54, 30 GB

y-clinched division title; e-eliminated from playoff contention.


From Thuc Nhi Nguyen: The Sparks have continued their offseason overhaul with the addition of Ilene Hauser as vice president of basketball operations and player relations.

The sports executive, who has previously worked with the Phoenix Mercury and Nike, will oversee team operations including travel, facilities, player housing and scheduling in a new role for a franchise hoping to stabilize operations after years of inconsistency.

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From Ben Bolch: Mick Cronin has plenty of film of his teams playing Gonzaga.

A few seconds aren’t approved for all audiences.

Rewatching UCLA’s 2021 Final Four loss on Monday night, the Bruins coach hit pause as soon as Johnny Juzang’s putback tied the score with 3.3 seconds left in overtime.

There was no need to relive what happened next.

“What the hell do I need to watch that for?” Cronin said Tuesday afternoon. “You think I’m a masochist?”

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Men’s tournament results, schedule
All times Pacific
Sweet 16

West Regional
No. 4 UConn vs. No. 8 Arkansas, 4:15 p.m., CBS

No. 2 UCLA vs. No. 3 Gonzaga, 6:45 p.m., CBS

East Regional
No. 3 Kansas State vs. No. 7 Michigan State, 3:30 p.m., TBS

No. 4 Tennessee vs. No. 9 Florida Atlantic, 6 p.m., TBS

South Regional
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 5 San Diego State, 3:30 p.m., TBS

No. 6 Creighton vs. No. 15 Princeton, 6 p.m., TBS

Midwest Regional
No. 1 Houston vs. No. 5 Miami, 4:15 p.m., CBS

No. 2 Texas vs. No. 3 Xavier, 6:45 p.m., CBS

Women’s tournament

All times Pacific
Sweet 16

Greenville 2 Regional

No. 4 Villanova vs. No. 9 Miami, 11:30 a.m., ESPN

No. 2 Utah vs. No. 3 LSU, 2 p.m., ESPN

Seattle 2 Regional

No. 2 Iowa vs. No. 6 Colorado, 4:30 p.m., ESPN

No. 5 Louisville vs. No. 8 Ole Miss, 7 p.m., ESPN


Greenville 1 Regional

No. 2 Maryland vs. No. 3 Notre Dame, 8:30 a.m., ESPN

No. 1 South Carolina vs. No. 4 UCLA, 11 a.m., ESPN

Seattle 1 Regional

No. 2 Baylor vs. No. 3 Ohio State, 1 p.m., ABC

No. 1 Virginia Tech vs. No. 4 Tennessee, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2


From Ryan Kartje: The doctor delivered the news early that morning, just before his second day of testing was set to start at the NFL scouting combine. Andrew Vorhees was standing in the Colts locker room in Indianapolis, literally on the doorstep of his NFL dream, when he got word. The anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee was torn. Everything about the start of his NFL career had been suddenly called into question.

When he’d tweaked his knee during drills the day before, Vorhees hadn’t thought much of it, he said. He’d barely felt any pain.

Now, the prognosis landed like a gut punch for USC’s All-American guard, who was unable to run Tuesday at the school’s pro day.

“Definitely devastating,” Vorhees said, “but life is all about how you respond to the events that are happening.”

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From Jorge Castillo: The two teams, representing the world’s two longstanding baseball superpowers, entered the field at loanDepot Park on Tuesday in a single file from each outfield corner. The United States walked in from right field. Japan was across the way. Leading the line for each star-studded group were the two best players in the world.

Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout, the captains, carried their respective country’s flags. Three weeks ago, they were Angels teammates in spring training together. They’ll be together again in Arizona by the end of the week, going through the final preparations for the Angels’ crucial season. But on Tuesday they were opponents for the World Baseball Classic championship, the biggest game of their baseball lives.

Trout’s role for the night was known from the outset. It was the same as always. Batting second and playing center field. Ohtani was a different, mysterious story. The two-way star was again batting third as Japan’s designated hitter. Looming, however, was the chance that he would emerge from the bullpen to pitch with the game on the line. Maybe even against Trout.

It was a scintillating possibility. Almost too good to be true. And yet it happened in Japan’s captivating 3-2 win. Ohtani emerged from Japan’s bullpen in left field, his uniform dirty from attempting to break up a double play earlier in the game, just after 10:30 p.m. to protect a one-run lead, three outs from securing the championship. It was his first relief appearance since 2016. Due up in the top of the ninth inning for Team USA: Jeff McNeil, Mookie Betts, and Trout.

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From Sarah Valenzuela: Naoyuki Yanagihara’s life mostly revolves around Shohei Ohtani.

If he posts on his Instagram page, Yanagihara writes about it. Everywhere Ohtani travels for baseball, Yanagihara follows. During spring training, if Ohtani isn’t at the Tempe, Ariz., facility yet, he waits for his car to pull up.

Yanagihara, who writes for Sports Nippon, an all-sports daily Japanese newspaper, has been covering Ohtani since 2013, his rookie year with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.

Yanagihara does not live in the U.S. His home is in Tokyo, where he lives with his wife and 9-month old baby for half the year, spending the other half living out of hotels in the U.S.

“Everyday I make a phone call, a video call to my wife,” he said. “Around 7 or 8 p.m., so it’s morning over in Japan. I always struggle with jet lag.”

This is the life of a Japanese sportswriter, one assigned to cover the country’s biggest star playing in Major League Baseball. He’s one of dozens who, since Ohtani signed with the Angels in December 2017, has been to just about every game and every day of spring training that Ohtani is at.

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From Kevin Baxter: Alex Kozela has been a Galaxy fan since he was a boy, so for him the team’s home opener has always been a rite of spring, a source of hope and expectation.

Not anymore.

On Saturday, when the team returned to Dignity Health Sports Park for the first time in five months, Kozela battled his way through the afternoon traffic, found a parking space and walked up to the stadium entrance as usual. Only this time he didn’t go in. Instead, he stood with a group of supporters and season ticket holders outside the stadium’s main gates to protest the team’s direction.

“The club has lost sight of what’s really important to the supporters and the fans and the community,” Kozela said. “We’re here to support the team and give our money to the organization because we love this club. I’ve loved it since I was a kid.”

It’s a love, he said, that has become unrequited.

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From David Wharton: In the six years since Los Angeles was awarded the 2028 Summer Olympics, support for hosting the massive sports event remains widespread, although it may have begun to dip.

Fifty-seven percent of Angelenos believe the Games will be good for L.A., according to a Suffolk University/Los Angeles Times poll conducted March 9-12. Twenty percent worry that hosting will have a negative impact on the city.

The survey also showed that younger L.A. residents are more skeptical than their elders that the Games will benefit the city.

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Tyler Toffoli had three assists, Calgary scored twice on the power play and the Flames bounced back from a six-goal loss one night earlier with a 5-1 victory over the Ducks. Toffoli has nine points in the last four games, including six assists.

Frank Vatrano scored Anaheim’s lone goal. John Gibson made 38 saves and faced more than 40 shots for the 20th time this season.


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.

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.

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 career 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 Los Angeles 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.

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.

—Compiled by the Associated Press

And finally...

Kobe Bryant scores 60 points against Memphis in 2007. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

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