The Sports Report: Lakers look like a playoff team in win over Bulls

LeBron James drives to the basket as Alex Caruso defends Wednesday.
(Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)

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

From Dan Woike: D’Angelo Russell put his hands up to the side of his head as he jogged down the court, his eyes widening like a pair of deep-dish pies.

LeBron James had just jumped into the air, caught a rebound and gracefully tipped it back in — the Lakers sprinting toward their full potential with Russell in faux shock.

But as the plays mounted — the Anthony Davis rebounds, the Austin Reaves assists, the Jarred Vanderbilt defense, the James jumpers and the Russell drives — it all became less and less unbelievable.


With their roster as close to fully intact as it has been in more than a month, the Lakers dominated, beating the Chicago Bulls 121-110 to begin their final trip of the regular season.

It was as sure of sign of the postseason promise the Lakers have sworn they possess, a team set to peak right when everything starts mattering the most.

With Reaves in the starting lineup for the first time with Russell, Davis, James and Vanderbilt, the Lakers quickly built a 17-point first-quarter lead. And while the Lakers’ bench squandered it in the second, the starters reestablished control. The Lakers never let Chicago completely back into the game the rest of the way.

Davis led the Lakers with 38 points, James had 25 and Reaves scored 17. Underscoring the starting lineup’s total dominance? The Lakers outscored the Bulls by 35 points in Russell’s 36 minutes.

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Russell Westbrook had a season-high 36 points, Robert Covington also had a season best with 27 points and the Clippers beat the Memphis Grizzlies 141-132 on Wednesday night to open a two-game set.

The teams — both short-handed Wednesday — will meet again Friday night in Memphis.

Westbrook made five 3-pointers without a miss and had 10 assists. Covington was 9 of 10 from the field, making all seven of his 3-point attempts.

Bones Hyland added 20 points for Los Angles, including 12 in the fourth quarter as the Clippers pulled away in the final seven minutes.

“Just being composed,” Westbrook said about the difference down the stretch. “As a point guard, I was taught the last five or six minutes of the game were very important. Getting stops, getting good shots. We did a good job of executing down the stretch.”

NBA standings
Western Conference

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


1. x-Denver Nuggets, 51-24
2. x-Memphis Grizzlies, 48-28, 3.5 GB
3. x-Sacramento Kings, 46-30, 5.5 GB
4. Phoenix Suns, 41-35, 10.5 GB
5. Clippers, 41-36, 11 GB
6. Golden State Warriors, 40-37, 12 GB
7. Minnesota Timberwolves, 39-38, 13 GB
8. Lakers, 38-38, 13.5 GB
9. New Orleans Pelicans, 38-38, 13.5 GB
10. Oklahoma City Thunder, 38-39, 14 GB
11. Dallas Mavericks, 37-40, 15 GB
12. Utah Jazz, 36-40, 15.5 GB
13. Portland Trail Blazers, 32-44, 19.5 GB
14. e-San Antonio Spurs, 19-57, 32.5 GB
15. e-Houston Rockets, 18-59, 34

x-clinched playoff spot; e-eliminated from playoff contention


From Jack Harris: For many teams, opening day is the most exciting time of the year. For the 2023 Dodgers, it might be the most anxious.

Despite an underwhelming offseason and unmistakable loss of talent from last season’s 111-win club, the Dodgers enter the new season confident they can remain a World Series contender and continue their decade of dominance in the National League West.

But this year, perhaps more than any in recent memory, they can’t be certain of it.

As they get ready for their opener Thursday night at home against the Arizona Diamondbacks, major questions remain about the upcoming campaign, from their lineup depth to the health of their pitching to their reliance on the farm system. Here are the top six.

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After 15 seasons, Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw has perfected his control

Shaikin: Are the free-spending Padres a wise investment? We asked one of their investors



From Sarah Valenzuela: Anthony Rendon has looked every bit like the former World Series champion the Angels signed after spending most of the last two years on the injured list. His greatest expectation is to make it through this season without any other freak injuries.

And his other expectations for the season?

“To be the last team standing,” the third baseman said before opening day. “That needs to be a goal for every major league team for this league to be competitive. If you’re not playing this game to be the last team standing, then you shouldn’t be playing at all.

“That should be our goal every single year.”

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From Ryan Kartje: His potential, as a former five-star prospect, has never been in question. But now, as Raleek Brown enters his second season at USC, his future position might be.

The electric Santa Ana Mater Dei High product played strictly running back as a freshman, tallying 402 total yards and six touchdowns during a season slowed early by a high ankle sprain. This spring, however, Brown has been lining up largely at receiver as USC experiments with new ways to integrate the dynamic, all-purpose athlete into its offense.

USC coach Lincoln Riley said the intent in moving Brown around this spring is “to get a full idea of what he really can handle.”


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As offensive lineman Atonio Mafi transitions from UCLA to the NFL, he is sharing his journey with Times staff writer Ben Bolch through a weekly diary leading up to the April 27 draft. This week, Mafi discusses his father’s overcoming a serious illness and what he wants to buy his family once he makes the NFL.

Hearing your dad is seriously ill is about the worst news you can get.

My dad means everything to me. He’s my best friend. I have pictures of him when he was younger and I look exactly like him, just a lot bigger.

Peter Mafi played rugby for the Tongan national team and was so sturdy he was known as the Tongan Steel. He calls me Little Steel, referencing my nickname this month when he texted before pro day.

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From Thuc Nhi Nguyen: Almost no one in the world can match Brooklyn Moors’ artistry. Josh Lim is only here to try.


As the UCLA gymnast debuted a new floor routine in an exhibition performance March 5, Lim stood in the front row of the student section at Pauley Pavilion. When Moors, an Olympic all-around finalist for Canada who is known for her elegance on floor, dipped her head, arched her back and dramatically lowered herself to the floor during her routine, there was Lim, a bespectacled third-year student majoring in applied mathematics and statistics, matching her every move.

Lim was out of focus in the background of a floor-level video, but he still drew attention.

“The boy in the back!” a tweet with a short video read. “You. Better. Work.” Clapping emojis punctuated each word.

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From Ben Bolch: Less than a month after he suffered a serious lower-leg injury that sidelined him for the season’s final six games, UCLA’s Jaylen Clark has declared for the NBA draft.

The junior guard who established himself as one of the nation’s top defensive players made his announcement Wednesday on Instagram, declining to reveal whether he intended to plunge headlong into the June 22 draft or preserve his remaining eligibility.


Clark said last week there was no timetable for his return to the court after undergoing surgery three days following his injury early in the second half of the Bruins’ final regular-season game against Arizona on March 4. His first game back with the team came during UCLA’s West Region semifinal loss to Gonzaga, Clark watching from behind the bench with his right leg resting on a scooter.

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Men’s tournament results, schedule
All times Pacific
Final Four

No. 5 San Diego State vs. No. 9 Florida Atlantic, 3 p.m., CBS

No. 4 UConn vs. No. 5 Miami, 5:40 p.m., CBS


Monday, April 3

Final Four winners, 6:15 p.m., CBS

Women’s tournament
All times Pacific
Final Four


No. 1 Virginia Tech vs. No. 3 LSU, 4 p.m., ESPN, ESPNU, ESPN+

No. 1 South Carolina vs. No. 2 Iowa, 6 p.m., ESPN, ESPNU, ESPN+



Final Four winners, 12:30 p.m., ABC, ESPN+


Who will win the men’s basketball title, Florida Atlantic, Miami, San Diego State or UConn? Vote here and let us know. Results will be in Friday’s newsletter.


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.

1990 — Jack Nicklaus makes his debut on the Senior PGA Tour with a 71 (-1) in the first round of The Tradition at Desert Mountain; wins event by 4 strokes over Gary Player.

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 Lakers lose 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.


2020 — International Olympic Committee announces postponed 2020 Summer Olympic Games will be held July 23-August 8 in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

—Compiled by the Associated Press

And finally...

Keith Smart’s shot wins the title for Indiana. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

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