Howdy everyone, my name is Houston Mitchell, proprietor of this here newsletter. Let’s get right to the news.
The Clippers, favored by no one in their opening round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors, showed why with a 121-104 loss to the two-time defending champs.
According to our own Andrew Greif, “The Western Conference’s top seed turned a 51-all tie with 3:21 to play in Saturday’s second quarter at Oracle Arena into a 13-point halftime lead. Twenty-four minutes were left to be played, but the game was never again so close or contested in what became a 121-104 Warriors victory.
“There was drama, but it had less to do with the scoreboard and more with the back-and-forth talk that ultimately led to both the Clippers’ Patrick Beverley and Golden State’s Kevin Durant to be ejected.
“If postseason openers can be considered tone-setters for what is to come, then consider its game-changing run before halftime a reminder that Golden State — coming off its worst regular-season record since it began its dynastic run four seasons ago — is still loaded with talent it can activate at the flip of a switch.”
Columnist Helene Elliott was also at the game. An excerpt:
“Reaching the top of the NBA mountain for the first time in 2015 was novel and fun for the Golden State Warriors and coach Steve Kerr. But then came the business of staying on top with a changing cast, which has had its challenges.
“For me, these last two years have felt different than the first three,” Kerr said. “The first three felt a lot fresher. Felt like we were on the climb and we were on the cusp of something even after winning our first one. That next year we won 73 games, it was a joyride. The following year, Kevin [Durant] arrives. Got a new toy.
“Everything was just sort of new and fresh, and these last two years, no question, have been arduous. There’s no other way to put it. It gets more difficult as you go.”
Whatever problems they’ve faced along the way were banished to their past on Saturday, when they opened pursuit of a third straight championship and fourth in five seasons with a 121-104 victory over the stubborn but not-nearly-good-enough Clippers at a rollicking Oracle Arena.
Only the physicality that allowed Montrezl Harrell to score 26 points and the opportunities seized by Lou Williams in scoring 25 points — both of them off the bench — seemed to give the Warriors any trouble, but Golden State had the depth and determination to shrug that off with a minimum of anxiety. And when Durant took Patrick Beverley’s trash-talk bait and jawed back at the Clippers’ gregarious guard and both were ejected with 4:41 left in the fourth quarter, Durant was amused rather than upset. Even Kerr had to smile.
“You cannot take the bait because that’s a bad trade for us,” Kerr said. “The Clippers have made a lot of good trades this year. That was maybe the best.”
Luke Walton did not have to stand in the unemployment line for very long. He is the new coach of the Sacramento Kings.
Kings president of basketball operations and general manager Vlade Divac is a big fan of Walton’s and contacted him almost the second Walton was let go by the Lakers. Walton and Divac were once teammates with the Lakers and it is believed Walton’s new deal runs through the 2022-23 season.
Sacramento finished 39-43 this season and hasn’t made the playoffs since the 2005-06 season. It will be very interesting to see how Walton does there. If the Kings get off the a fast start, the Lakers won’t look very good.
Bill Plaschke on Walton:
“Luke Walton, you lucky dog.
“In finally getting dumped Friday by the Lakers, their former head coach made his escape like a man staggering up the embankment from a ditch occupied by the twisted metal of steaming wreckage.
“Walton gets to walk away from a basketball operation being run by the “backstabbing and whispering” of the widely unpopular and generally unsuccessful Rob Pelinka.
“Walton gets to depart a basketball team being run, occasionally, when he feels like it, by distracted Hollywood mogul LeBron James.
“Walton gets to separate himself from a franchise being run by a formerly beloved owner who has presided over the sort of off-court drama that has turned the Lakers into the New York Knicks. Nobody, but nobody, has been more disillusioning in this mess than Jeanie Buss.”
Read his whole column by clicking here.
The Lakers received permission to interview Monty Williams, a Philadelphia 76ers assistant who was the head coach in New Orleans from 2010 to 2015. They are expected to meet with former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue as well.
Lue was the head coach for LeBron James’ only championship season in Cleveland, pent his first three NBA seasons with the Lakers and was a member of two championship teams.
Golden State 121, Clippers 104 (Warriors lead series, 1-0)
Brooklyn 111, Philadelphia 102 (Nets lead series, 1-0)
Orlando 104, Toronto 101 (Magic lead series, 1-0)
San Antonio 101, Denver 96 (Spurs lead series, 1-0)
All times Pacific
Indiana at Boston, 10 a.m., TNT
Oklahoma City at Portland, 12:30 p.m., ABC
Detroit at Milwaukee, 4 p.m., TNT
Utah at Houston, 6:30 p.m., TNT
Clippers playoff schedule
All times Pacific
Game 1: Warriors 121, Clippers 104
Monday, 7:30 p.m., at Golden State, TNT
Thursday, 7:30 p.m., at Clippers, TNT
Sunday, April 21, 12:30 p.m., at Clippers, ABC
*Wednesday, April 24, TBA, at Golden State, TBA
*Friday, April 26, at Clippers, TBA
*Sunday, April 28, at Golden State, TBA
Francesco Molinari shot a six-under-par 66 and holds a two-shot lead over Tony Finau and Tiger Woods after the third round of The Masters.
According to our Sam Farmer, “Normally, Molinari would be in the fourth round’s final twosome with Finau, who went out early in the third round and scorched the soft, vulnerable course with a record-tying 30 on the front nine and one of three 64s carded on the day.
“But a massive storm front that is supposed to roll into Augusta by the afternoon Sunday forced the Masters committee to make the rare concession to tradition and send off threesomes, from the first and 10th tees, beginning at 7:30 a.m. Eastern time.
“The leaders will tee off at 9:20 a.m. and, barring delays, are expected to finish at around 2:30 p.m.
“Augusta Chairman Fred Ridley said the safety of those on the grounds was a top priority, and the Masters is trying to avoid a Monday finish for the first time since Seve Ballesteros won in 1983.”
Saturday’s scores (read game stories here)
Washington 4, Carolina 3 (OT) (Capitals lead series, 2-0)
Nashville 2, Dallas 1 (OT) (Series tied, 1-1)
Boston 4, Toronto 1 (Series tied, 1-1)
Colorado 3, Calgary 2 (OT) (Series tied, 1-1)
All times Pacific
Tampa Bay at Columbus, 4 p.m., NBCSN (Blue Jackets lead series, 2-0)
New York Islanders at Pittsburgh, 9 a.m., NBC (Islanders lead series, 2-0)
Winnipeg at St. Louis, 4:30 p.m., CNBC (Blues lead series, 2-0)
San Jose at Vegas, 7 p.m., NBCSN (Series tied, 1-1)
Odds and Ends
Dodgers still can’t find confidence and swagger in loss to Brewers…. Angels survive Cubs’ rally and escape with a victory…. UCLA administrators need to be held accountable in college admissions scandal…. Milwaukee Brewers’ Christian Yelich continues to amaze with elite production…. USC coach Clay Helton emphasizes discipline on the last day of spring practice…. Chip Kelly brings same approach to finding starters that made Michael Vick cry…. For chiropractor George Billauer, the soccer stars have aligned…. Defending champion Alexander Rossi grabs pole for Long Beach Grand Prix…. Clippers broadcaster Ralph Lawler is the voice of Los Angeles resiliency…. Omaha Beach wins Arkansas Derby to earn a spot in Kentucky…. LAFC continues unbeaten start with win over FC Cincinnati…. Zlatan Ibrahimovic shines in Galaxy’s win over Philadelphia Union.
Today’s local major sports schedule (all times Pacific)
Milwaukee at Dodgers, 1 p.m., Sportsnet LA, AM 570
Angels at Chicago Cubs, 11:15 a.m., FSW, KLAA 830 AM
Born on this date
1941: Baseball player Pete Rose
1963: WNBA player Cynthia Cooper
1963: Golfer Meg Mallon
1965: NFL player Stan Humphries
1966: Baseball player David Justice
1966: Baseball player Greg Maddux
1967: NHL player Steve Chiasson
1969: Angels manager Brad Ausmus