The Sports Report: Clippers searching for Game 2 energy surge

Howdy, I’m your host, Austin Knoblauch, filling in for Houston Mitchell, who’s on vacation (probably ranking his favorite players from the 1890 Brooklyn Bridegrooms). Let’s get right to the news.

Andrew Greif on the Clippers: Earlier this season, Kawhi Leonard resumed a practice he’d stopped almost four years earlier: playing on consecutive nights.

After an injury wiped out his 2018 season, the All-Star forward was used extremely conservatively the following season with Toronto. The result — his second championship — plus offseason surgery in 2019 led him to continue the habit during his first season as a Clipper.

But healthier and challenged to become a more engaged leader, Leonard played six back-to-backs this season and produced effective results, only some of which were quantifiable. Leonard shot 54% overall and 41% on three-pointers on zero days of rest, and coach Tyronn Lue said last month that in the locker room “just showing that he wants to win, he wants to be there for his teammates, that was a huge step forward for us.”

Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard warms up before Game 1 against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday.

Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard warms up before Game 1 against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday.

(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)

The decision to increase his workload paid dividends again during the Clippers’ first-round victory against Dallas. Leonard was at his best when the turnaround between games was fastest, shooting nearly 65% and 47% on three-pointers while averaging 31.3 points on only one day of rest.

Lue hoped it would bode well for the Clippers’ series opener against Utah on Tuesday, played only two days after a Game 7 win to close out the Mavericks. Instead, the Clippers “came out flat,” as Leonard said, during a third quarter that cost them a series-opening loss, and marked Lue’s first loss in the second round in 13 tries as a coach.

There was little time to wallow in what-if: Game 2 is Thursday, the Clippers’ fifth game in nine days.

“This is playoff basketball, so you just have to be prepared to do whatever it takes to win,” said Leonard, who made nine of his 19 shots. “There’s no complaints here. I’m having fun and playing basketball, and it’s a challenge that you just have to overcome and you can just face and have fun with.”

Clippers-Jazz series schedule.

(Tim Hubbard / Los Angeles Times)

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DODGERS

Dodgers relief pitcher Kenley Jansen smiles after catching a comebacker.

Dodgers relief pitcher Kenley Jansen smiles after catching a comebacker for the final out against the Pirates on Wednesday.

(Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press)

Jorge Castillo on the Dodgers: The plan for Tony Gonsolin’s season debut Wednesday was for the right-hander to pitch four or five innings, depending on his efficiency, and leave the Dodgers’ days of bullpen games behind them.

Gonsolin was activated to join the Dodgers’ starting rotation, giving them five starters for the first time since Dustin May blew out his elbow May 1. The Dodgers didn’t use a conventional starter four times over the next 32 games. Having Gonsolin eat innings should alleviate the bullpen’s workload and allow manager Dave Roberts to use relievers more aggressively on other days, indirectly curbing the other four starters’ workloads as the Dodgers see fit.

But Wednesday’s 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park turned into a bullpen game anyway. Gonsolin gave up a run in just 12/3 innings. He faced 12 batters, walked five, surrendered two hits and posted four strikeouts. He needed 66 pitches to secure the five outs.

“I gotta throw more strikes,” Gonsolin said. “I gotta figure it out.”

What could’ve been a disastrous night for the Dodgers (36-25) ended in victory because five relievers held the Pirates (23-37) scoreless over the final 71/3 innings, making Justin Turner’s two home runs enough for the Dodgers’ 12th straight win against the Pirates.

BASEBALL

Sen. Ted Cruz speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Ted Cruz wants to revoke Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption, but would he try to make it impossible for team owners to impose a player lockout this offseason?

(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

Bill Shaikin on baseball: In 2017, after his hometown Houston Astros won the World Series, Sen. Ted Cruz rode in the team’s parade. He posted a picture of himself alongside Astros shortstop Carlos Correa and the championship trophy.

And, when Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) ripped the Astros as “miserable cheaters” during a Supreme Court confirmation hearing last year, Cruz gallantly rode to their defense.

“The scurrilous lies about the Astros, I think, should be stricken from the record and forgotten by all,” Cruz said.

This is Dodgers territory, so we side with Sasse, but we respect Cruz for sticking up for his team.

Fans might not have the chance to support their team next year. The 2022 season is in jeopardy and Cruz could be the unlikely person to save it.

In April, after Georgia adopted laws that voting rights advocates say make it harder for people to vote, MLB moved the All-Star game from Atlanta to Denver.

“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.

In response, Cruz and two other senators introduced a bill to revoke the league’s antitrust exemption.

“If Major League Baseball was going to allow itself to be politicized, there was no reason they should get special benefits nobody else gets,” Cruz said in an interview with The Times.

SOCCER

Don Garber commissioner of Major League Soccer, and Mikel Arriola, Liga MX executive president sit together.

Don Garber, right, commissioner of Major League Soccer, and Mikel Arriola, left, Liga MX executive president, announce the MLS All-Star game will be played at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Kevin Baxter on soccer: Major League Soccer’s decision to join Liga MX on a cross-border all-star game this summer isn’t necessarily a step toward a long-rumored merger of North America’s two most prominent soccer leagues.

But it’s not a step away, either.

“If it makes sense at the right time, then we’ll take that step,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said.

Until then, Garber said, the two leagues will continue their courtship and see whether it leads to marriage. In the last three years, Liga MX and MLS have partnered on two tournaments — the Campeones Cup, featuring the respective league champions, and the eight-team Leagues Cup. Now comes the Aug. 25 all-star game at Banc of California Stadium, an exhibition matching the best players from MLS against their Liga MX counterparts.

“The benefit of what everybody talks about is that our teams will be playing against each other,” Garber said. “That we’d be able to work together and create valuable content. That we’d be able to monetize that content. That we’d be able to have governance that would allow us all to make good decisions together.

“You can do that in a variety of different ways without a former merger.”

ANGELS

Angels celebrate their 6-1 win over the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday.

Angels celebrate their 6-1 win over the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday.

(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Jack Harris on the Angels: The Angels’ best homestand of the season started with two dramatic, nerve-racking wins, the offense mounting a massive late-game rally in one and closer Raisel Iglesias producing a six-out save in the other.

It finished Wednesday night with a third straight one-sided victory, a 6-1 defeat of the Kanas City Royals in which the Angels (30-32) earned their first three-game series sweep of the season and finished the seven-game homestand with five wins.

On the mound, Griffin Canning pitched a season-high 6 ⅔ innings and gave up only one run to the Royals. At the plate, seven starters recorded hits in a balanced display. And in the dugout, manager Joe Maddon watched on in delight, his team winning its 11th game out of its past 16 to inch a little bit closer back to .500.

“It was another formulaic win, very impressive,” Maddon said, later adding: “It’s the starting rotation going more deeply, the bullpen settling in better because they don’t have as many innings to cover. I think we’re doing a lot better catching the ball … There’s a lot of little subplots coming together that are making for this pretty good moment right now.”

So decisive was this series, in which the Angels outscored the Royals 22-5, that Iglesias pitched in a non-save situation during the ninth inning Wednesday because of a lack of work in recent days — the bullpen hardly needed for leverage situations after Angels starters pitched into or through the sixth inning on three-straight nights.

SPARKS

Indiana Fever forward Jessica Breland reaches for a rebound along with Sparks guard Arella Guirantes and guard Bria Holmes.

Indiana Fever forward Jessica Breland, center, reaches for a rebound along with Sparks guard Arella Guirantes, left, and guard Bria Holmes.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Thuc Nhi Nguyen on the Sparks: Players sprint and trap all over the floor. It’s chaotic, aggressive and energetic.

It’s Sparks defense and it’s just getting started.

After losing their first two games by an average of 25.5 points, the Sparks have locked down on defense to win four of five entering a Thursday road matchup against the Washington Mystics. The Sparks (4-3) are tied for the best defensive rating in the WNBA, have the fourth-best opponent field goal percentage (41.2%) and force 21.3 turnovers a game, a league best.

“From Day 1, we’ve just talked about being disruptive defensively,” coach Derek Fisher said.

The defensive turnaround helped overcome a sputtering offense that ranks 11th in offensive rating, a short bench, and unavailability of forwards Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike. Nneka, who suffered a Grade-2 sprain against the Dallas on June 1, is sidelined for four to six weeks. Chiney is week-to-week with right knee soreness. Both are still out.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

UCLA basketball coach John Wooden talks to his players during a time-out against Notre Dame on Jan. 19, 1974.

UCLA basketball coach John Wooden talks to his players during a timeout against Notre Dame on Jan. 19, 1974, in South Bend, Indiana.

(Associated Press)

Ben Bolch on college basketball: There’s an obvious four-word rebuttal for anyone who says that Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, as great as he’s been, is the greatest college basketball coach of all time.

Goodness gracious sakes alive!

The folksy, homespun John Wooden would hate this greatness debate, but it’s 2021 and that means every pundit on ESPN and random fan on Twitter has weighed in since Krzyzewski announced his retirement this month following a farewell season.

Most of them have it wrong.

Call it East Coast bias, call it recency bias or call it the world going to the Cameron Crazies, but it seems as if Wooden’s unmatched UCLA run has largely been ignored in all the deserving tributes to Coach K.

Yes, Krzyzewski has 1,170 wins, most of any college basketball coach. Yes, Krzyzewski’s five national championships rank second only to Wooden’s 10. Yes, Krzyzewski guided the U.S. men’s national team to three gold medals in the Olympics.

No, those accomplishments are not enough to say Krzyzewski is better than the man who may be more widely revered than any other coach in any sport.

RAMS

Rams coach Sean McVay speaks with quarterback Matthew Stafford during a minicamp practice in Thousand Oaks.

Rams coach Sean McVay speaks with quarterback Matthew Stafford during a minicamp practice in Thousand Oaks.

(Kelvin Kuo / Associated Press)

Gary Klein on the Rams: He broadened his knowledge of coach Sean McVay’s offense. Timing with receivers and other skill players began to come together. Teammates now have a feel for their new leader.

But Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford said Wednesday that when he arrived in Southern California for offseason workouts — after 12 seasons with the Detroit Lions — he did so without specific expectations about how the first phase of his transition would unfold.

“I just showed up here, tried to be myself every single day, know I was going to make mistakes, try to get better along the way,” Stafford told reporters after the team’s penultimate minicamp workout, “and then I’ll try to do that for as long as I’m in this uniform.”

Stafford, acquired in a January trade for quarterback Jared Goff and two first-round draft picks, will practice in front of Rams fans Thursday at SoFi Stadium. Stafford, 33, will use the final workout to familiarize himself with sight lines, the scoreboard and play clocks in the $5-billion Inglewood stadium.

NBA PLAYOFFS SCHEDULE/RESULTS

SECOND ROUND
All times Pacific

WESTERN CONFERENCE

No. 1 Utah vs. No. 4 Clippers
Utah 112, Clippers 109
Today: at Utah, 7 p.m., ESPN
Saturday: at Clippers, 5:30 p.m., ABC
Monday: at Clippers, 7 p.m., TNT
*Wednesday, June 16: at Utah, TBD, TNT
*Friday, June 18: at Clippers, TBD, ESPN
*Sunday, June 20: at Utah, TBD, TBD

No. 2 Phoenix Suns vs. No. 3 Denver Nuggets
Phoenix 122, Denver 105
Phoenix 123, Denver 98
Friday: at Denver, 7 p.m., ESPN
Sunday: at Denver, 5 p.m., TNT
*Tuesday: at Phoenix, TBD, TNT
*Thursday, June 17: at Denver, TBD, ESPN
*Sunday, June 20: at Phoenix, TBD, TBD

EASTERN CONFERENCE

No. 1 Philadelphia vs. No. 5 Atlanta
Atlanta 128, Philadelphia 124
Philadelphia 118, Atlanta 102
Friday: at Atlanta, 4:30 p.m., ESPN
Monday: at Atlanta, 4:30 p.m., TNT
Wednesday, June 16: at Philadelphia, TBD, TNT
*Friday, June 18: at Atlanta, TBD, ESPN
*Sunday, June 20: at Philadelphia, TBD, TBD

No. 2 Brooklyn Nets vs. No. 3 Milwaukee Bucks
Brooklyn 115, Milwaukee 107
Brooklyn 125, Milwaukee 86
Today: at Milwaukee, 4:30 p.m., ESPN
Sunday: at Milwaukee, Noon, ABC
*Tuesday, June 15: at Brooklyn, TBD, TNT
*Thursday, June 17: at Milwaukee, TBD, ESPN
*Saturday, June 19: at Brooklyn, TBD, TNT

NHL PLAYOFFS SCHEDULE/RESULTS

SECOND ROUND
All times Pacific

East Division

New York Islanders vs. Boston

Boston 5, New York 2
New York 4, Boston 3 (OT)
Boston 2, New York 1 (OT)
New York 4, Boston 1
New York 5, Boston 4
New York 6, Boston 2
New York wins series, 4-2

Central Division

Tampa Bay vs. Carolina

Tampa Bay 2, Carolina 1
Tampa Bay 2, Carolina 1
Carolina 3, Tampa Bay 2 (OT)
Tampa Bay 6, Carolina 4
Tampa Bay 2, Carolina 0
Tampa Bay wins series, 4-2

West Division

Colorado vs. Vegas

Colorado 7, Vegas 1
Colorado 3, Vegas 2 (OT)
Vegas 3, Colorado 2
Vegas 5, Colorado 1
Vegas 3, Colorado 2 (OT)
Today: at Vegas, 6 p.m., NBCSN
*Saturday: at Colorado, 7:30 p.m., NBCSN

North Division

Winnipeg vs. Montreal

Montreal 5, Winnipeg 3
Montreal, 1, Winnipeg 0
Montreal 5, Winnipeg 1
Montreal 3, Winnipeg 2
Montreal wins series, 4-0

*-if necessary

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1890 — The Preakness Stakes is run outside Baltimore, at Morris Park in New York. The race is then suspended for three years, and resumes at the Brooklyn Jockey Club’s Gravesend Course from 1894-1908.

1932 — Gene Sarazen leads wire-to-wire to win the British Open by five strokes ahead of Macdonald Smith at Prince’s Golf Club in Sandwich, England. Sarazen finishes with a tournament record of 283.

1933 — Johnny Goodman wins the U.S. Open golf title, making him the last amateur to win this event.

1934 — Italy beats Czechoslovakia 2-1 in extra time to win the second FIFA World Cup at the Stadio Flaminio in Rome. Italy trailing 1-0, ties the game at the 80th minute. Angelo Schiavio scores the winning goal in extra time.

1944 — A rare triple dead heat occurs in the Carter Handicap at Aqueduct with Bossuet, Brownie and Wait a Bit crossing the finish line together.

1950 — Sixteen months after near-fatal car accident, Ben Hogan wins the U.S. Open. Hogan beats Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio in an 18-hole playoff at the Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.

1973 — Mary Mills shoots a 63 in the final round of the LPGA Championship to beat Betty Burfeindt by one stroke.

1977 — Al Geiberger sets a PGA Championship 18-hole record when he shoots a 59 in the Danny Thomas Classic.

1978 — Affirmed, ridden by Steve Cauthen, wins the Belmont Stakes to capture the Triple Crown in one of the greatest battles in racing history. Affirmed edges Alydar for the third time.

1989 — Wayne Gretzky of the Los Angeles Kings is named the NHL’s MVP, winning the Hart Trophy for a record ninth time.

1995 — Trainer D. Wayne Lukas wins a record five straight Triple Crown races as Thunder Gulch takes the Belmont Stakes. Lukas is the first trainer to win the Triple Crown races with two different horses. Lukas’ Timber Country won the Preakness.

1996 — Colorado’s Patrick Roy makes 63 saves before Uwe Krupp scores 4:31 into the third overtime to give the Avalanche a 1-0 victory against the Florida Panthers at Miami Arena and complete a four-game sweep of the Stanley Cup Final.

2006 — In Atlantic City, N.J., Bernard Hopkins wins a unanimous decision over light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver, capping an 18-year career with an upset for the ages.

2010 — Southern California is placed on four years probation, receives a two-year bowl ban and a sharp loss of football scholarships. The NCAA cites USC for a lack of institutional control. The NCAA found that Reggie Bush, identified as a “former football student-athlete,” was ineligible beginning at least by December 2004. The NCAA also orders USC to vacate every victory in which Bush participated while ineligible. USC loses 30 scholarships over a three-year period, 10 annually from 2011-13.

2012 — Shanshan Feng wins the LPGA Championship to become the first Chinese player to win an LPGA Tour title and a major event.

2018 — Rafael Nadal won a record-extending 11th championship at Roland Garros by beating Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. Nadal became the second player in tennis history to win 11 singles titles at any Grand Slam tournament after Margaret Court, who claimed 11 Australian Open titles.

2018 — Kristen Gillman led a U.S. singles sweep in the biggest blowout in Curtis Cup history. Gillman, a 20-year-old University of Alabama star, beat 16-year-old Annabell Fuller 5 and 4 to cap a perfect weekend at Quaker Ridge in Scarsdale, N.Y. The Americans won 17-3, breaking the record for margin of victory of 11 set in a 14 1/2-3 1/2 victory at Denver Country Club in 1982.

And finally

Who says Kenley Jansen isn’t as zippy as he used to be? Check out his win-preserving catch against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday.

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 [email protected], and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.




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