November 28, 2023

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The Sports Fanatics

The Sports Report: Clippers in familiar playoff territory

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

Broderick Turner on the Lakers: At the end of a Lakers meltdown in blowing a 26-point lead that led to an inexplicable 123-115 loss to an Oklahoma City Thunder team that had entered the game winless, Russell Westbrook lost his composure and was ejected from the game.

In reality, though, this was a loss every Laker has to share in even it was the second of back-to-back games.

And all LeBron James could do was watch from the bench because his sore right ankle had kept him out of a second consecutive game.

But even James had to be bewildered at what he was seeing from his teammates blowing a lead that had been 72-44 in the second quarter.

Anthony Davis decided to give it a go despite having sore right knee soreness. He played 36 minutes 32 seconds and had 30 points and eight rebounds.

“It’s really not much to be said, to be honest,” Davis said. “We got a veteran ballclub. We know we’re not supposed to lose that game. It’s a tough one, for sure, just because this team was struggling and the way we had the lead. We was up 41-19… And we’re supposed to win this one. But I think it’s one that we just flush it.”

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Andrew Greif on the Clippers: There were 50 seconds left to play in Wednesday’s fourth quarter when a member of the Clippers’ hype squad lifted an oversized sign bearing the words “CLIPPERS WIN!” over his shoulder and carried it away from the court inside Staples Center, toward storage.

There was clearly no need for it.

In one of the most dysfunctional offensive performances in coach Tyronn Lue’s tenure, the Clippers watched Cleveland make only three of their 20 three-pointers and shoot just 40% overall and yet still comfortably coast to their third consecutive impressive win, after victories against Atlanta and Denver that have injected life into a franchise that has struggled mightily since firing Lue in 2018.

The 92-79 loss dropped the Clippers to 1-3 and continued the concern about why a team returning so many pieces from one of last season’s most dangerous offenses has consistently struggled to make shots and move the ball.

“Yeah, they beat us up pretty good all-around,” guard Reggie Jackson said.

The Clippers shot 35% and made nine of their 41 three-pointers (22%). Since Lue took over last season, they have shot a lower overall field goal percentage just one other time. Paul George missed all eight three-pointers he took and didn’t shoot a free throw en route to only 12 points and said afterward that his legs felt “heavy.”

Staring at a box score in front of him, George said, “it’s a lot of stuff that’s glaring.”

“I just thought we didn’t execute,” Lue said. “We just didn’t have it tonight. That’s to be expected but not game five or whatever game it is.”


Helene Elliott on the Kings: The Kings’ goal of returning to the playoffs, which has been undermined by their shaky 1-4-1 start, took a significant hit on defense with the announcement that Drew Doughty will be out of the lineup about two months because of a bruised right knee and that Sean Walker suffered season-ending tears of the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee. Walker will undergo surgery after the swelling in his knee subsides.

Doughty, a key member of the Kings’ 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup championship teams, was diagnosed with a tibial plateau contusion — or bruise — and hyperextension as the result of a knee-on-knee hit he absorbed Friday at Dallas, general manager Rob Blake said Wednesday. Doughty, who ranks second in team scoring with a goal and seven points in four games, and was leading the Kings with an average of 22 minutes and 37 seconds of ice time per game, will be off the ice for roughly six weeks.

“Obviously there’s going to be a conditioning factor and a game to play. And hopefully [Doughty will] resume play around eight weeks, so that’s what we’re looking at time-wise,” Blake said during a webinar. “This will be adjusted as we go and the further along as we see the healing process.”


Johnny Russell scored twice to extend his goals streak to eight games and Sporting Kansas City beat the Galaxy 2-0 on Wednesday night to move into first place in the Western Conference.

Kansas City (17-7-7) has 58 points, tied with Seattle atop the conference, and has won six of its last eight games.

The Galaxy (13-12-7), who had their four-game unbeaten run emd, are hovering above the playoff line with 46 points, just one ahead of eighth-place Vancouver.

Ben Bolch on the Bruins: Dorian Thompson-Robinson has mastered a different sort of progressions this week.

After not throwing one pass Monday during the portion of practice open to the media, the UCLA quarterback attempted one pass during that span Tuesday as he continued his recovery from an apparent injury to his throwing hand.

On Wednesday, Thompson-Robinson was a full participant in the early going of practice. He continued to wear a white wrap around his right hand but did not appear limited in his throwing. He hit receivers Logan Loya and Chase Cota in stride 20 yards down the field before dialing it up and completing passes from about 30 yards.

Predictably, coach Chip Kelly provided no clarity before practice Wednesday on Thompson-Robinson’s status with the Bruins preparing to face Utah on Saturday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.

Ryan Kartje on the Trojans: USC offensive line coach Clay McGuire says he has the utmost confidence Jonah Monheim has a bright future. But after Monheim was replaced at right tackle during Saturday’s loss to Notre Dame, McGuire’s immediate plans up front may no longer include the freshman in a full-time role.

Redshirt senior Jalen McKenzie stepped in and took the majority of reps at right tackle on Tuesday while Monheim largely practiced on USC’s second-team offensive line. It’s not the first time that McGuire has experimented with the order up front, but when asked about the plan at right tackle, he said he planned to “ride the hand that’s hot a little bit.”

That could very well be McKenzie, who replaced Monheim after just 12 snaps last Saturday.

“We’ve got some depth there,” McGuire said. “We just have to make sure we’re playing the right one at the right time.”


Gary Klein on the Rams: Ranking among the NFL’s top five passing leaders is not an entirely new experience for Matthew Stafford, but it could become a habit with the Rams.

In a dozen seasons with the Detroit Lions, Stafford finished among the top five passing-yardage leaders four times. His last appearance came in 2017, when he finished the season ranked third in yardage and fourth in touchdowns.

After seven games with the Rams, Stafford ranks in the top five in several categories. He has passed for 19 touchdowns, second behind Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady’s 21. Stafford’s 2,172 yards passing ranks third behind Brady and Las Vegas’ Derek Carr.

Stafford has led the Rams to a 6-1 record heading into Sunday’s road game against the Houston Texans (1-6) at NRG Stadium.

The Rams’ success means more to Stafford than seeing his name among league leaders.

“I feel like I’m trying to make sure I do my job for our team every week — whatever that job is,” he said. “Sometimes that’s going out and throwing it a bunch of times. Other times it’s not.

“But I just want to go play well on each play. I don’t want to have any wasted plays.”


Jeff Miller on the Chargers: He definitely brings experience and is expected to also provide stability and consistency.

And that’s not all.

“I guess be a little crazy,” Andre Roberts said Wednesday. “Run hard, run fast. Sometimes, you know you’re going to take a shot, get lit up a little bit … It’s part of the game.”

The Chargers signed Roberts last week to be their kickoff and punt returner, the veteran taking over in areas where the team has been lacking.

Entering Week 8, the Chargers rank last in the NFL with a 16.5-yard average on kickoff returns and 26th with a 6.8-yard average on punt returns.

Roberts, 33, is in his 12th season and was released last week by Houston, which continues to purge its roster. He was a Pro Bowl pick each of the last three years and also an All-Pro in 2018.

“Good timing for both sides,” coach Brandon Staley said. “I know that he’s energized by the opportunity, and so are we.”


David Wharton on the Olympics: With 100 days left until the start of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, Norway is favored to finish atop the medals table with the U.S. trailing in fourth place.

A “neutral” team of Russian athletes is predicted to finish second and Germany third, according to the forecast issued by Gracenote, a Nielsen company, on Wednesday. The predictions are based on results from competition over the last four years.

Gracenote expects the Americans to earn seven golds and 24 medals overall. That would be a slight improvement over their total from the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, where they finished behind Canada.

Figure skater Nathan Chen and alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin are expected to headline the U.S. team traveling to China.


Jorge Castillo on the Dodgers: Andrew Friedman has two major uncertainties hanging over him entering this offseason.

One is not exclusive to the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations. All 30 front offices are unsure how Major League Baseball and the players’ union will handle negotiations when the collective bargaining agreement expires Dec. 1. The expectation is a lockout is imminent. Chaos could follow.

The other is a dilemma just for Friedman and his underlings: What will happen to Trevor Bauer?

MLB placed Bauer was on paid administrative leave July 2, three days after a woman accused him of sexual assault and obtained a temporary restraining order against him in Pasadena. Bauer, 30, didn’t pitch for the Dodgers for the remainder of the season.

In a news conference at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday, Friedman declined to say whether Bauer will ever wear a Dodgers uniform again after signing the pitcher to a three-year, $102-million contract in February.

“It’s no different than where we were in July, August and September,” Friedman said. “From our standpoint, it’s being handled by the league office. As soon as something is decided, we will come down and talk through it extensively with you guys. But until that happens, we have to reserve comment.”


All times Pacific

Game 1: Atlanta 6, at Houston 2
Game 2: at Houston 7, Atlanta 2
Game 3: Friday, Houston at Atlanta, 5 p.m., Fox, ESPN Radio
Game 4: Saturday, Houston at Atlanta, 5 p.m., Fox, ESPN Radio
Game 5: Sunday, Houston at Atlanta, 5 p.m., Fox, ESPN Radio
Game 6*: Tuesday, Atlanta at Houston, 5 p.m., Fox, ESPN Radio
Game 7*: Wednesdat, Atlanta at Houston, 5 p.m., Fox, ESPN Radio

*-if necessary


1939 — Kansas State’s homecoming contest against Nebraska is the second college football game ever televised, after the Fordham-Waynesburg contest in New York earlier this fall. The Cornhuskers spoil homecoming with a 25-9 triumph in Manhattan, Kan., before a limited Nebraska ETV audience in the surrounding area.

1950 — Nevada punter Pat Brady boots an NCAA record 99-yard punt in a 34-7 loss to Loyola Marymount.

1962 — New York Giants quarterback Y.A. Title passes for 505 yards and seven touchdowns, and Del Schofner catches 11 passes for 269 yards and a touchdown in a 49-34 victory over the Washington Redskins.

1973 — Gail Goodrich scores 49 points and seven-foot center Elmore Smith sets an NBA record with 17 blocked shots as the Lakers beat Portland 111-98.

1973 — With jockey Eddie Maple substituting for suspended Ron Turcotte, Secretariat concludes his racing career with a victory in the Canadian International Championship Stakes at Woodbine in Toronto.

1989 — Tony Alford of Colorado State rushes for 310 yards on 28 carries to break a Western Athletic Conference record and scores three touchdowns in a 50-10 win over Utah.

1989 — Central State crushes Lane 101-0. Lane concedes with 11:26 to play in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Henderson Mosley runs for three touchdowns and passes for six.

1990 — Jennifer Capriati, 14, beats Zina Garrison in three sets to capture the Puerto Rico Open and become the youngest player to qualify for the Virginia Slims Championship.

1993 — Ron Francis becomes the 38th NHL player to score 1,000 points with a goal in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 7-3 loss to the Quebec Nordiques.

1995 — Cigar completes an undefeated season of 10 straight wins with a rousing 2½-length victory under Jerry Bailey in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Cigar, the 3-to-5 favorite, covers the 1 1/4 miles in a time of 1:59 2/5 to beat L’Carriere and give Bailey his third consecutive Classic win.

1997 — Dee Kantner and Violet Palmer are hired as full-time NBA referees, marking the first time in major pro sports in the United States that females will officiate regular-season games in an all-male league.

2010 — Caroline Wozniacki wraps up the year-end No. 1 ranking after rallying to beat Francesca Schiavone 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 at the WTA Championships. The 20-year-old from Denmark is the 10th woman to end the season on top and the youngest since Martina Hingis in 1997.

2016 — Russell Westbrook has 51 points and a triple-double and scores the winning points in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 113-110 overtime victory over the Phoenix Suns. It’s the first 50-point triple-double since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had one in 1975. Westbrook finishes with 13 rebounds and 10 assists.

2017 — J.T. Barrett tosses a 16-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Baugh with 1:48 left in the fourth quarter and No. 6 Ohio State rallies from 11 down in the final five minutes to hand No. 2 Penn State its first loss, 39-38.

Supplied by the Associated Press

And finally

The top five Gail Goodrich moments in Lakers history. Watch and listen here.

Until next time…

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