Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.
Tania Ganguli on the Lakers: For weeks, Lakers Coach Frank Vogel has insisted that the Lakers wouldn’t change the way they played or their goals in each individual game once they clinched the top seed in the Western Conference.
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To that end, he played all of his starters against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night in Orlando even though the Lakers had clinched the top seed Monday with a win over the Utah Jazz.
But still, the Thunder dominated the Lakers, winning 105-86.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis played about 30 minutes each with James scoring 19 points with 11 rebounds and four assists while Davis contributed nine points. Five players scored in double figures for the Thunder, led by Chris Paul with 21 points.
The Lakers struggled shooting threes. It’s been their plague throughout the league’s restart in the bubble. Against the Thunder, the Lakers made about 15% of their threes, which is worse than their average coming in. Oklahoma City capitalized on this.
With the win, the Thunder, who are in sixth place in the West, improved to 42-25 while the Lakers fell to 51-16. The Lakers have now won two games and lost two in the bubble.
Magic Johnson’s advice for baseball players during coronavirus outbreak: ‘You can’t be selfish’
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Ryan Kartje on college sports: The difficulties of college sports carrying on amid COVID-19 were made more clear Wednesday with a rush of news.
— At least eight UCLA football players have tested positive for the coronavirus, said Barbara Ferrer, director of L.A. County’s public health department.
In an athletic department statement, UCLA said it “currently has no student-athletes in isolation.”
UCLA said it has had 167 positive cases for the coronavirus since testing began in mid March. The school reports cases for the “UCLA community” and not specifically for the athletic department.
—The lone USC player to lend his name to a group of Pac-12 football players demanding change affirmed that he would be willing to join a boycott of the season if measures weren’t taken to strengthen safety protections for players.
But where some Pac-12 participants have taken a more hard-line stance on demands that also include wide-reaching social justice and economic reforms, Chase Williams explained his role in the cause was “more so [about] just pushing for a change, so that we can get back to football.”
—A council of Division II university presidents canceled the fall championships. Teams can still play their regular season if they want. Division III university presidents chose to cancel fall sports outright.
—Three days after Pac-12 players expressed their own concerns in a demand letter, players of the Big Ten followed suit with a more toned-down list of demands focused primarily on “protecting the well-being of all athletes.”
—Connecticut became the first Football Bowl Subdivision program to throw in the towel on the 2020 season. In a statement, athletic director Dave Benedict explained that the “safety challenges created by COVID-19 place our football student-athletes at an unacceptable level of risk.”
— At Louisville 29 athletes from men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey and volleyball tested positive for COVID-19. The mass outbreak, which temporarily suspended workouts for all four sports, was traced back to an off-campus party.
Jorge Castillo on the Dodgers: The Dodgers took the field Wednesday without Mookie Betts, the star right fielder they’ve committed to paying nearly $400 million, for the third straight game. Losing a player of that caliber – a perennial All-Star and former MVP — would debilitate most teams. For the Dodgers, it just meant plugging in another slugger and riding him to victory.
Joc Pederson, coming off hitting a career-high 36 home runs as the Dodgers’ primary right fielder last season, started in right field for the three games against the San Diego Padres and fueled the Dodgers in their 7-6 win Wednesday at Petco Park.
Pederson put the Dodgers on the board with a two-run home run in the second inning off Padres starter Garrett Richards, ignited a two-run fifth inning with a leadoff walk, and smashed a three-run home run in the sixth inning that proved to be the difference.
He concluded the series with his first three home runs of the season. He began the three-game set with his 21st career leadoff home run on the first pitch of Monday’s series opener. His third homer was a mammoth 435-foot blast to straightaway center field against right-hander Luis Patiño, a top prospect making his major-league debut.
Mike DiGiovanna on the Angels: All the extra defensive work he did at Blair Field in Long Beach in July couldn’t fully prepare Jo Adell for the speed and pressure and unpredictability of a big-league game in August.
The highly touted Angels prospect learned that lesson the hard way Wednesday night when he took an awkward route on Austin Nola’s slicing drive to the gap in the seventh inning and peeked at center fielder Mike Trout just before the ball fell on the warning track for a two-run double.
It was a difficult play, to be sure, but a more seasoned right fielder, knowing the trajectory of the ball off the bat of the right-handed-hitting Nola and how far Trout would have to go to catch it, might have made it.
Instead, it fell a few feet behind Adell for the key hit in a three-run rally that built just enough of a cushion for the Mariners to withstand Trout’s two-homer barrage in a 7-6 victory over the Angels in T-Mobile Park.
“It perfectly bisected those two guys,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said of Nola’s hit. “From where I’m standing, I thought Jo had a chance at it because the ball was going toward him and away from Mike, and I think as they play together more often, they’ll be able to make the call on that.
Candace Parker had 18 points and 11 rebounds, Chelsea Gray scored 16 points, and the Sparks beat the Indiana Fever 86-75 on Wednesday night.
Riquna Williams added 13 points for the Sparks (3-2).
Kelsey Mitchell led Indiana (2-3) with 24 points, Candice Dupree scored 16 and Teaira McCowan 13.
Gray converted a three-point play to give Los Angeles the lead for good at 10-7. The Sparks used a 10-0 run to take an 18-point lead midway through the third quarter and led by as many as 21.
L.A.’s Nneka Ogwumike left the game with a minor hamstring injury. She had four points and two rebounds in 13 minutes.
Sam Farmer on the PGA Championship: Creativity and resourcefulness could be the key this week for the first major golf championship in 13 months, one that will be played without spectators in the chilly mist of this cypress-lined course. The rough is thick, the ball doesn’t fly as far in the damp air, and the lies are unpredictable.
“It tests sort of all aspects of the game,” Rory McIlroy, No. 3 in world rankings, said of Harding Park in Daly City, Calif. “You’ve got to drive it well. You’ve got to be able to hit it both ways. There’s some tee shots that are a little bit right-to-left, a little bit left-to-right. You still just need to do enough with the ball. You need to be able to shape the ball a little bit around here. It’s a big golf course, but it’s not wide open as such.”
The tournament starts today and will be televised on ESPN and CBS.
Jeff Miller on the Chargers: NFL players negotiated for a more gradual “ramp-up” period before starting actual practice this summer.
Just one day into conditioning, the Chargers had to be reminded of that.
Defensive end Joey Bosa explained this week that the team’s first on-field workout included a little too much intensity.
“You could tell everybody was ready because of the tempo we went at,” he said. “It wasn’t so much a walkthrough. Coach had to say, ‘Hey, hey all right. We’re not doing another team period. You guys went a little too fast today.’ ”
Coach Anthony Lynn confirmed that story Wednesday. And then some.
“I had to make some adjustments to practice,” Lynn said in a video conference with reporters. “I also took the cleats off their feet. Everyone’s in basketball shoes now. That’s just to slow us down.”
Jeremy Ebobisse and Sebastian Blanco each scored and the Portland Timbers earned a spot in the MLS is Back championship game with a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday night.
The Timbers will face the winner of Thursday night’s game between Orlando City and Minnesota United in the title match on Tuesday. The tournament winner earns a spot in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League.
TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE
All times Pacific.
Lakers vs. Houston, 6 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet, TNT, 710 ESPN
Clippers vs. Dallas, 3:30 p.m., Fox Sports Prime Ticket, TNT, AM 570
Angels at Seattle, 1 p.m., FSW, KLAA 830
Until next time…
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