Monday Morning Coffee

March 27, 2017

I don’t know what’s more disappointing for UCLA fans.  The fact that they lost in the Sweet 16 for the 3rd time in the last 4 years, or the fact that Steve Alford is still going to be coaching this team moving forward.  UCLA is getting exactly what I thought they would get with Alford.  A coach who is a tremendous recruiter, but one who is unable to harness that talent into tournament success.  As great as the Bruins’ offense was, their defense is what led to their downfall, and that’s always what leads to the fall of Alford’s teams come tournament time.  Lonzo Ball had a great season, but on Friday he got outplayed by De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk.  The Bruins were entertaining this season and slightly more relevant than in previous years, but the reality of it is that UCLA basketball still isn’t where it should be.

Say what you will about Lavar Ball and his craziness, but the man is actually a genius.  He is building a brand for his kids.  He is also wildly entertaining when you put a microphone in front of him.  Sports are about entertainment value, and it seems like for years to come his kids are going to be providing that entertainment on the floor, while he provides the entertainment for us off the floor.  As for his proclamation that his kids are worth $1 billion, if Lonzo ends up on the Lakers, don’t be surprised if one of the most successful business men in the world helps makes that happen, Magic Johnson.

What a great game between Kentucky and North Carolina yesterday.  There were so many lead changes that Drake kept switching between his UNC and UK jersey all game long.  UNC is the easy pick to win the Final Four.  Meanwhile, Kansas has clinched their annual spot on their couch for the Final Four after losing to Oregon.  I’d say South Carolina busted your bracket, but the reality of it is your bracket was probably busted long ago.  Gonzaga really lucked out that Arizona was upset by Xavier.  They also lucked out that West Virginia somehow couldn’t even get a shot up in the last twenty seconds of the game.  That kid is still probably dribbling the ball as we speak.

I loved seeing the Lakers unveil Shaq’s statue on Friday, outside of Staples Center.  However, what really almost made me cry was listening to Kobe talk about Shaq both during the ceremony, and to the media leading up to it.  “When you win three titles together and you’ve had so much impact on one another’s legacy as a player and as a champion,” Kobe said by phone last week, “there is absolutely no way in the world I would miss an opportunity to talk about him and thank him and to acknowledge everything that he’s done for not only this organization and the city, but for me personally.”  Kobe and Shaq grew up before our very eyes.  We can only hope we are fortunate enough to witness another Laker duo as fun as it was watching them play.

It looked like the Clippers were getting their act together when they defeated Utah on Saturday.  Then they blew an 18 point lead against Sacramento yesterday, and lost at home.  The real reminder is that the bench isn’t really as reliable as we thought it was.  The bench was outscored 46-28 yesterday, mostly while CP3, Blake, and DeAndre were resting.  Of even greater concern are comments from JJ Redick and Blake Griffin mentioning things like “lack of spirit”, uncertainty around game plans, and overall lack of chemistry.  Given the amount of time this team has been together, that shouldn’t be the case.  If anything, the Clips biggest problems seem more psychological.

It’s amazing how the media milked the story last week about NBA teams resting stars. This is really only a significant story for a handful of players like Lebron, Westbrook, Harden, Durant, and Curry.  Those are the only players people really care about seeing, and people will spend their hard earned more for the chance to watch those players play.  With that being the case, the league should do a better job scheduling nationally televised games, and avoiding back-to-back games for teams on those nights.  That would increase the likelihood of star players playing.  At the same time though, NHL players have an even more grueling game to play, and they don’t complain that they need rest.  NBA players need to stop being so soft, and understand their responsibility to the fans who actually make the league what it is.

Congratulations to the United States for winning the World Baseball Classic by defeating Puerto Rico.  Puerto Ricans haven’t been this upset since Menudo broke up.  Somehow Ian Kinsler managed to become public enemy #1.  I didn’t actually watch more than 5 seconds of the tournament.  That’s because winning the WBC is like being the smartest person at a monster truck rally.  It’s cool, but it really means nothing.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says it’s doubtful NHL players will participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics.  Good one Gary.  You and I both know you can’t afford to not send players to the Olympics.  It’s too much free marketing and exposure for the NHL and its player’s, who love representing their countries by the way.  It’s going to happen.

Finally, another episode of The Walking Dead went down on AMC last night.  Spoiler alert for those of you who have yet to see it, so read no further if you plan to watch it later.  Second to last episode of the season goes down, and amazingly, nobody of significance died.  I have a feeling that’s going to change next week.  If you didn’t like the episode, you don’t like character development.  I do wish however, that we would get to see the backstory on Negan.  I’m sure we were all shocked that Gregory couldn’t fight off a walker.  Carl has pretty good aim to be able to shoot while holding a gun up to his patched eye…..

 

Lakers Legal Battle Over

March 27, 2017

The Laker ownership controversy has ended peacefully.  Jeanie Buss has removed her brother Jim Buss as a trustee and replaced him with her younger sister Janie Buss, according to documents entered into Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday morning.

The three siblings have agreed for Jeanie to serve as controlling owner and on the team’s board of directors as long as the family owns the Lakers.  Johnny Buss will remain on the board of directors.

“It’s great that we were able to work this out so fast. We’ve resolved everything clearly and cleanly and now we can get back to work,” Jeanie Buss told ESPN.

According to sources close to the situation, neither brother was given any additional financial settlement beyond what’d they’d be entitled to through yearly salaries and disbursements from the trust.

“Jeanie is captain of the ship,” Janie Buss told ESPN. “My sister is the one who finally played her aces. I’m just behind her. I’ve always been behind her. Now she can focus on where the Lakers need to go.

The agreement means the probate court trial scheduled for May 15 to resolve the matter won’t happen.

Janie is excited for what’s ahead.  “This is a new beginning for us as a team. Now we don’t need to worry about this family stuff. We can focus on the Lakers now.”

Lakers Can’t Stop The Blazers

March 26, 2017

The Blazers pulled away from the Lakers in the 3rd quarter on Sunday night at Staples Center, defeating LA 97-81.

Damian Lillard scored 22 points to go along with 7 rebounds and 5 assists, while Noah Vonleh grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds.  The Blazers outscored the Lakers 37-24 in the 3rd quarter.

The Lakers trailed by 8 points in the 3rd quarter when the Blazers blew open the game with a barrage of 3-pointers.  Portland went on a 16-3 run, which included four 3-pointers.  That gave them a 21-point lead.

“When you’re committed to defense, you always give yourself a chance to win games,” Lakers Coach Luke Walton said. “Unfortunately that didn’t carry over into the third quarter. . . . Every time we messed up a coverage, or we misread a situation, Portland, they got a lot of weapons on that team offensively. They made us pay for it.”

D’Angelo Russell led the Lakers with 22 points and had two assists. Reserve point guard Tyler Ennis added 14 points. LA played without rookie Brandon Ingram, who sat out with patellar tendinitis in his right knee that had been bothering him since Thursday’s practice.

Allen Crabbe scored 18 points off the bench for the Blazers, who tied the Denver Nuggets for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The Lakers, who won their previous game against the Timberwolves, have won consecutive games only once since mid-November.

The Lakers shot only 39% from the field.  “We just didn’t make the shots,” Lakers center Ivica Zubac said. “We had some good looks. We executed good. But we just couldn’t make the shots.”

Up next for LA, they’ll face the Wizards on Tuesday night at Staples Center.

Clippers Blow 18-Point Lead & Lose to Kings

March 26, 2017

The Clippers gave back an 18-point lead at Staples Center on Sunday, and lost to Sacramento 98-97.  The rally was capped by a put back from Willie Cauley-Stein.  Chris Paul missed a 21-foot jumper with 1.2 seconds left that sealed the fate of the Clips.

“It’s a bad loss. It’s probably the worst one in the regular season in my career, probably,” said Paul, who had 17 points and nine assists. “Yeah, that’s tough. That was a bad one. That’s a bad loss. Yeah.”

With Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan resting early in the 4th quarter, the Kings mounted a furious comeback.  A Buddy Heild 3-pointer pulled Sacramento to within 94-85 with 3:22 left.

Heild hit two more 3-pointers just nine seconds apart, and Sacramento was only down 96-93 with 2:10 left.  After Griffin made 1 of 2 free throws, the Kings continued their 3-point onslaught.  Langston Galloway’s 3-pointer made it 97-96 with 1:23 left.  That set the stage of Cauley-Stein’s last second heroics.

The Clippers have lost 10 of their last 19 games overall, and they fell behind the Jazz by 1 game in the race for 4th place in the Western Conference.

Jordan had 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Clippers, and Griffin finished with 17 points.

“These games should mean so much more to us than to them. Nothing against them. But just being out of the playoff picture… We have something to play for,” Blake Griffin said about the loss to the Kings. “And tonight it looked like it was the opposite, the other way around in that last little bit… It’s over now. Can’t do much about it now except try to move on.”

The Clippers played without J.J. Redick, who injured his right ankle when he stepped on a basketball in the game against Utah on Saturday.

There’s only 9 games left in the regular season.  The Clippers will try to get back in the win column on Wednesday, when they host the Wizards at Staples Center.

Ducks Make It Four In Row

March 26, 2017

Ryan Getzlaf had four assists and the Ducks won their 4th straight game, defeating the Rangers on Sunday night 6-3 at the Honda Center.

Andrew Cogliano scored the go-ahead goal early in the 3rd period, and Patrick Eaves scored twice for Anaheim, as the Ducks moved into sole possession of 1st place in the Pacific Division.  With 7 games left to play, Anaheim is two points ahead of San Jose and Edmonton, who were both idle on Sunday.

Ryan Kessler and Josh Manson also scored for the Ducks, who are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games.  Jonathan Bernier recorded 25 saves.  For the Rangers, Brady Skjei, Derek Stepan and Rick Nash each scored.  Henrik Lundqvist made 28 saves for New York, in what was his first start since March 7th.  Lundqvist had been recovering from a hip injury.

“Getzy’s playing out of his mind right now,” Eaves said. “Just the way he possesses the puck, it makes it really easy to play on his line. And we’ve got [Rickard Rakell] flying and making plays, so I feel like we’re getting some chemistry and that was what I was hoping.”

The Ducks are beginning to look like a team that is peaking at the right time.  Getzlaf has 20 points in his last 12 games, and Sunday night was his seventh career game with at least four assists.

“Obviously, Getzlaf has been the guy that stirs the drink here right now,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said.

The Ducks also got strong special teams play on Sunday night.  Kessler’s goal at the 18:00 mark of the 2nd period tied the game at 2-2, and came on the power-play.  That was Anaheim’s first power-play goal in five games.  Manson’s goal also came shorthanded.

The Ducks will return to action on Tuesday night at Vancouver.

Clippers Clinch Playoff Spot

March 25, 2017

The Clippers clinched a playoff spot on Saturday with a 108-95 win over the Jazz at Staples Center.  Jamal Crawford led the way with 28 points off the bench, Blake Griffin added 15, and Chris Paul scored 14.

The win moved the Clippers to within .5 games of the 4th place Jazz in the Western Conference.  Utah got 26 points and 14 rebounds from Rudy Gobert, while Joe Johnson had 17.  However, the Jazz have lost four of their last five games.

The Clips took control early, building a 15-point lead in the first quarter.  They shot 52% from the field, and finished the first twelve minutes with a 28-14 lead.

“Right from the beginning they jumped us, and we weren’t ready,” Gobert said. “That’s what happened the last few games and we came out the same way.”

The Jazz tried to make a run in the 2nd quarter, but the Clippers took a 49-41 lead into halftime.

The Clippers lost a 16-point lead in the third quarter and their tempers went with it.  Jamal Crawford and Chris Paul were whistled for technical fouls and suddenly, Utah had made a game of it.

“My emotions got the best of me for a second,” Crawford said. “I had to get it off my chest and settle down going into the fourth quarter.”

Crawford responded with 17 of his 28 points in the final period, and the Clips regained control.

Utah’s top scorers struggled.  Gordon Hayward had 13 points on 5-12 shooting, while Hill had 9 points on 4-11 shooting.  Hayward also asked to be taken out of the game in the 4th quarter with what appeared to be a knee bruise.  He was seen with an ice pack on his knee while sitting on the bench.

The Clippers will try to tie the Jazz in the standings on Sunday at Staples when they take on the Sacramento Kings.

Kings Shut Down Again

March 25, 2017

An all-too familiar scene went down at Staples Center on Saturday night.  The Kings not scoring a goal.  This time it was a 3-0 loss to the Rangers, all but officially sealing their fate of missing the playoffs.

Once again, the Kings would have their chances, but couldn’t finish.  Derek Stepan scored late in the 2nd period and Antii Raanta made 30 saves for his 8th career shutout.

The Rangers also got goals from Ryan McDonagh on the power-play, and an empty-netter from Rick Nash.  New York has won 8 of their last 10 road games.  They have the best road record in the NHL.

Jonathan Quick made 17 saves for the Kings.  He still hasn’t given up hope on making the playoffs though.  “We have to focus on the next game. Try to win the next game and go from there,” Quick said. “That’s it. It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is, that’s your mind-set. That’s what we’ll do.”

The Kings had a number of younger players in the lineup, who continued to gain experience.  That included rookie Jonny Brodzinski, who was making his NHL debut.  The 23-year-old nearly scored his first career goal, but was stopped on a breakaway in the 2nd period.

“I wish we had gotten the win. If I score on that breakaway I had then it’s a totally different game,” Brodzinski said.

Stepan scored at the 13:02 mark of the 2nd period, when he fired a shot past Quick after the puck bounced off the boards.

The lead became 2-0 when McDonagh scored four seconds into a double minor against Andy Andreoff for high sticking.  McDonagh blasted a shot that went through Quick’s legs.  Nash would add the empty-net goal with just over a minute left in the game, and that sealed the Kings fate.

The Kings will try their luck on the road against a few division foes starting Tuesday in Edmonton, followed by games on Wednesday and Friday at Calgary and Vancouver.

 

UCLA Run Ends Against Kentucky

March 24, 2017

Looks like Lavar Ball was wrong on this one.  UCLA was eliminated by Kentucky on Friday night in Memphis in the Sweet 16, losing by a score of 86-75.

The game belonged to De’Aaron Fox, who scored 39 points on the night.  It was the best NCAA scoring performance for Kentucky since Tayshaun Prince had 41 against Tulsa in 2002, and it was the best by a freshman in tournament history.  Kentucky wins its 14th straight game, and moves on to play UNC in the Elite 8 on Sunday.

Meanwhile, UCLA was eliminated in the Sweet 16 for the 3rd time in the last 4 years.  That’s all too common a problem for Steve Alford, whose teams have never been further in the tournament.

Lonzo Ball, who announced after the game that he played his last game as a Bruin, scored 10 points while dishing out 8 assists, but turned it over 4 times as well.

The first half was not the up and down pace you would have thought from these two squads, and Kentucky took a 36-33 lead at the break.

In the 2nd half, the closest the Bruins would get would be 50-49.  The Wildcats pushed their lead to as many 14 in the final minutes.

UCLA shot well from the field but the Bruins turned the ball over 13 times, and Kentucky outscored them 14-2 off the mistakes.

The Bruins are done for the year, but much to the surprise and disappointment of some, Steve Alford announced that he is returning to UCLA and will not be taking the job with his alma matter, Indiana.  “I’m very, very happy where I’m at, and hopefully that’ll continue,” Alford said.

UCLA has the #2 recruiting class in the country coming in next year, including Lonzo’s younger brother, LiAngelo.  Recruiting has always been Alford’s strong suit, but it’s the coaching that’s been more troubling.

Lakers Snap Skid

March 24th, 2017

The Lakers snapped a 6-game losing skid on Friday night at Staples, beating the Timberwolves in overtime 130-119.

Jordan Clarkson scored a career-high 35 points, while making eight 3-pointers.  Clarkson rebounded from a poor shooting night against the Clippers, a few days earlier.  Julius Randle added 23 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers, who won for only the 2nd time since the All-Star break.

Andrew Wiggins scored 36 points for Minnesota, but fouled out with 1:17 left in overtime.  Karl-Anthony Towns had 25 points and 13 rebounds, as the Timberwolves lost their 5th in a row.

The Lakers went on a 9-1 run with 2:30 left in the game, which erased an 8-point Timberwolves lead.  Randle’s bank shot finished the run, but Wiggins made one of two free throws to send the game to overtime.

Clarkson took over from there, scoring 7 of 8 straight Laker points.  That gave the Lakers a 117-109 lead.  Minnesota would never recover, despite Ricky Rubio’s best efforts.  He finished with 19 points and 15 assists for the Wolves.

Lakers’ forward Larry Nance Jr. knew the night belonged to Clarkson.  “We needed every point of his 35,” Nance said. “It was one of those games where everything he was throwing up went in.”

Before the game, the Lakers unveiled a statue of Shaquille O’Neal in Star Plaza.  O’Neal sat courtside with mother Lucille O’Neal and they shared a kiss. O’Neal addressed the fans at halftime as well.

“There was a better energy in the building because of Shaq,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “We didn’t get to channel that until the second half when the second unit came in and began defending. It definitely brings a little extra.”

The win along with the Suns loss, means the Lakers are only 1 game worse than Phoenix in the battle for better lottery odds.  The Lakers only keep their 1st round pick this year if lands in the top 3, and they currently have the 2nd worst record in the league.   LA returns to action on Sunday against Portland at Staples Center.

Ducks Move Into 1st Place

March 24, 2017

The Ducks defeated the Jets 3-1 on Friday night at the Honda Center, which tied Anaheim with San Jose for 1st place in the Pacific Division.

Andrew Cogliano scored late in the 2nd period, and Jonathan Bernier continues his solid play with 17 saves.  Corey Perry and Jakob Silfverberg scored as well for Anaheim.

The Ducks have won 3 straight, and Bernier is 7-0-1 in his last 8 starts.  His play in the absence of the injured Jonathan Gibson has given Anaheim renewed hope of winning another division title.

Josh Morrissey scored a power-play goal for the Jets and Michael Hutchinson made 32 saves for Winnipeg.  The Jets were winless in 8 tries this season, against Anaheim, San Jose, and Edmonton, the top 3 teams in the Pacific Division.

Perry got the Ducks off to a nice start late in the 1st period, as he fired a shot through several bodies in front of the net.  After Morrissey tied it, the Ducks took a 2-1 lead when Cogliano threw the puck in front of the net, which bounced off of the Jets’ Jacob Trouba and in.

Anaheim would maintain that lead, and then Silfverberg would add an empty-netter with 1:07 left in the game.

The Ducks will return to action on Sunday against the Rangers.  There’s just 8 games remaining in the regular season for Anaheim.