Clippers in trouble while Lakers right the ship in game two

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SPORTS DIGEST

By Don Wanlass

Contributing Writer

So much for that Lakers-Clippers playoff series.

Two games in to the 2021 NBA Playoffs and the Clippers are already in deep water with a leaky boat, while the Lakers managed to steady their ship after a forgettable opening game with the Phoenix Suns.

The Clippers are of to a 0-2 start against the Dallas Mavericks and head to Dallas May 28 for what could be their final two games of the season. Maybe falling from the third to the fourth seed in the final week of the season wasn’t such a good idea after all.

The Clippers, with their two superstars, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, have been outplayed by the Mavericks superstar, Luka Doncic, and a cast of support players who do their jobs well.

After producing a triple double in the playoff opener May 22 as the Mavericks won 113-103, Doncic concentrated more on scoring three nights later when the Mavericks won, 127-121.

He scored 39 points and added seven rebounds and seven assists as the Mavericks went home with a 2-0 advantage in the series.

The Clippers may not be done but they are brown on one side already and ready to be flipped.

After losing the opener to Dallas, Leonard and George came to play May 25. Leonard scored 41 points and added 10 rebounds. George had 28 points and 12 assists.

The rest of the Clippers’ starters — center Ivica Zubac, forward Marcus Morris and guard Patrick Beverly — combined for 14 points in 68 minutes and only Reggie Jackson scored in double figures off the bench.

The Clippers have never missed Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams more.

The Clippers bench outscored the Mavericks, 38-24, but the Mavericks had four of their five starters in double figures, with Tim Hardaway Jr. playing like his father, scoring 28 points, including six of eight baskets from three-point range.

Hardaway has scored 49 points in the first two games of the series, a solid compliment to Doncic. With Kristaps Porzingins as a third scoring option, the Mavericks may have more scoring power than the Clippers, who could be two games from the end of the Kawhi Leonard era.

The superstar, whose free agent signing two summers ago was supposed to put an end to the Clippers’ dismal history for good, can opt out of that contract at the end of the season and he may go looking for greener pastures if the Clippers get bounced by the Mavericks giving them back-to-back playoff failures.

The Clippers aren’t dead yet, but they might be on life support. Coach Tyronn Lue might want to find someone who can shut down Doncic, who is averaging 35 points a game in the first two games of the series.

Lue also might want to find a way to get Luke Kennard into the game to help Leonard and George with the scoring load.

Whatever the answers, he has three days to figure them out. Game three is in Dallas May 28 at 6:30 p.m.

The Lakers, on the other hand, are coming home with home-court advantage after evening their series with the Suns at 1-1 May 25 with a 109-102 win.

The Lakers managed to blow a 15-point, but after letting the Suns gain the lead down the stretch, the Lakers turned up the defensive pressure and Anthony Davis closed well.

Davis scored 34 points and added 10 rebounds to go with LeBron James’ 23 points and nine assists.

Center Andre Drummond helped get the Lakers off to a good start, flirting with a double-double in the first quarter. He ended up with 15 points and 12 rebounds.

The key to the game  — and possibly the rest of the series — was a shoulder injury Phoenix guard Chris Paul suffered toward the end of game one.

Paul played only 22 minutes in game two and was held to six points. He was nowhere to be found in the fourth quarter, although his replacement, Cameron Payne, filled in admirably with 19 points and seven assists.

Devon Booker followed the 34 points he scored in the opener with 31 in game two and center Deandre Ayton has scored 21 and 22 points in the first two games.

The Suns have hung tough in the first two games, but the Lakers hope to find the winning touch back at Staples Center for games three and four.

The teams revolves around James and Davis, but point guard Dennis Schorder had a solid game in game two with 24 points after scoring only 14 in game one.

Kyle Kuzma has scored only two points in 38 minutes of action in the first two games and he needs to step up and provide some scoring off the bench.

After losing the first game, coach Frank Vogel made some adjustments. The biggest one was benching backup center Montrezl Harrell in favor of Marc Gasol. Gasol scored six points on two three pointers.

He needs to play Davis more at center, which would slow down Ayton’s offense, and might get Kuzma more involved at the same time.

Game three is May 27 at 7 p.m.

SEE-SAW SEASON: First the Dodgers were 13-2.  Then they went 5-15. Now they are 12-1.

Looks like it is going to be a streaky season. Thankfully, the Dodgers have the best thing to prevent long losing streaks — a solid starting rotation. After signing Trevor Bauer just before the start of spring training, the Dodgers knew they had three pitchers — Bauer, Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler — capable of being aces.

After the first 48 games of the season, you can add a fourth name to that list, Julio Urias.

After defeating the Giants, 11-5 May 23, Urias is now 7-1 on the season with a 3.03 earned run average and 70 strikeouts in 62 and 1/3 innings.

He helped himself in the win over the Giants by collecting two hits and driving in three runs.

The Dodgers top four starting pitchers are 23-6 on the season. After a rough start, the bullpen is settling down as everyone gets accustomed to their role.

And despite still having 11 players on the injured list, the Dodgers are starting to get healthy, which does not mode well for the San Diego Padres, who are half a game head of the Dodgers in the standings.

The loss of Corey Seager with a broken hand may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. It has given Gavin Lux a chance to play at his natural position, shortstop, and Lux is starting to hit the ball the way the Dodgers front office knew he could after watching him rise through the minor league system.

Lux has hit two grand slams since Seager got injured and now has three home runs and 23 runs batted in while raising his average to .261.

The Dodgers open a seven-game homestand May 27 against the Giants and the Cardinals and expect to get Cody Bellinger and Zack McKinstry back from the injury list during that time.

If Bellinger is anywhere near full strength that will provide a boost to the team that scores more runs than any other team in the major leagues while yielding the sixth fewest runs in the majors.

It will be fascinating watching how long this streaky team’s current hot streak can last.

ON THE PITCH: Things are looking up for the Los Angeles Football Club, while the Los Angeles Galaxy suffered their worst defeat of the young season last week.

LAFC defeated Colorado, 2-1, to even its record at 2-2-2. The Galaxy lost to Portland, 3-0.

For LAFC, Carlos Vela returned to the starting lineup after suffering a quadriceps injury in the season opener. Vela assisted on Diego Rossi’s second goal of the game as the team improved to 35-10-18 when he started during the regular season.

When he doesn’t start, LAFC is 13-13-7.

Rossi, who scored 14 goals last year when Vela chose not to play during the coronavirus pandemic, now has three goals this year.

If Vela and Rossi both stay healthy, LAFC will rise in the standings from their current ninth spot in the Western Conference.

The Galaxy fell to third place in the conference with their loss to Portland. It was a scoreless tie at halftime, but Galaxy defender Derrick Williams received a red card for a hard tackle a minute before first-half stoppage play and the Galaxy wilted in the second half with the Timbers’ man advantage.

Felipe Mora scored twice in the first 13 minutes of the second half for Portland and Diego Valeri added a goal on a penalty kick in the 89th minute.

The Galaxy host the San Jose Quakes May 29 at 4 p.m. at Dignity Health Sports Center.

LAFC hosts the New York City Football Club at 2 p.m. May 20 at Banc of California Stadium. Both teams are welcoming more fans to their games as pandemic restrictions are loosened.

LAFC had more than 11,000 fans in the stands for the game against Colorado.