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SPORTS DIGEST: Clippers even playoff series with win over Jazz

No one said it would be easy, least of all coach Doc Rivers.

The Clippers coach had to be pleased with his team’s effort April 18 as the Clippers defeated the Utah Jazz 99-91 to even their first-round playoff series at one game apiece.

Game three is April 21 in Salt Lake City.

The Clippers let game one get away from them April 15 when Joe Johnson hit a buzzer beater to give the Jazz a 97-95 victory and steal the home court advantage away from the Clippers. The Clippers can steal it back with a win in game three or game four in Utah.

The biggest break of the series may have come in the first minute of the first game when Jazz center Rudy Gobert bumped knees with Luc Mbah a Moute. Gobert hasn’t played since

The Jazz fought hard to defeat the Clippers in the first game, but weren’t quite up to pulling off a second upset in game two.

Utah is putting a lot of defensive focus on Clippers shooting guard J.J. Redick. He took only seven shots in game two, forcing the trio of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan to handle most of the offense for the Clippers.

Griffin led the way with 24 points. Paul finished with 21 points and 10 assists and Jordan had 18 points and 15 rebounds. Jordan scored 10 of his 18 in the first quarter when the Clippers jumped off to a 29-18 lead, the only quarter the Clippers outscored the Jazz.

With the first three playoff games coming three days apart, Gobert might be able to bounce back from his knee injury and play in the remaining games of the series.

That will make things hard for the Clippers, who never do anything the easy way.

They still should be able to survive the Jazz and get to the second round, where they are liable to find a well-rested Golden State Warriors team waiting for them. That definitely won’t be an easy matchup.

Dodger manager Dave Roberts has a meeting at the mound as he makes a pitching change April 15 as the Dodgers played the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Dodgers won that night but have last their last three games. (Photo by Nick Koza)

DODGER WOES: Speaking of doing things the hard way, the Dodgers are struggling at 7-8, third in the National League West Division and causing fans to panic two weeks into a six-month-long season. Relax.

The Dodgers had trouble driving in runs in clutch situations last season. And then they found their groove in August and September.

Dodgers not named Clayton Kershaw had trouble going past the fifth inning last year. And Dodgers manager Dave Roberts did a masterful job of using a deep bullpen to overcome the problems his starters encountered.

The Dodgers gamble in signing left-handed pitcher Rich Hill to a three-year, $48 million contract over the winter is not looking good at this point. Hill can’t seem to overcome a blister problem on his throwing hand. He has pitched six innings in two starts and has been placed on the disabled list for the second time.

Thank goodness the Dodgers kept Alex Wood around to take Hill’s place in the rotation. Wood has been the second best starter after Kershaw so far.

The Dodgers still need to settle on a regular batting order, particularly one that doesn’t feature Kike Hernandez as the fifth hitter. Players function better when they have a familiar role and Hernandez is not wired to bat fifth, a position where you want someone with power and the ability to drive in runs.

The Dodgers haven’t used the same batting order, not counting the pitcher, in consecutive games yet this season. Somewhere in Miami, Don Mattingly is shaking his head knowingly.

It’s a long season and the Dodgers have a better roster than the other four teams in the West Division. It won’t be long before the Dodgers are atop the West and their fans can quit going off on social media.

COACHING CHANGE: Henry Washington, who has been the head football coach at Los Angeles Southwest College for more than 30 years, is stepping down and will be replaced by Nate Turner.

Washington, who coached Florence Griffith Joyner in track at Jordan High School before coming to Southwest, has coached more than 20 players who have played in the National Football league, including defensive back Larry Brown, who was the most valuable player for the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX.

Turner coached last year at Taft High School in the San Fernando Valley. He is a product of South Los Angeles who attended Jordan High School, Compton College and UNLV before spending four years in the NFL with the Chargers and New Orleans Saints.

“Coach Washington has been able to greatly assist young men and save lives,” Turner said. “If I can contribute to something like that, that would be great.

“Wins and losses have nothing to do with it. He is a legend in my mind. This is much bigger than a football thing — it is can you contribute to the development of these young people’s

minds?”

 

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