College Professional Sports

SPORTS DIGEST: Clippers, Lakers get off to fast starts in NBA season

If the first four games are any indication, the 2019-20 NBA season is going to be exciting for local fans.

Four games may be a small sample size, but this is the best Lakers team since the 2011-12 team that saw the Lakers go 41-25 in a strike-shortened season. If the Lakers don’t make the playoffs this season after a six-year absence, it will be a sign that they had too many injuries. That’s the only thing that can keep the Lakers out of the playoffs this year.

If the team gels, they could play for the conference title.

And despite how good the Lakers look, they are still only the second best team playing in Staples Center.

Like the Lakers, the Clippers are 3-1. They overlooked Phoenix after winning the first two games of the year and when you overlook a good team in the NBA, you are going to get beat.

Kawhi Leonard is every bit the player he was advertised to be. You don’t get to really know a superstar until you watch him every night and see the many ways he impacts a game.

Leonard is one of three Clippers averaging 20 or more points a game, right at 27 points a game. The other two players are super subs Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell.

Though neither of them start, Williams and Harrell are second and third in points and minutes per game for the Clippers.

Williams averages 22.3 points and 31 minutes a game, Harrell is at 20.5 points and 30.5 minutes.

The Clippers are averaging more than 121 points a game and haven’t added Paul George to the lineup yet.

George, their other big free agent signing in the summer, is recovering from surgery on both shoulders and won’t play until sometime in November. Without him, Coach Doc Rivers still has a great cast to choose from.

The Clippers can run with the best teams in the league and play defense as well. They also are deep enough to allow Leonard and George to miss an occasional game while managing their minutes.

The Lakers showed what kind of team they can be Oct. 29 against the Memphis Grizzlies.

The game was close for the first 2 ½ quarters and then the Lakers went on a 20-0 run and the game was over.

Newcomer Anthony Davis, playing with a sore shoulder he hurt Oct. 27, took over the game midway through the third quarter. By the time the quarter ended, Davis had 40 points and 20 rebounds.

LeBron James facilitated his way to 23 points and eight assists and the Lakers won 120-91.

It’s early in the season, but there are plenty of good signs for the Lakers. Even Dwight Howard is playing well as a back-up center. He’s playing about 18 minutes a game as a rim protector and a rebounder.

The Lakers will get tested in the next week, playing games on the road against Dallas, San Antonio and Chicago before returning home Nov. 8 to face the Miami Heat.

The Clippers have a five-game home stand between Oct. 31 and Nov. 11 when they face San Antonio, Utah, Milwaukee, Portland and Toronto. That will be a good early season test to see where they stand.

TURNAROUND: When the UCLA Bruins lost to Oregon State 48-31 in the Rose Bowl Oct. 5, I figured the Bruins’ season was just about over. With six games left to play at the time, I figured the Bruins would be lucky to beat Colorado and Cal, which would leave them at 3-9.

Somehow, second-year head coach Chip Kelly has turned things around and the Bruins are 3-5 and getting ready to face Colorado, the worst team in the Pac 12, at the Rose Bowl Nov. 2.

After surprising Stanford 34-16 Oct. 17, the Bruins came back and defeated Arizona State Oct. 26, 42-32.

Senior running back Josh Kelley, who was injured at the start of the season, is healthy now and showing the form he showed last year against USC when he gained 289 yards in a 34-27 upset.

The Bruins defense is still giving up too many yards and points, but they stopped Arizona State enough times to win a second straight game last week.

Maybe that game against USC in the Coliseum Nov. 23 won’t be meaningless after all. The Bruins could be shooting for a sixth win, which could put them in a bowl game.

USC also has bounced back nicely after losing back-to-back games at Washington and Notre Dame.

After pummeling Arizona, 41-14 Oct. 19, the Trojans faced Colorado on the road Oct. 25.

It was the kind of game recent Trojan teams might have lost. It was a Friday night game in the cold against a team that isn’t very good. The Trojans struggled early and trailed 31-21 after three quarters.

But freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis led two fourth-quarter scoring drives and the Trojans played enough defense to walk away with a 35-31 victory.

Slovis threw for 406 yards and four touchdowns. Wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. continued to play like an all American, catching seven passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns.

That sets the Trojans up for another big game this week, hosting seventh-ranked Oregon Nov. 2 in the Coliseum. Oregon’s only loss this season was to Auburn in the season opener.

The two teams could meet again in a month in the Pac 12 Conference Championship Game.

POSTSEASON DOWNER: Like the Dodgers before them, the Los Angeles Football Club had its post-season hopes dashed Oct. 29, losing to the Seattle Sounders, 3-1 in Banc of California Stadium.

The Sounders managed to take LAFC star Carlos Vela out of the game, holding him to only one shot on goal in the game after Vela had scored a record-breaking 34 goals this season.

LAFC scored first, when midfielder Eduard Atuesta scored in the 17th minute on a free kick but LAFC never put the ball in the back of the net again and had only four shots on goal.

Sounders forward Raúl Riudiaz scored twice and assisted on the third goal by Nicolas Lodeiro. Lodeiro assisted on both of Ruidiaz’s goals.

In only its second season, LAFC had a tremendous year that fell one game short of the championship game. The team tied the MLS record for most goals in a season and set the record for the most points and Vela set the league mark for most goals.

But the Sounders will play the winner of the Toronto-Atlanta game Nov. 10 for the championship.