Lakers’ Anthony Davis expects to play against Blazers in crucial game Friday

LOS ANGELES — There was a moment when Anthony Davis took a last-second attempt at the shot clock buzzer, and tripped up over the Clippers’ scorers table as he backed into the sideline.

He spent a few tense seconds grabbing his right ankle, then retying his shoe. That one looked worse than it actually was, Davis said later.

What the crowd couldn’t see was his back, tensing up during the first timeout, then the second, as the Lakers’ deficit grew in Thursday’s game against the Clippers at Staples Center. And by the time he checked out around the 3-minute mark, Davis said, he felt tight enough that he couldn’t play on: “It got to the point where it was pretty tough.”

If Davis’ back was a tough obstacle, his absence was an insurmountable one for the short-handed Lakers, who were already skating on thin ice against the Clippers with him, but without him had to discard a good amount of their pre-game plans. Center Marc Gasol subbed in midway through the second quarter and was immediately pressured, as the Clippers forced two steals on their way to building a 20-plus-point lead.

But Davis said he doesn’t foresee the back spasms he suffered Thursday costing him a start on Friday night in Portland, where a critical tiebreaker with the Trail Blazers hangs in the balance. The Lakers already know they will be without LeBron James, Dennis Schröder and Talen Horton-Tucker for what Davis called “probably the biggest game” so far this season.

“I should be good to go tomorrow, based on how it’s feeling now,” said Davis, an eight-time All-Star. “But I’m gonna still wake up and test it out. But my plan is to still go tomorrow.”

Perhaps because of his stiffness, Davis’ game was not shaping up to be a good one: He was just 2 for 9 with four points in his 9-minute shift. That performance comes on the heels of perhaps Davis’ best game since his return from a nine-week injury absence – a 25-point effort against Denver, which included the game-clinching blocked shot.

For a Lakers team without its best playmakers against Portland, the question is even more pressing than usual: Which Davis will they get?

Coach Frank Vogel said he’s following the lead of the medical team in this case.

“We’re already trying to be responsible with his minutes,” he said. “Obviously, we’ll have to see how it feels tomorrow. It’s tough not having him in there, but obviously, you have to make the best decision for health.”

If the Lakers (37-29) – already one game behind fifth-place Dallas, which owns a tiebreaker over them – lose to the Blazers (37-29), it won’t bode well for their hopes to avoid the play-in tournament which begins on May 18, just two days after their final regular-season game. The seventh and eighth seeds must lose twice to be eliminated (playing each other, with the loser of that game facing the winner of the 9-10 game). As banged-up as the Lakers are, they don’t need more games tacked on to the regular season.

But Davis, who has spoken about avoiding the play-in games recently, acknowledged that the Lakers have a level of acceptance if it doesn’t swing their way.

“We don’t look at it as something bad,” he said. “To be honest, we need a lot of games, we need games to get back accustomed to each other, anyway. So, I mean, if it happens that way, it happens that way. Obviously, we don’t want to go that route. But if it happens, it happens.”

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12 indicted in alleged Southern California ‘green’ loan and mortgage fraud scheme

LOS ANGELES — A dozen people have been indicted in connection with an alleged mortgage fraud and “green” loan scheme that operated throughout Southern California and resulted in losses of about $15 million, the California Attorney General’s Office announced Wednesday.

The 133-count grand jury indictment, handed up April 26, alleges that the crimes occurred in Los Angeles, Riverside and Ventura counties.

The indictment charges the defendants with a variety of counts, including conspiracy, mortgage fraud, grand theft, identity theft, forgery, filing a false or forged document and money laundering.

The defendants allegedly exploited the Yrgene Energy Fund and Renew Funding, companies that provide funding to licensed contractors for energy- efficient home improvements for homeowners, and used false identities to get mortgage loans from conventional banks and hard money lenders, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

“The allegations against these defendants charge a pattern of disregard for the law and willingness to go as far as stealing the identities of the deceased just to further their scheme,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement announcing the charges. “Our office will seek to hold these defendants accountable for their alleged actions.”

Those named in the indictment are: Tamara Dadyan, 39, Richard Ayvazyan, 42, Artur Ayvazyan, 41, Grigor Tatoian, 50, Andranik Petrosyan, 46, Arshak Bartoumian, 48, Artashes Martirosyan, 43, Lilit Malyan, 39, Lubia Carrillo, 41, Rosa Zarate, 49, Estephanie Reynoso, 31, and Vanessa Bell, 60.

Eleven of the defendants have pleaded not guilty, with Malyan due back in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom for arraignment May 18.

The case stemmed from a multi-year investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department, with assistance from the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General.

The attorney general lauded the two agencies for “their work to put an end to an extensive, six-year fraud scheme that resulted in the theft of an estimated $15 million.”

“If you were a victim or have information please call 213-486-6979,” said a tweet from LAPD Capt. Lillian Carranza.

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Motivated Keyla Romo leads Orangewood Academy girls basketball past rival Fairmont Prep

GARDEN GROVE — Orangewood Academy’s girls basketball team seized the victory it needed Wednesday, May 5 to stay in contention for the San Joaquin League title.

Keyla Romo made sure it counted for her grandmother, too.

On a night in which baskets were hard to come by, the guard sank a career-best four 3-pointers to help the No. 5 Spartans knock off visiting No. 2 Fairmont Prep 44-29 on the same day her grandmother died in Mexico after a fight with COVID-19.

Romo pounded her chest after one of her three first-half 3-pointers and drilled one more with 2:41 left in the fourth quarter en route to 14 points, which matched Hannah Stines for game-high honors.

“I was emotionally broke but then I realized that she wanted me to play hard and play for her,” Romo said of her grandmother Maria, who lived in Chihuahua, Mexico. “That’s what motivated me.”

Orangewood Academy (5-3, 3-1) avenged an earlier loss to Fairmont Prep (8-5, 4-1) in league and now moves on to play Sage Hill (10-2, 1-1) in back-to-back games May 12-13.

Romo said her grandmother was a fixture of her childhood and also a positive influence during the injury struggles as a sophomore and junior. She suffered a torn ACL just prior to her sophomore season and missed most of her junior season after having a second surgery due to scar tissue.

“She said I was her star,” Romo said of her grandmother.

Romo added a team-high four steals to help lead the Spartans’ defense. Orangewood Academy opened in a 2-3 defense before switching to a matchup zone.

“She played the game of her life,” Orangewood Academy coach Leslie Aragon said of Romo, an uncommitted 5-foot-10 senior. “All of those 3s. She came out with energy. She keys a lot of the stuff on defense. .. She was tough as nails. I’m so proud of her.”

Romo shared the spotlight with Stines, who scored 10 points in the second half and added 15 rebounds. The junior highlighted the fourth quarter by diving for a loose ball and then driving in heavy traffic on the ensuing possession for a left-handed layup to give the Spartans a 42-29 lead.

Amaya Lacy added 10 points and nine rebounds for Orangewood Academy. Aixchel Hernandez also helped the defense with two blocks and nine rebounds.

The Spartans made 1 of 13 shots from the floor in the second quarter to lead 19-13 at intermission.

Makaila Glynn led Fairmont Prep with 12 points and three steals. The Huskies made 1 of their first 17 3 pointers.

“We got the shots we wanted but just couldn’t hit tonight,” Fairmont Prep coach Sara Brown said.

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Replace gas tax with more efficient, fairer mileage fee

California policymakers have spent years debating how to pay for road and highway repairs. President Biden’s current infrastructure plan brings that debate to the national stage.

Like its peers, California relies on a gas tax and registration fees to pay for infrastructure. But policymakers should cut registration fees and replace the gas tax with a better way to fund infrastructure: a mileage-based fee.

As the recent Pacific Research Institute study “Nickel and Dimed” shows, California drivers pay the nation’s highest gas tax. Registration fees are above those in Texas, Oregon, and many other states. But even though they spend hundreds of dollars a year in government-imposed taxes and fees, Californians have little to show for it. The American Society of Civil Engineers recently gave California roads a “D,” and the Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report ranked the state’s infrastructure an inexcusable forty-third out of fifty.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Gas tax and registration fee revenue doesn’t entirely go toward fixing roads and bridges. Some of it supports public transit; some subsidizes the California Highway Patrol; some goes to the Department of Motor Vehicles; and some trickles down to local governments, who use it to pay for social programs.

The gas tax and registration fees are also inefficient, unfair methods to generate infrastructure funding. Internal combustion engines are more economical than ever before, propelling vehicles farther while consuming less fuel. Traveling longer distances between fill-ups has environmental benefits, but it also means drivers pay less in gas taxes, even though they’re still adding just as much wear and tear to California’s infrastructure. Of course, electric vehicle owners pay no gas taxes at all, even though they use the same roads and bridges. California recently imposed a special fee on those vehicles, but the amount depends on its value, not how far the owner drives it.

With talk of rising infrastructure repair costs, it’s time for California policymakers to get things right. The state should cut its vehicle registration fee to the amount necessary to maintain ownership records, no more and no less. Most importantly, California should repeal its gas tax and replace it with a mileage-based fee. That way, people who drive more pay more, and those who drive less pay less. This is not a novel concept; the state tested it back in 2016.

But before rolling out a statewide, mileage-based fee, policymakers should make two critical enhancements. First, heavier vehicles should pay a higher fee. After all, a 5,000-pound SUV inflicts exponentially more wear and tear than a 3,000-pound sedan. Second, revenue from each driver’s fees should go back to fixing the infrastructure those drivers actually use. If 90 percent of a driver’s mileage is on the I-5, then 90 percent of their mileage fees should pay for maintaining the I-5. The easiest way to ensure that happens is with geotargeting – using GPS data to track which streets a vehicle uses and then earmarking fees for those streets only.

Of course, that raises understandable privacy concerns. But it’s worth noting that the necessary GPS data is no more invasive than the information many Californians willingly disclose to Facebook, Apple, and Google and that navigation apps already collect. Still, there’s an easy workaround: vehicle owners can opt-out of tracking and instead have their mileage fees allocated to fixing infrastructure within their zip code, and officials can allot a portion of that revenue to nearby highwaysl

California’s roads, highways, and bridges need costly repairs. Switching to a mileage-based fee could go a long way toward providing sufficient and stable funding to critical road improvements in communities across the state and the rest of the country.

Michael Thom is an associate professor at the University Southern California, an adjunct fellow in public finance at the Pacific Research Institute, and author of the PRI study, “Nickel and Dimed.”  Download the study at www.pacificresearch.org. 

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Whicker: Lakers play with the effort the rest of season will demand

At last, they played as if they recognized the gravity of the situation.

And, at least, they stopped falling.

The Lakers, in fact, reached up and regained sole possession of fifth place in the Western Conference standings on Monday night. If you’re wondering why that is so strut-worthy, you haven’t been around lately.

The purple-and-gold welcome mat that was defenseless against Sacramento and Toronto came to life and played like wounded underdogs Monday night, which is not their accustomed stance but fit quite well.

They beat the Denver Nuggets, who had won nine of 10, by a 93-89 score and distanced themselves, however temporarily, from the pre-playoff play-in tournament.

“It was just the heart, the togetherness,” said Wesley Matthews who, with Marc Gasol, escaped purgatory and served the Lakers well in the second half. “We put our feet in the ground, put them in the sand, whatever that saying is.

“Nobody is going to feel sorry for the Lakers. We have to build on what we did. You have to play with a sense of desperation. When you do that, the ball finds energy. That’s how we played tonight.”

Stripped of options without LeBron James and Dennis Schröder, the Lakers put Monday’s game into the mitts of Anthony Davis, who had missed 11 of 16 shots in Sunday’s eyesore loss to the Raptors. They placed him on the left side of the line and made Nikola Jokic and, later, JaVale McGee play honest defense, and Davis finally looked commanding, with 16 first-half points. He wound up with 25, but his biggest play was an improbable, Beamon-esque lunge that managed to deflect a 3-point shot by Facuno Campazzo at the end.

Frazzled for most of the game, Denver uncorked a 14-2 run in the fourth quarter and actually could have gotten to within one point on Michael Porter Jr.’s 3-pointer. It was disallowed because Campazzo was whistled, oddly, for an illegal pick on Davis.

Luck also visited the Lakers, for the first time in a while, when Jalen Horton-Tucker drove into the lane, ahead by two. He offered an off-balance reverse layup that was kept alive by Gasol, who was being blocked out by Jokic. Horton-Tucker then grabbed it and scored for a four-point lead with 15.1 seconds left, and rolled his eyes in gratitude.

“I’ve got to thank God for the way that worked out,” Horton-Tucker said.

Gasol played 17 minutes with 10 points and seven rebounds and a lovely, two-handed outlet pass that Matthews handled and converted like a wide receiver. Matthews hit all three of his shots, including a 3-pointer from Gasol’s pass. They’ve faded deep into the Lakers’ woodwork lately, but on Monday they played like veterans do in playoff situations. Gasol now terms himself “Mr. Wolf,” the fixer played by Harvey Keitel in “Pulp Fiction”, a guy who cleans everything up.

“It seems like we’ve played almost 1,000 different styles this year with guys being out,” Matthews said. “Basketball is like life. It’s unpredictable. You go on with it or it’ll go on without you. We have to get back to scrapping and clawing.”

On Sunday, James had said the biggest issue for the Lakers was “health.” He still is a proponent of the Messiah theory, that he and Davis will bring fresh, if scarred, legs into the playoffs and heal the Lakers with magic hands.

Betonline.com decreed that the Lakers were 7-2 choices to win the NBA title. Those are the shortest odds in the West, and they were posted before it was learned that Schröder will be out for 10 to 14 days.

James’ cryptic estimate that “I’m never going to be 100 percent” was difficult to un-hear, considering that he was back on the court 20 games after his high ankle sprain. He was adequate but not royal against Sacramento and Toronto, and then he left halfway through the fourth quarter Sunday, not to play again until Thursday against the Clippers, if then.

James also made it clear he opposed the play-in tournament for teams that finish 7 through 10 in each conference, saying its inventor “should be fired.”

That’s not a nice thing to say about Commissioner Adam Silver, and it also contradicts the way James viewed the play-in from afar, before it threatened to include him.

In a nutshell, No. 7 plays No. 8 and the winner gets into the playoffs as the 7-seed. The loser plays the winner of a knockout game between No. 9 and No. 10. The survivor of that also gets into the playoffs as the 8-seed.

It’s not an exercise fit for a King. But if a team with James and Davis can’t win one of two games against the likes of Memphis, San Antonio and Golden State, maybe a few others should be fired.

Speaking of “others,” the accompanying Lakers have left the door yawning. The injuries were the cue for Kyle Kuzma to play All-Star basketball. He largely has not. Andre Drummond hasn’t had time to get fully assimilated. He will get that time if the Lakers avoid the play-in and gain valuable practice time.

The Messiah theory is also hard to accept for those who have watched the West lately. In Phoenix, Chris Paul looks more like an MVP with each victory, and Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton are responding accordingly. In Utah, things have been rockier with Donovan Mitchell hurt, but he will return for the playoffs, and so will Bojan Bogdanovic, who wasn’t around last season when the Jazz took a 3-1 series lead over Denver and then lost.

Then there’s Denver, which might have the toughest chin in the league. Jamal Murray went down with an ACL and the Nuggets won nine of their next 10, with Michael Porter Jr. averaging 25.4 points. If that continues, Jokic can start practicing his multi-lingual MVP speeches.

“We’ve had a lot of guys contribute,” said Michael Malone, the Denver coach, “but this is just an endorsement of Nikola Jokic’s MVP candidacy. He has put us on his back.”

Note to James and Davis, in case they’re tempted: That’s just an expression.

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Smith, Ruidíaz lift Sounders past Galaxy

SEATTLE (AP) — Brad Smith scored one goal and assisted on another, Raúl Ruidíaz scored twice, and the Seattle Sounders stymied Javier Hernández and the Los Angeles Galaxy in a 3-0 win on Sunday night.

Seattle remained unbeaten on the young season, getting a pair of goals three minutes apart in the first half and keeping Chicharito from continuing his early-season scoring barrage for the Galaxy.

It was Seattle’s goal-scoring sniper who gave the Sounders the early advantage in the 20th minute, when Ruidíaz volleyed a cross from Smith past Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond.

Three minutes later, Smith completed a terrific build up by the Sounders following up his initial shot that was saved by Bond for his second straight game with a goal. Smith had Seattle’s only goal in its 1-1 draw with Los Angeles FC last week.

Ruidíaz added a second goal late in second-half stoppage time, giving him four goals on the young season.

“We all know what we kind of need to do in every position. … For me personally it’s good that I can go forward and join the attack,” Smith said. “I can definitely get forward more and help the team.”

While Seattle gave itself numerous scoring chances at the Galaxy goal, its defense also managed to make Chicharito mostly invisible after his blistering start to the season.

“They’re a very good team who has been together for a while and exposed a lot of things for us, and for me that that we need to continue to improve upon. That’s what today was,” first-year Galaxy coach Greg Vanney said.

Hernández had five goals in the first two games for the Galaxy, scoring a pair in their opening 3-2 victory over Inter Miami and following up with a hat trick in last week’s 3-2 victory over the New York Red Bulls. Hernández was just the second player in league history to have five goals in the first two games of the season, joining former Houston star Brian Chang.

Seattle was determined not to let Chicharito have the same influence. Hernández had just one shot and never found himself open in a scoring position. The Galaxy had just two shots on goal in the match.

“I thought we just did a really nice job of cutting off his service and not allowing him to dictate game inside the penalty box,” Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer said.

There was also a brief injury scare early in the second half when Hernández landed awkwardly leaping for a header and immediately grabbed at his left foot. Hernández was checked by athletic trainers and after a couple minutes of limping appeared to be fine.

Seattle’s domination in possession and limiting touches for Hernández led to numerous scoring chances for the Sounders in the second half. Kelyn Rowe had a pair of terrific chances, the best a header that bounced of the crossbar and post but didn’t cross the goal line.

Seattle finished with nine shots on goal, but it was the defensive effort that drew most of the praise. Seattle and Orlando City are the only two teams in the league to have played three games and allowed just one goal.

“It’s difficult to break us down and that’s what we wanted to do. … You saw a little bit of frustration form Chicharito and I thought defensively we did a very good job,” Rowe said.

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Kings out of playoff mix, look ahead to series vs. Coyotes

After failing to improve their own fortunes, the Kings now have the opportunity to play spoiler as they finish their season against two teams vying for the final West Division playoff berth and another with aspirations of a first-place finish.

That’ll start with visits Monday and Wednesday to face the Arizona Coyotes. They are currently fifth in the West standings, three points behind the St. Louis Blues, who have three games in hand on Arizona to boot.

“From this point on through, we’re going to play some tough games against some tough teams and we have to get over the fact that we are where we are,” Kings Coach Todd McLellan said. “Let’s face it, we’re not going to make the playoffs, I might as well say it right now, we’re not going to make the playoffs. I just don’t see how that’s going to happen, and we have to get over the fact that that’s happened.”

Though the Kings were not exactly owning their competition before the trade deadline–they had gone 6-10-0 in the month leading up to decision time–they were still  in the playoff hunt thanks to other middling West teams’ underperformance.

After dealing away forward Jeff Carter, who had spent parts of 10 seasons with the Kings, and adding very little, the Kings summarily dropped four of their next five games and lost six of nine overall.

“We can’t feel sorry for ourselves, that’s where we’re at right now,” McLellan said. “There isn’t an athlete that can win when they’re not all in.”

Now they face Arizona for the final two meetings of the season after having split the first six meetings. They’ll also play St. Louis once and the Colorado Avalanche, which sits in second place, four more times before the season ends.

Their most recent meeting with Arizona was one of the Kings’ poorest performances of the season, and their struggles were exacerbated by some precise execution on the part of Coach Rick Tocchet’s ‘Yotes.

Arizona won 4-0, a lopsided final score that flew in the face of the earlier showdowns. All five previous matches either went to a shootout, were one-goal games or were close enough to feature an empty-net goal near the final horn.

Two-time Stanley Cup champion and right winger Phil Kessel has led Arizona up front while breakout defenseman Jakob Chychrun has emerged as its most dangerous blue-liner. Those two have paced Arizona all season and against the Kings in particular, with each player notching six points in six games thus far.

Lesser known players have also proven thorny for the Kings, as rookie Michael Bunting recorded a hat trick and former first-round pick Lawson Crouse scored half of his four goals this season against the Kings.

Kings at Arizona

When: 7 p.m. Monday/7 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Gila River Arena (limited in-person attendance)

TV/Radio: Bally Sports West//iHeartRadio

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Lakers lose for the sixth time in seventh game as LeBron James exits early

  • Toronto Raptors forward Freddie Gillespie, left, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers center Montrezl Harrell defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, May 2, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers scores a basket against Stanley Johnson #5 of the Toronto Raptors during the first half at Staples Center on May 2, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

  • Yuta Watanabe #18 of the Toronto Raptors dribbles the ball against Los Angeles Lakers during the first half at Staples Center on May 2, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

  • DeAndre’ Bembry #95 of the Toronto Raptors scores a basket against Alex Caruso #4 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half at Staples Center on May 2, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

  • Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers is pressured by Pascal Siakam #43 of the Toronto Raptors during the second half at Staples Center on May 2, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

  • Yuta Watanabe #18 of the Toronto Raptors talks with former Raptors center Marc Gasol #14 of the Los Angeles Lakers before the start of an NBA game at Staples Center on May 2, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

  • Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors shoots and scores a three-point basket, and is fouled by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half at Staples Center on May 2, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

  • Freddie Gillespie #55 of the Toronto Raptors goes up for a shot against Montrezl Harrell #15 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half at Staples Center on May 2, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Lakers center Montrezl Harrell, left, blocks the shot of Toronto Raptors forward Freddie Gillespie during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, May 2, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, top, and Toronto Raptors forward Freddie Gillespie go after a loose ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, May 2, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, right, shoots as Toronto Raptors center Khem Birch defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, May 2, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers center Montrezl Harrell, left, blocks the shot of Toronto Raptors center Khem Birch during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, May 2, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers center Montrezl Harrell, left, and Toronto Raptors forward Freddie Gillespie go after a rebound during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, May 2, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker, right, shoots as Toronto Raptors forward Freddie Gillespie defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, May 2, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam shoots during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday, May 2, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Toronto Raptors forward Freddie Gillespie, left, grabs a rebound away from Los Angeles Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, May 2, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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Given a few seconds and the ball, Kyle Lowry is never one to waste an opportunity.

The thick-set point guard dashed down the floor as halftime approached, dusting Alex Caruso and sidestepping LeBron James for a layup in less than six seconds to put his team up by 13 at the buzzer.

It was that kind of urgency that the Lakers saw often on Sunday night from the Toronto Raptors, but never managed to summon themselves until it was far too late. Their own opportunity to shore up their sinking spot in the standings was wasted ahead of a decisive stretch of games.

In the closest thing to a must-win the defending champions have played so far, the Lakers (36-28) did not live up to the moment in a 121-114 defeat to the shorthanded Raptors (27-38), the team’s sixth loss in seven games. And perhaps most disheartening of all was the scene midway through the fourth quarter, as LeBron James went to the locker room with soreness in his injured right ankle and did not return.

“This is the lowest we’ve been in a while, at least in the past two years, from a losing streak, I guess,” Anthony Davis said. “But the only way is up. We really can’t get any lower than this.”

As ever, there are built-in excuses: that James and Davis are only just back off of long layoffs; that Dennis Schröder could not play after entering COVID-19 protocols; that the team is still working in Andre Drummond and Ben McLemore. But on balance against a Raptors team that has struggled this year and played without Fred VanVleet, O.G. Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr., the reasons just did not add up to what unfolded.

It was a costly slip-up for the Lakers, who could have moved back into sole fifth place as the Dallas Mavericks lost earlier in the afternoon. Instead, they found themselves stuck in a three-way tangle for spots five through seven with the Mavericks and the Portland Trail Blazers, who won their game against the Boston Celtics. Dallas owns the tiebreaker with the Lakers at the end of the season.

The returning players from last year’s championship run described the team as disconnected, in part because of the injuries and absences that have racked them during this pandemic afflicted season. But plenty, they acknowledged, is still within their control.

“I think we’re unhealthy and just not good enough,” Kyle Kuzma said. “Losing six is very tough, and we’ve all had winnable games during that stretch. And it’s just a little disappointing. We’re just not together as a whole — team, staff, everything.”

James had 19 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists but was moving less nimbly than usual before he checked out at the 6:42 mark. While the Lakers pledged to see how his ankle responds overnight, the early exit bodes ill for his availability for Monday night’s game against the Denver Nuggets, and perhaps too for how much the Lakers can play him in their three other back-to-back series after this one.

The 36-year-old didn’t second-guess his decision to return on Friday, but in part because he couldn’t see how he could do it any other way with his team in need and practices few and far in-between.

“You never know until you get out there,” he said. “Because honestly some of the sharp pain that I’m feeling or the pain that I’m feeling on the floor I didn’t have during my workouts, during my training or during my running and things of that nature so the only way to test is to get out on the floor.”

The Raptors had a huge night from Pascal Siakam, who poured in 39 points, as well as Lowry (37 points, 11 assists), who was the subject of intense intrigue with the Lakers at the trade deadline. While the Lakers ultimately decided package centered around Schröder, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Talen Horton-Tucker was too high of a price, Lowry made a case for the road not taken.

The 35-year-old was an assassin when it counted most, nailing back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the fourth quarter when the Lakers had cut the 21-point lead down to 10 thanks to a bench-driven run. Another top-of-the-key 3-pointer crushed perhaps the last meaningful sign of life from the 2020 champs playing what’s left of the 2019 champs.

Tellingly: Raptors spot starters Stanley Johnson and Malachi Flynn did not score a single point.

“We’re just not playing well right now, you know what I mean: We’re working through that stuff,” coach Frank Vogel said. “They’re playing some bench guys. They’re playing with great energy that don’t typically get the opportunity and some of those possessions we look like we were stuck in mud.”

It was another uneven night from Davis, who drifted for stretches of his 5 for 16 performance, finishing with just 12 points. Andre Drummond had 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Kuzma led with 24 points off the bench.

The game started much more auspiciously, with the Lakers blistering to 38 points in the first quarter. Alex Caruso filled in as a starter, looking capable in Schröder’s relief, and Kuzma was red hot for 11 points on 4 for 5 shooting — including a baseline dunk that seemed to indicate the Lakers meant business.

But as has been the case recently, the early energy burned off as Lowry and Siakam got going. It hurt that the Lakers were foul-happy, putting Toronto to the line 18 times in the second quarter alone. The defensive inattentiveness helped players like Deandre’ Bembry successful cut to the hoop from behind.

It added up to a 40-21 Toronto edge in the pivotal second quarter. Coming out of what had to be a disappointing halftime break, the Lakers immediately surrendered five straight points to start the third quarter — their competitive fire missing in action.

After the Nuggets, the Lakers play the Clippers, the Trail Blazers and the Phoenix Suns — all Western playoff teams — in quick succession.

It might have been the play-in games shading his heels, but James openly voiced his disdain for the format in which the Lakers would have to win their way into the first round: “Whoever came up with that (expletive) need to be fired. But whatever.”

But he added that in his opinion, as long as the Lakers reach the fabled stage where they are all healthy, that’s the most important thing.

“It doesn’t matter at the end of the day if I’m not 100 percent or close to 100 percent,” he said. “It don’t matter where we land. That’s my mindset.”

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Los Alamitos softball finds its offensive firepower, knocks off No. 1 Villa Park

LOS ALAMITOS — Facing the hottest pitcher on the No. 1-ranked softball team in Orange County didn’t appear to be most favorable match-up for Los Alamitos High’s scuffling offense on Saturday, May 1.

But the Griffins had plans for Arizona commit Sydney Somerndike and Villa Park, plenty of resolve and even a few base running surprises from Coach Rob Weil.

Oklahoma-bound Sophia Nugent belted a two-run home run and Malayna Terrones and Emma Haygood added back-to-back home runs as the No. 3 Griffins emerged from their hitting slump to defeat previously undefeated Villa Park 8-1 in a Savanna Showcase game at Los Alamitos.

  • Los Alamitos center fielder Erin Mendoza robs Villa Park’s Claire Duckworth of a home run in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)

  • Villa Park third baseman Mikayla Maher puts the tag on Los Alamitos’s Camryn Johnson only to have her be called safe in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Alamitos catcher Sophia Nugent, center, is congratulated after hitting a two-run home run against Villa Park in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)

  • Villa Park’s Claire Duckworth is congratulated after hitting a solo home run against Los Alamitos in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)

  • Villa Park starting pitcher Emma Haygood walks off the mound after being relieved in the sixth inning against Los Alamitos in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Alamitos shortstop Emma Sellers hauls in a short pop fly against Villa Park in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Alamitos catcher Sophia Nugent gets a low-five from head coach Rob Weil after hitting a two-run home run against Villa Park in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Alamitos pitcher Maline Anjali pitched a complete game against Villa Park, giving up only one run in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Alamitos’ Jazzy Santos slides into second base safe as Villa Park second baseman Andreya Flores can’t handle the throw in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)

  • Villa Park pitcher Sydney Somerndike cranks up to throw a pitch in th efirst inning against Los Alamitos in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)

  • Villa Park’s Courtney Alvarado is confused after being called out for running into Los Alamitos second baseman in the middle of a play in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Alamitos cathcer Sophia Nugent connects for a two-run home run against Villa Park in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)

  • Villa Park’s Andreya Flores celebrates hitting a double against Los Alamitos in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)

  • Villa Park outfielder Tessa Galvin, number 14, nearly collides with another player as she drops a bloop single by Los Alamitos’ Diamond Sefe in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)

  • Villa Park outfielders Riley Sandvig, left, and Claire Duckworth, right, react after a home run hit by Los Alamitos Emma Haygood in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)

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Los Alamitos (11-4) lost 3-1 and 1-0 earlier this week to Edison and Crescenta Valley, respectively. The previous week, the Griffins fell to Pacifica and Huntington Beach, 3-2, and, 5-4, respectively.

“We’ve been playing some good quality teams and good pitchers and we just kind of hit the wall,” Weil said of the stretch. “Hitting is contagious, up and a down the lineup. One (hit) falls, and it seems like they all fall. Today, we had a game plan with this kid, who is very talented … and were able to connect on a few balls.”

Weil said the Griffins’ approach was to stay off Somerndike’s rise ball and force the junior to bring her pitchers lower in the zone.

“She’s a rise-ball pitcher,” Weil said. “We were very disciplined.”

In the fourth, Nugent belted a 1-1 pitch to right to give Los Alamitos a 3-0 lead. The senior drove in No. 9 batter Jules Ronquillo, who reached one batter earlier on a two-out bunt single.

Los Alamitos finished with 11 hits off Somerndike (13-1), including back-to-back shots by Terrones and Haygood in a four-run seventh. It was the first home runs of the season for the left-handed hitters.

Villa Park coach Terry Williams said Somerndike was bothered by a jammed finger on her pitching hand.

“I debated not pitching her at all,” he said. “Her rise ball wasn’t working for her. … but she battled through it and tried to give us a chance.”

Los Alamitos sophomore pitcher Anjali Maline (2-0) went the distance for the Griffins, allowing only a solo home run to sophomore Claire Duckworth with two outs in the fourth. Duckworth nearly homered in the second but center fielder Erin Mendoza robbed her of the homer with a running catch at the fence.

Weil also injected plenty of base running into the Griffins’ attack. With two out in the third, Diamond Sefe stole third on a fake bunt and scored the first run when the throw from the catcher sailed down the line.

After Haygood led off the sixth with a double, Mendoza followed with a bunt single and purposely rounded first aggressively to create a rundown, which led to pinch-runner Camryn Johnson scoring from second.

“We did get a little frustrated at first (about our offensive woes) but then we started to realize we’re in this together,” Nugent said. “We had a 6 a.m. practice recently and we worked on some things and fixed things.”

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Capistrano Valley basketball takes care of Trabuco Hills with stingy defense

MISSION VIEJO — The Capistrano Valley boys basketball team stayed unbeaten by using a smothering defense to beat Trabuco Hills 58-35 in a South Coast League game Friday night at Capistrano Valley High.

The Cougars (8-0, 3-0) held the Mustangs (3-2, 1-2) to seven points in the first and third periods.

The Mustangs trailed 17-7 entering the second quarter, and were behind 33-21 at halftime.

Cougars coach Brian Mulligan was pleased with his team’s defensive intensity from the outset.

“We pretty much talked about defense after the Tesoro game the other night because we weren’t very good defensively,” Mulligan said. “This team (Trabuco Hills) scores easy, so again, getting the defense right makes the whole thing way more functional. We did defend and rebound well tonight.”

The Cougars, who are ranked No. 3 in Orange County, had three players score in double figures, led by Gavin O’Neill with a game-high 16 points. O’Neill also hit three 3-pointers in the second half. Gavin Thompson finished with 11 points, all in the first half, while Aidan O’Neill added 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Joey Longo had 12 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, for Trabuco, which is No. 23 in the county.

Kyle McLain and Longo hit back-to-back threes to get Trabuco Hills within 19-13 in the second quarter, but that was as close as it would get.

Gavin O’Neill and Thompson started to take control at that point. O’Neill’s three-point play gave the Cougars a 22-13 lead, Thompson hit a shot from behind the arc and scored on a putback on the next possession to give Capo Valley a 27-13 lead.

“Thompson battled. He cares, and he’s my only junior out there,” Mulligan said, “and they’re learning to trust him a lot more.” Mulligan said.

Gavin O’Neill knocked down his first 3-pointer in the third to give the Cougars a 42-25 advantage. He went on the drill two more 3s in the fourth quarter.

“We were a little disappointed that we couldn’t make a 3 in the first half, but Gavin is a really good outside shooter. His brother (Aidan) is actually a really good outside shooter too, it makes it easy for me to coach,” Mulligan said.

Langston Redfield contributed eight points, 11 rebounds and five assists, and Landon Li was a defensive menace to the Mustangs backcourt.

“My four main guys that play almost all the minutes,” Mulligan said, referring to the O’Neill twins, Redfield and Li, “boy, they play well together.”

Capo Valley will face Mission Viejo on Wednesday, May 5 in a South Coast League game.

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