Why Lakers’ loss may help them win the series
The Lakers' 21-point second half comeback fell short against the Nuggets but may have given them a blueprint to win the series.
Good morning and welcome to The Morning Column presented by The Sporting Tribune. Please subscribe if you haven’t done so already. It’s free and will be delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. OK, let’s get to it!
1. Why Lakers’ loss may help them win the series
The Lakers' 21-point second half comeback fell short against the Nuggets but may have given them a blueprint to win the series, writes The Sporting Tribune’s Mark Medina.
The Los Angeles Lakers initially looked tired. The Lakers later looked energetic. The Lakers initially appeared overwhelmed with the Denver Nuggets’ dominance. The Lakers later appeared resilient enough to overcome it.
Unlike in their previous playoff series, the Lakers failed to throw the first punch in their 132-126 loss to the Nuggets in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday. Just like what they showed against Memphis and Golden State, however, the seventh-seeded Lakers still proved they have what it takes to challenge another championship contender.
At first, the Lakers looked gassed while playing in the city’s high altitude. Later on, the Lakers regained their second wind. At first, the Lakers played as if they would allow Nuggets’ center Nikola Jokic to run them out of the building. Later on, the Lakers countered with a dominant Anthony Davis. At first, the Nuggets’ depth became too much to handle. Later on, the Lakers showcased their own. At first, the Lakers trailed by double digits for most of the game. Later on, the Lakers kept chipping away enough to reduce the Nuggets’ lead to single digits in the game’s final minutes.
So, what should the Lakers make of all of this?
2. Lakers’ rally falls short against the Nuggets in Game 1
The Lakers comeback from 21 points down but fall to the Denver Nuggets, 132-126, in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, writes The Sporting Tribune’s Rey Moralde.
The Lakers were down for nearly the entire game. A late rush gave L.A. a chance to steal the contest but, ultimately, Denver held them off and won Game 1, 132-126.
Darvin Ham immediately tinkered with the starting line-up. Actually, he didn't tinker at all. He kept the same starters from Game 6 against the Warriors (LeBron James, Anthony Davis, D'Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, and Dennis Schröder). It didn't work very well.
Nikola Jokic just served everybody at the start. Coupled with the lack of energy from the Lakers (maybe it's the altitude instead of attitude), the Nuggets got off to a 30-14 start. Jokic involved all his teammates and was grabbing every board in sight.
3. Becky Hammon suspended two games, Aces lose 2025 draft pick
The WNBA has suspended coach Becky Hammon for two games without pay for violating league and team policies, and has also rescinded the Aces' 2025 first-round draft pick, writes The Sporting Tribune’s W.G. Ramirez.
One day after the Las Vegas Aces were paraded around the elaborate multi-story video production facility Vu Studios for their annual media day, the WNBA smacked a bit of reality back into the defending world champions.
The league announced Tuesday it has suspended coach Becky Hammon for two games without pay for violating league and team "Respect in the Workplace" policies, and has also rescinded the Aces' 2025 first-round draft pick. Due to a prior trade, Las Vegas does not have a 2024 first-round draft pick.
The penalties come after the monthslong investigation stemming from Dearica Hamby’s allegation she was bullied and manipulated for being pregnant.
The team violation involved promises of impermissible benefits in connection with negotiations for an extension of then-Aces player Hamby's player contract. Hamby signed a two-year extension last June, then was traded on Jan. 21 to the Los Angeles Sparks. The "Respect in the Workplace" violation was related to comments made by Hammon to Hamby in connection with Hamby’s recent pregnancy.
4. Headlining Fights Announced for UFC 291 and UFC 292
Dustin Poirier vs. Justin Gaethje 2 is set to headline UFC 291 among other title fights announced by UFC President Dana White, writes The Sporting Tribune’s Leila Amiri.
Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje will face off once again in a lightweight bout to headline UFC 291 on Saturday, July 29, at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, U.T., announced today by UFC President Dana White. The two former UFC interim lightweight champions will fight for the second “BMF” title in this five-round main event.
The “BMF” title was first introduced to the UFC in a welterweight bout between Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz in 2019. The UFC decided it was time to reintroduce the belt after the retirement of the former "BMF" champion, Masvidal, who won the title via TKO.
While Gaethje looks to avenge his loss against Poirier, who won via fourth-round KO in 2018, former UFC middleweight champion Alex Pereira will make his light heavyweight debut against former UFC light-heavyweight champion Jan Błachowicz to set the co-main event.
5. Francis Ngannou signs deal with PFL
Former UFC heavyweight Francis Ngannou has finally signed a new deal with the PFL, writes The Sporting Tribune’s Gabriel Ornelas.
Francis Ngannou has found a new home.
Professional Fighters League signed Ngannou to a multifight contract on Tuesday, which was announced via The New York Times. The signing ends a highly publicized free agency period for Ngannou.
Ngannou and the PFL are labeling the deal as a “strategic partnership,” which includes equity and leadership roles within PFL along with Ngannou’s ability to seek boxing fights outside of the PFL. Ngannou is expected to make his MMA debut for the PFL next year, but intends to fight in a boxing ring this year. The deal includes naming Ngannou the chairman of PFL Africa, which is an expansion initiative to produce events on the continent, along with serving on the company’s advisory board to represent fighter interests.
“Let’s just say, all-in my deal with P.F.L is more than anyone else offered,” Ngannou said to the New York Times. “They didn’t just show up as a promotion that was looking for a fighter, but really came as a partner that sees more value in you as a person.”
Ngannou will fight in the Super Fight division, which includes Jake Paul and Kayla Harrison. The division allows fighters to have larger guarantees and larger cuts of pay-per-view revenue, which is not a common sight in MMA.
6. “Angel City” docuseries reveals Angel City’s “unapologetic” rise
Angel City's owners were told they would fail. But they did not. HBOs "Angel City" reveals their journey to the top, writes The Sporting Tribune’s Kamran Nia.
Natalie Portman never imagined she would be the owner of a women’s soccer team. And when she tried, she was told by many people her team would be a failure. But now that she has done it, she claims it is her most extraordinary experience.
HBO is releasing a three-part docuseries on May 16 called “Angel City,” answering that question. The series details Angel City’s inaugural season, exploring the joys and disappointments of the club’s launch. Cinematographer Arlene Nelson directed it, while Portman was one of the executive producers.
7. Odds and Ends presented by Circa Sports
Here are some odds at Circa Sports if you’re thinking about placing a wager today:
8. Ticket Time presented by TickPick
Here are the “get in” prices for tickets if you’re thinking about going to a game today.
12:00 p.m. – Minnesota Twins at Los Angeles Dodgers – $15
7:30 p.m. – Sporting Kansas City at LAFC – $26
9. On the Air presented by The D Las Vegas
Here are the game times and television channels for professional teams in the region today.
12:00 p.m. – Minnesota Twins at Los Angeles Dodgers – SportsNet LA
3:30 p.m. – Los Angeles Angels at Baltimore Orioles – Bally Sports West
4:30 p.m. – LA Galaxy at Columbus Crew – Apple TV
7:30 p.m. – Sporting Kansas City at LAFC – Apple TV
10. The Arash Markazi Show presented by The Sporting Tribune
The Sporting Tribune’s Arash Markazi is joined by Brandon Deutsch and Ji Hae Wiley to discuss Doc Rivers getting fired by the Philadelphia 76ers and joining a list of championship coaches in the NBA who are looking for jobs this summer. Will LA Clippers coach Ty Lue be the next coach on the move this offseason?
Listen to The Arash Markazi Show presented by The Sporting Tribune on The Mightier 1090 ESPN Radio in Southern California, 98.5 The Bet in Las Vegas and the Hawaii Sports Radio Network 95.1 FM and 760 AM in Hawaii. You can also listen to the show on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Stitcher.
Thank you for reading. Please click below to subscribe to The Morning Column presented by The Sporting Tribune. It’s free and will be delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.
That’s it for today. Talk to you tomorrow!