The Oracle Sports Notes : LSU Captures National Title, Here's how the Los Angeles Lakers are winning without Anthony Davis

LSU's defense gave up just eight points in the second half and blanked Clemson in the fourth quarter to seal up the national title.

      

NEW ORLEANS — When it mattered most, LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda finished with a shutout.

After much criticism throughout the season, including from coach Ed Orgeron, Aranda's defense held Clemson scoreless in the fourth quarter and to just eight points in the second half for a 42-25 national championship win in front of 76,885 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Clemson cut a 28-17 LSU lead to 28-25 early in the third quarter, but that was it for the defending national champions, who finished 14-1 with their first loss since the Sugar Bowl following the 2017 season. 

"Coach Aranda had a great game plan since day one when we started studying Clemson," said LSU linebacker Patrick Queen, who finished with eight tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss.

"We trusted him and went to work on it," he said. "And together, to be able to make those kind of plays, I want to give God the glory for it. I want to thank Coach O for believing in me that I could play this position."

LSU's defense had allowed 160 yards in the first quarter and 286 by halftime. But Clemson finished with just 394.

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For Clemson, Monday night's CFP championship game loss to LSU only momentarily delayed its dynasty. The Tigers know they'll be back.

      

NEW ORLEANS — To shower, change and get dressed in the loser's locker room was a new feeling for a swath of Clemson's roster, from the true freshman through sophomores who had won every game, including a national championship, since joining a program with designs on cementing a dynasty equal to any in the sport's history.

Confidence was high in the weeks between the Fiesta Bowl and Monday night's College Football Playoff national championship game, even if the opponent, top-ranked LSU, represented the sort of challenge Clemson hadn't faced in completing another unbeaten regular season.

"We really felt super confident," said quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter.

LSU's 42-25 win will usher in a different sort of offseason. Clemson's dynasty was stopped in its tracks by an offense — and specifically a quarterback, Joe Burrow — that did something no opponent had done during the Tigers' active five-year run: dominate the tone, tempo and tenor of a game with winner-take-all stakes.



"I really liked our plan going in, and man, the guys practiced so well for two weeks," said co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott, now the head coach at South Florida. "You just hope as a coach that your practice carries over to the field. And for whatever reason, we were just off. It wasn’t just one person, it was multiple guys all over the place."

The answer is simple if unsatisfying, and not becoming of a program one game away from penciling itself into college football history. On this night, Clemson ran up against a better team — a once-in-a-generation powerhouse of perfection, a team synced up with the quarterback, scheme, talent, coaching and motivation to unseat the Tigers from atop the Football Bowl Subdivision.

"LSU was just the better team tonight," said senior center Sean Pollard. "Give all props to them."

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The post-LeBron era was not pleasant in Miami, but now the Heat are thriving again.

PAT RILEY'S INCREDIBLE track record aside, it was hard to take him at face value nine months ago.

"Whether you believe me or not, we're at the launching pad right now," Riley said during his annual postseason news conference. "We've been through this now a long time. We know how to do this. We have done it in a myriad of different ways. We're going to figure it out."

Riley's Miami Heat had missed the playoffs for a third time in five seasons. The Heat were capped out and had gone from chasing stars to overpaying role players. As a result, as the rest of the NBA was about to embark on one of the wildest summers of player movement ever, Miami seemed doomed to be relegated to the sidelines.

Riley, though, was undeterred.



"Don't make any conclusions that we're stuck with certain contracts. That would be foolish thinking," Riley said. "There aren't any obstacles, there are only opportunities."

The Heat front office saw something they thought doubters were dismissing. Their choppy last few seasons aside, they believed their franchise and the City of Miami hadn't dimmed as drawing cards. They felt they didn't need cap space or high draft picks to make it happen. They needed only a star who wanted to be in Miami.

Sure, the Los Angeles and New York teams were rivals, but that was nothing new. The Heat had beaten those teams for stars in the past. Riley and his trusted lieutenants firmly believed an active marketplace played to their favor, and 2019 free agency would be active.

Once again, the old master was proved right. It showed in his wide smile as he sat alongside Jimmy Butler last July, the landing of a star that has become a turning point. To some, it was an unexpected sign-and-trade. Then -- as Riley predicted he could -- he unloaded Hassan Whiteside's bloated expiring contract, creating the path for Bam Adebayo to elevate from role player to second star.

In short, the Heat are back, and back to doing what they've always done: gathering stars and contending. From Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway to Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal to the "Heatles" of Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, Riley has done this time and again since joining the Heat 25 years ago.

Now the Heat are on the hunt for another big catch. Whether it's a member of the desirable 2021 free agency class or another star Riley lures to South Florida, he has one more chance to create a Big Three on the shores of Biscayne Bay.

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The LA Lakers have shown how they could adjust should Anthony Davis continue to miss playing time.

      

LOS ANGELES — First, the obvious disclaimer. The Lakers are not better without Anthony Davis.

So spare those takes just because the Lakers had a 128-99 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday at Staples Center, which marked the team’s third consecutive win while Davis stayed sidelined with continued soreness in his lower tailbone area.

Nonetheless, the Lakers have shown within a small sample size some big-picture implications on how they have adjusted.

Lakers still can lean on LeBron

The Lakers may miss Davis’ inside dominance and defense. Even if they do not want to put too much more strain on James, he has shown he can handle an extra burden in the short term.  

Two days after missing Saturday’s game in Oklahoma City with flu-like symptoms, LeBron James had 31 points on 12-of-16 shooting and eight assists against Cleveland. And against Dallas on Friday, James powered the Lakers with 35 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists.



“He’s always in attack mode. But he’s probably a little bit more when AD is out,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s going to do whatever it takes to win, whether it’s getting his teammates involved or being assertive and looking for his own shot and attacking the basket.”

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