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Playing the over/under in L.A.

It’s the holiday season and we love lists. Who’s naughty. Who’s nice.

We love rankings too. Top 10 stories of the year. People of the year. Man of the year. Woman of the year.

Who didn’t go home from a holiday dinner and rank the proteins (turkey, ham, prime rib, oysters), the sides (stuffing, corn, spinach casserole, cranberries), the desserts (pumpkin pie, pecan pie, yule log, cookies)?

You saw the kids in the corner dismissing action figures and embracing video games. You saw the adults in the living room hooking up the new TVs and playing with the new iPads while crumpled sweaters were stuffed back in boxes that somehow had found their way behind the tree.

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Rankings, they’re what we do, intentionally or not.

So here is our 2012-going-on-2013 ranking of Los Angeles’ major sports teams. (Sorry, USC water polo and tennis -- national titles are nice, but your stage isn’t quite large enough.)

The ratings are broken into three categories: Overachievers, achievers who performed as expected, and underachievers who prompted bitter disappointment, caused fans to say bad words and discouraged them from putting little flags on their big cars.

Choosing the most overachieving team kept us up nights. (Well, that and reruns of “Real Housewives of Miami.” Come on, who doesn’t rank plastic surgery?)

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Had there been an NHL season this fall, or maybe even the prospect of one starting soon, the No. 1 spot would have been easy, like picking low-hanging fruit.

Picking the biggest underachiever? That was easy.

So, in the spirit of today’s fans and the prevalent idea of what have you done (or not done) for me lately, here is The Los Angeles Times’ 13-to-1, worst-to-first ranking of the moment. (See, that way next week you can’t yell at us. It will be a new moment.)

Underachievers

13 - USC FOOTBALL: Picked No. 1 in the nation in the preseason by some polls and No. 2 by most others, the Trojans finished unranked and were sent crankily off to the Sun Bowl, which hasn’t been played yet. Totally likable quarterback Matt Barkley announced he would stay and play his final season with two wide receivers, Marqise Lee and Robert Woods, who are among the best in the country. Apparently someone forgot to tell Coach Lane Kiffin’s dad, Monte, the assistant head coach in charge of the defense, that he was still working. A year after they pounded UCLA, 50-0, the Trojans lost to their crosstown rival for only the second time since 1998, then lost to Notre Dame for the second time since 2001 to finish the regular season with four losses in the last five games.

12 - USC BASKETBALL: Able to start two 7-footers and loaded with transfers from basketball powers such as Wake Forest and Iowa, the Trojans were supposed to be past all the Tim Floyd sanctions and ready to fill the lovely Galen Center. Never mind. Going into Sunday’s game against Dayton, USC has a record of 4-8, with losses to the likes of Georgia, Nebraska and UC Irvine. Until the mistake was publicized a couple of days ago, the first line of Kevin O’Neill’s Wikipedia biography read “Kevin O’Neill (born January 24, 1957) was American head coach of the USC Trojans basketball team.” Omen?

11 - UCLA BASKETBALL: The Bruins were expected to contend for a Pac-12 title last season, but then Reeves Nelson was kicked off the team, Joshua Smith seemed to gain weight every day and UCLA didn’t even make the NCAA tournament. After beleaguered Coach Ben Howland signed what was considered one of the best freshmen classes in the nation, the Bruins began the season nationally ranked. But then Jeremy Lamb left the team, and then Smith did too, and the Bruins were beaten by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, among others. Now they’re unranked and Howland’s job might be in jeopardy, though an upset win over seventh-ranked Missouri on Friday night has given Bruins fans hope.

10 - ANGELS: Remember when Angels fans were spitting mad that they couldn’t buy tickets fast enough after Albert Pujols was signed? And that was even before they knew the next Mickey Mantle, rookie Mike Trout, would turn heads in the league. Yet a horrific start meant the talented Angels missed the newly expanded playoffs. How does that $400 Pujols replica jersey fit now, Angels fans?

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9 - LAKERS: They’ve already dumped a coach. They desperately hope a 38-year-old point guard, Steve Nash, will make Kobe Bryant happy and the team a champion again. Is there an AARP division of the NBA? And they’re playing second fiddle in L.A. to the Clippers. Doesn’t that make all Lakers fans at least a tiny bit nauseated?

Achievers

8 - DUCKS: They didn’t make the NHL playoffs, but they did put on an exciting late-season surge to almost join the Kings. And, hey, the Ducks already have one of those Stanley Cups. It even looked like they were going to have Teemu Selanne for another year, but he might be 80 when the NHL comes back. So never mind.

7 - CHIVAS USA: With a record of 7-18-9 and 30 points, a coach who was fired after the season and a new owner in Jorge Vergara, maybe Chivas overachieved. Or underachieved. What it did was make almost no mark on the Los Angeles sports scene, so we’ll give the team the benefit of the doubt and put it in the middle.

6 - SPARKS: The Sparks went 24-10, finished second in the WNBA’s Western Conference and lost in the West finals. While any team with Candace Parker is supposed to win, it brought hope to see Parker playing well after she missed most of the 2011 season. Parker had 33 points and 15 rebounds in an 80-79 loss to Minnesota that eliminated the Sparks. Better things might be ahead.

Overachievers

5 - UCLA FOOTBALL: The Bruins had a new coach, Jim Mora, who was, oh, fourth or fifth choice, and the fresh memory of that 50-0 loss to USC. Notwithstanding, let’s not mince words, an embarrassing 49-26 loss to Baylor on Thursday night in the Holiday Bowl, the Bruins beat USC this season and played in the Pac-12 championship game for the second year in a row. There might even be a silver lining in that ugly loss at the San Diego Chargers’ stadium: Those rumors that Mora was a candidate for the Chargers’ coaching job might now go away.

4 - DODGERS: They didn’t win a title or make the playoffs but they were in it until the end. More important, dreadful owners Frank and Jamie McCourt moved out and neither has any say about the Dodgers anymore. Magic Johnson became involved. The Dodgers went 86-76, finished second to the Giants in the NL West even with star center fielder Matt Kemp out for too long a stretch, and have strengthened the roster by trading for or signing stars such as Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Zack Greinke.

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3 - GALAXY: The Galaxy sent David Beckham, world-famous player, star, personality, sex symbol, all of that, away from Southern California with a rousing MLS championship, the team’s second consecutive title. Beckham isn’t sure where he’ll play next year, but for a couple of seasons he helped make Home Depot Center in Carson a place to be. And Beckham’s presence sold out nearly every road game while helping the Galaxy average more than 23,000 in home attendance. One suspects that Carson will go back to being Carson without Beckham and a title next year.

2 - KINGS: Let’s refresh your memories. The Kings went into the Stanley Cup playoffs seeded eighth in the West, barely making the postseason. They changed coaches in mid-December (maybe giving hope to coaching-confused teams like the Lakers this season). They were next-to-last in the NHL in scoring. They didn’t secure a playoff spot until the last weekend of the regular season.

Then, all of a sudden, as if picked by a higher power, the Kings started winning. Or at least not losing. They didn’t drop a game in the first three rounds of the playoffs, and suddenly Kings car flags were flapping everywhere, even way down in Orange County.

When the Kings won Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals, 6-1 over the New Jersey Devils, to earn their first Stanley Cup since the franchise was born in 1967, it seemed the celebrating would never stop.

Instead, the sport stopped. The 2012-13 season hasn’t begun because of a labor dispute, and it might not happen at all. That is no way to treat the fans, especially in Los Angeles, where people might not remember what is getting honored if the league ever comes back and the Kings receive the bounty of their title.

If they were playing now, even badly, the Kings would have been No. 1.

1 - CLIPPERS: The Clippers are in the midst of a 16-game winning streak. Billy Crystal all of a sudden has more friends than fingers. “Billy, you got two in the front row, the lower bowl, at a restaurant across the street?”

The Clippers’ winning streak is a franchise record. Their 24-6 start is not only the best in team history, but the best record in the NBA right now.

It’s not just the winning, but how they’ve been winning -- by an average of more than 15 points per game.

You might see Blake Griffin make a dunk that hasn’t been conceived by anyone else. You might see him miss one in equally unimagined horrific fashion, but you’re guaranteed to see something exciting.

The Clippers, with Chris Paul keeping DeAndre Jordan under control like Michael Jordan used to do with Dennis Rodman, were expected to be better this year -- a playoff team and more -- but this much better?

It could all still go bad, but that’s not our problem. We’re of the moment, remember? And this moment is awfully fun for Clippers fans.

Come to think of it, Kings fans too. Because the Stanley Cup just might be in Los Angeles forever.

--

diane.pucin@latimes.com twitter.com/mepucin


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