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The Sports Report: Lakers lose again

Detroit's Delon Wright shoots over Lakers center Marc Gasol during the first half.
(Associated Press)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

Dan Woike on the Lakers: There are nights in the NBA season when all eyes will be on the Lakers, when they need to try and stop Giannis Antetokounmpo or Joel Embiid in possible NBA Finals previews. There are nights when a historic rivalry with the Celtics will fuel a team.

And then there are nights like Thursday, when the NBA schedule finds you on the floor of a four-win team in a 20-degree town at the end of January, the playoffs an eternity away and the energy from the newness of the season already worn off.

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What do you need to do to win on those nights?

Well, you’ve got to play better than this.

The Lakers’ couldn’t capitalize on LeBron James’ hot start, and as the rims tightened, the Lakers’ spirit faded. One night after they almost came back in Philadelphia, they happily went away in Detroit, losing to the Pistons 107-92.

It’s the first time this season the Lakers have lost consecutive games.

James hit his first seven shots, scoring 20 points in the game’s first 20 minutes before he went ice cold. James scored just two more points on 1-for-12 shooting the rest of the game.

With few exceptions, no one was much better on a night when they needed their depth to show up. Anthony Davis didn’t play because of swelling related to a contusion on his right quad muscle.

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CLIPPERS

Actual ticketholders were back at a Miami Heat game for the first time since March. The Clippers had many of them deciding to leave early.

Nicolas Batum scored 18 points and the Clippers used a 20-2 run in the third quarter to help fuel what became a 109-105 victory over the short-handed and reeling Heat on Thursday night.

Lou Williams had 17 points for the Clippers, who were again without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George because of the league’s virus protocols and Patrick Beverley with right knee soreness.

“Big win for us tonight,“ Batum said.

The Clippers won despite trailing by 18 early, the franchise’s biggest comeback win since rallying from 31 down to beat Golden State in a playoff game on April 15, 2019.

“We just continue to keep playing, kept fighting, kept competing, just trying to play the right way,“ coach Tyronn Lue said.

Tyler Herro returned after missing seven games with neck spasms and scored 19 points for Miami, which dropped its fifth straight and is 6-12 after going to the NBA Finals last season. The Heat welcomed back about 1,500 fans, all of whom had to get past virus-sniffing dogs or pass a rapid coronavirus test, for the first time since last season was suspended on March 11 as the pandemic was beginning.

USC MEN’S BASKETBALL

Ryan Kartje on USC men’s basketball: In a season so uncertain second chances are hardly assured. So in its second shot at Oregon State in just over a week, USC made sure to stockpile as many second, third, and even fourth chances as possible to ensure a 75-62 victory Thursday at Galen Center.

The result was a dominant performance on the offensive glass, which gave way, eventually, to shots falling from the perimeter. What began as a grinding, back-and-forth affair, similar to last week’s ugly two-point defeat at Oregon State, turned into a fiery effort from the field in which USC shot nearly 62% in the second half and buried the Beavers.

“We didn’t play a perfect game today,” USC coach Andy Enfield said, “but we grinded out a home win which was important.”

It was an especially redemptive stretch for an offense that went ice cold when it mattered most the last time these teams met. The Trojans were held scoreless for the final 2:19 against the Beavers on Jan. 19, squandering every opportunity at completing a comeback in what wound up being their first loss of 2021.

So on Thursday, Enfield tried a different approach. After shooting 33% in the first half, USC (13-3, 7-2 in the Pac-12) played with four guards for much of the second, spreading the floor as much as possible around either freshman Evan Mobley or graduate transfer Chevez Goodwin.

RAMS

Gary Klein on the Rams: With Rams coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead giving quarterback Jared Goff no vote of confidence, the team that selected Goff with the first pick in the 2016 NFL draft appears poised to move on.

Cutting Goff would trigger a prohibitive $65.2-million dead cap hit, so a trade or free-agent signing is the most probable way to replace him.

A look at potential targets if the Rams move on from Goff:

Deshaun Watson

Aaron Rodgers

Matthew Stafford

Sam Darnold

Dak Prescott

Matt Ryan

John Wolford

KINGS

Kirill Kaprizov scored the second goal of his rookie season to cap Minnesota’s three-goal first period and the Wild beat the Kings 5-3.

Marcus Johansson had a goal and an assist, and Kevin Fiala, Nick Bjugstad and Joel Eriksson Ek also scored for Minnesota, which had lost two in a row. Kaapo Kahkonen made 32 saves for the Wild.

Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty and Alex Iafallo scored for the Kings in the second straight and fourth overall meeting between the two teams this season. Jonathan Quick stopped 23 shots for the Kings, who lost two defensemen to scary-looking injuries.

Matt Roy left after going headfirst into the boards, and Sean Walker was hit in the face by a slap shot.

Also, Kings forward Andreas Athanasiou was added to the NHL’s list of “players unavailable due to COVID protocols,” ruling him out of the game against the Wild and leaving his status for the upcoming schedule in doubt.

HORSE RACING

John Cherwa on horse racing: Authentic, winner of the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic, won two Eclipse Awards on Thursday night, including Horse of the Year. The Santa Anita-based colt was retired in November at the top of his game to start a more lucrative career as a stallion.

Authentic won two of the four awards given to horses based in Southern California. Authentic also won the 3-Year-Old Male award joining Improbable as Older Dirt Male and Gamine as Female Sprinter. All three of the horses were trained by Bob Baffert, who was a finalist for trainer of the year but did not get the award for top trainer from the mostly East Coast-based voting bloc.

Brad Cox, who only had one Eclipse-winning horse, won the trainer award with 106 first-place votes compared to 69 for Baffert. Monomoy Girl, winner of Older Dirt Female, is trained by Cox.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1950 — In an Associated Press poll of sports writers and broadcasters, Jack Dempsey is voted the greatest fighter of the last 50 years. Dempsey received 251 votes to 104 for Joe Louis.

1963 — Eleven players and six officials are elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Jim Thorpe, Red Grange, Bronco Nagurski, Sammy Baugh, Dutch Clark, Johnny McNally, Ernie Nevers, Mel Hein, Pete Henry, Cal Hubbard and Don Hutson are the players. The six officials are Bert Bell, Joe Carr, George Halas, Curly Lambeau, Tim Mara and George Preston.

1971 — Hal Greer of Philadelphia becomes the sixth player in NBA history to score 20,000 points as the 76ers lose to Milwaukee 142-118.

1980 — Norm Nixon plays a then NBA record 64 minutes for Los Angeles as the Lakers drop a 154-153 four-overtime decision to Cleveland.

1984 — The East outlasts the West 154-145 in overtime in the All-Star Game in Denver. MVP Isiah Thomas scores all 21 of his points after halftime and adds 15 assists as the East overcomes a 14-point halftime deficit and Magic Johnson’s record 22 assists.

1985 — Edmonton’s Jari Kurri scores his 100th point in the 39th game of the season with a goal in a 4-2 victory over the Calgary Flames.

1985 — Bryan Trottier of the New York Islanders scores his 1,000th point with a goal in a 4-4 tie with the Minnesota North Stars.

1988 — Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson breaks his own world indoor best in the 50-yard dash at the Toronto Sun Challenge. Johnson’s time of 5.15 seconds erases his previous mark of 5.20 seconds, set two weeks earlier.

1988 — The Detroit Pistons draw an NBA regular season record crowd of 61,983 fans to the Pontiac Silverdome, and the fans go home happy after watching the Pistons down the Boston Celtics 125-108.

1994 — Julio Cesar Chavez suffers his first loss in 91 fights when Frankie Randall knocks him down in the 11th round and wins the WBC super lightweight championship on a split decision.

1995 — San Francisco’s Steve Young throws a record six touchdown passes, and the 49ers became the first team to win five Super Bowls with a 49-26 rout of the San Diego Chargers.

1997 — Brian Himmler rolls two perfect games to take the lead after the first two rounds of qualifying at the PBA’s Columbia 300 Open.

2000 — Utah’s Karl Malone becomes the third player in NBA history to score 30,000 points when he makes a layup with 8:53 left in the third quarter of a 96-94 loss to Minnesota.

2010 — Bernard Lagat wins his eighth Wanamaker Mile at 103rd Millrose Games in New York. Lagat, who finishes in 3:56.34, had shared the record with Irish great Eamonn Coghlan.

2012 — Lydia Ko becomes the youngest person ever to win a pro golf tour event by winning the Bing Lee/Samsung Women’s NSW Open on the ALPG Tour. She is 14 and 8 months, one year younger than the previous youngest person ever to win a professional golf tour event, Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa.

2012 — Novak Djokovic outlasts Rafael Nadal to defend his Australian Open title in the longest ever Grand Slam final and becomes the fifth man to win three straight majors in the Open Era. Djokovic completes a 5-hour, 53-minute 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5 victory over Nadal at 1:37 a.m.

2017 — Roger Federer wins his 18th major title by beating Rafael Nadal 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 to capture the Australian Open.

And finally

Julio Cesar Chavez vs. Frankie Randall. Watch it here.

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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