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The Sports Report: Five fans are ejected as Lakers roll past the Hawks

Lakers forward LeBron James is fouled by Hawks forward Danilo Gallinari during a game Feb. 1, 2021, in Atlanta.
Lakers forward LeBron James is fouled by Hawks forward Danilo Gallinari.
(John Bazemore / Associated Press)

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

Dan Woike on the Lakers: LeBron James spun the basketball around his waist, surveying the defense with a glance before zipping the ball to the left corner, where Kyle Kuzma drained a three-point shot.

Here were the Lakers, one quarter away from probably their most anticipated plane ride of the year, the temptation to look toward home after stops in seven cities in 12 days undoubtedly strong.

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Their will, their execution and their adjustments, though, were stronger.

Thanks to another masterful fourth quarter kickstarted by coach Frank Vogel’s latest concoction, the Lakers left Atlanta with a 107-99 win and got to head back to Los Angeles with a 5-2 record on their longest scheduled trip of the year.

“This is the only game that matters; doesn’t matter if it’s the first game on the trip or last game on the trip,” Vogel said before Monday‘s game. “This is the only game that matters tonight.”

And by outscoring Atlanta 32-23 in the fourth quarter, they closed out things like they believed him.

If the Lakers’ latest lineup combination — James, Alex Caruso, Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Talen Horton-Tucker — ignited them, a gassed-up group of fans sitting courtside made sure that spark was lit.

With the Lakers up eight in the fourth, James and two fans, Chris and Juliana Carlos, got into a verbal back-and-forth, with Juliana Carlos taking her mask off to yell toward the court before she, her husband and three other fans were ejected.

She took to her Instagram page to continue her tirade, cursing James, saying the Lakers star and her husband traded words throughout the game.

James, for his part, smiled from ear to ear after the game when asked about it — his seasonlong desire to see fans back in arenas finally fulfilled.

“I’m happy fans are back in the building. I miss that interaction. I need that interaction. We, as players need that interaction,” James said. “I don’t feel like it was warranted to be kicked out. There was a, you know, a back-and-forth between two grown men, and we each said our piece. He said his piece, I said my piece. And then when somebody else jumped into it and said their piece, but I didn’t think they should have been kicked out.”

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RAMS

Emmanuel Morgan on the Rams: The subtle hints of a divorce between Rams coach Sean McVay and quarterback Jared Goff slowly intensified as the season progressed, culminating Saturday when an agreement was made to trade the quarterback to the Detroit Lions, along with 2022 and 2023 first-round draft picks and a 2021 third-round selection, in exchange for Matthew Stafford.

But there might be no better illustration of what went wrong and what needs to be corrected than what happened in a two-play sequence against the winless New York Jets in December.

The Rams trailed 23-20 late in the fourth quarter and were on the New York 37 needing four yards on third down to convert a first, but McVay saw opportunity for more.

Often praised for his offensive ingenuity, the coach saw a chance to exploit the Jets’ man coverage and shoot for the end zone on third and fourth downs, with alternative shorter options.

On both plays, Goff locked on to his primary target and missed open receivers on underneath routes. McVay acknowledged after the game that those were aggressive calls, but believed they would convert one way or another.

“Clearly have to be able to progress there,” McVay said after the game. “ Ultimately we didn’t make those plays.”

That might have been the culmination of the Rams’ frustrations on offense, but Goff was inconsistent all season. He had a career-low 20 touchdown passes and turned the ball over 17 times. He fumbled three more times but the Rams recovered.

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Bill Plaschke: Rams acquired Matthew Stafford so they can win Super Bowl LVI on home turf

ANGELS

Maria Torres on the Angels: The Angels are near an agreement to acquire right-handed starting pitcher Alex Cobb from the Baltimore Orioles for infield prospect Jahmai Jones. The Orioles are expected to pay more than half of the $15 million Cobb is owed for the final season of his four-year, $57-million contract.

Cobb, 33, is a veteran of nine seasons. He has an ERA of 3.88 and a 55-57 record over 156 starts since debuting in 2011 with the Tampa Bay Rays. Although he hasn’t pitched nearly as well in recent years as he did with the Rays, he has been a reliable innings eater for the Orioles rotation when healthy.

Cobb would be the second starter acquired by Angels first-year general manager Perry Minasian, who signed veteran José Quintana to a one-year deal in January. Like Quintana, Cobb previously pitched for current Angels manager Joe Maddon.

BASEBALL

Bill Shaikin on baseball: Major league players Monday rejected the league’s proposal to delay the season by a month and shorten it by eight games, refusing to grant Commissioner Rob Manfred the unilateral authority to suspend the season without guarantees that player pay and service time would be protected.

Players remain scheduled to report to spring training in two weeks, with the full 162-game schedule set to start April 1. The rejected proposal also included a universal designated hitter and a 14-team postseason field, so for now the 2021 season will be played with no DH in the National League and 10 teams in the playoffs.

“We do not make this decision lightly,” the Major League Baseball Players Assn. said in a statement. “Players know first-hand the efforts that were required to complete the abbreviated 2020 season, and we appreciate that significant challenges lie ahead. We look forward to promptly finalizing enhanced health and safety protocols that will help players and clubs meet these challenges.”

LAFC

Kevin Baxter on LAFC: LAFC has loaned Uruguayan forward Brian Rodríguez to Almería of Spain’s second division. The loan begins immediately and runs through the end of Almería’s season in May, although it could become permanent if certain performance thresholds are met.

Diego Rossi, another LAFC Uruguayan playmaker and MLS’ leading scorer in 2020, had reportedly drawn interest from Reading of England’s second-tier Championship, but the transfer window closed Monday without a deal being announced.

Rodríguez, 20, joined LAFC as a young designated player in August 2019 and played in 26 games, scoring twice and leading the team with seven assists last season when he ranked second in MLS among U22 players. He has also made nine appearances for the Uruguayan national team.

SPARKS

Thuc Nhi Nguyen on the Sparks: Candace Parker’s 13-year tenure in L.A. is officially over as she signed a contract with the Chicago Sky on Monday, the first day of the WNBA’s free-agency signing period.

While Sparks CEO and governor Eric Holoman said in a statement that Parker “already cemented her legacy not just as a champion but as a pioneer in the game of basketball,” the franchise began rebuilding. The Sparks plan to re-sign forward Nneka Ogwumike and restricted free agent guard Brittney Sykes while adding free agent guard Erica Wheeler, a person familiar with the situation confirmed Monday.

Wheeler, a 5-foot-7 point guard, gives the Sparks a replacement for Chelsea Gray, who is expected to sign as an unrestricted free agent with the Las Vegas Aces.

“I just want to get to work and show the fans in Los Angeles what I’m all about: hard work, passion, love for the game,” Wheeler wrote in a Players’ Tribune essay on Monday. “That’s what you’ll be getting, Sparks fans.”

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1876 — The National League forms, consisting of teams in Philadelphia, Hartford, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Louisville, St. Louis and New York.

1936 — Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson are the first members elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

1954 — Bevo Francis of Rio Grande College scores 113 points in a 134-91 victory over Hillsdale. Francis, breaking his own record for small colleges (84) set two weeks earlier against Alliance College.

1962 — Using a fiberglass pole, John Uelses becomes the first man to vault more than 16 feet, indoors or out. Uelses, a Marine Corps corporal, clears 16¼ during the Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden in New York.

1977 — Toronto’s Ian Turnbull scores five goals to set an NHL record for defensemen, leading the Maple Leafs past the Detroit Red Wings 9-1.

1991 — New Hampshire’s basketball team ends its 32-game losing streak at home with a 72-56 win over Holy Cross. The NCAA-record streak started on Feb. 9, 1988.

1994 — Lenny Wilkens gets his 900th NBA victory, and the Atlanta Hawks beat the Orlando Magic 118-99. Wilkens runs his regular-season mark to 900-760, trailing only Red Auerbach’s 938 in NBA regular-season victories.

1999 — Austria’s Hermann Maier and Norway’s Lasse Kjus ski to an unprecedented tie in the super-G to mark the start of the world championships.

2001 — Stacy Dragila breaks her world indoor pole vault record by a half-inch with a 15-2 1/4 vault at the Millrose Games.

2003 — Atlanta Thrashers star Dany Heatley joins Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux by scoring a record-tying four goals in the NHL All-Star Game. His Eastern Conference team loses the first All-Star shootout 6-5.

2009 — Kobe Bryant breaks the current Madison Square Garden record with 61 points to lead the Lakers to a 126-117 victory over New York. Bryant, who hits all 20 of his free throws, tops the previous visitor record of 55 points held by Michael Jordan and the overall record of 60 by Bernard King.

2012 — Sam Gagner has four goals and four assists in the NHL’s first eight-point game in 23 years, and the Edmonton Oilers beat the Chicago Blackhawks 8-4.

2013 — California Institute of Technology’s baseball team ends a 228-game losing streak with a 9-7 victory against Pacifica, the Beavers’ first win in nearly 10 years. Caltech hadn’t won since Feb. 15, 2003, 5-4 against Cal State-Monterey Bay.

2014 — The Seattle Seahawks win their first Super Bowl title, crushing the favored Denver Broncos 43-8. The Seahawks led 36-0 before Denver finally scored on the last play of the third quarter.

2017 — Patrick Marleau scores his 500th goal, Chris Tierney tallies twice and San Jose beat Vancouver 4-1. Marleau becomes the 45th NHL player to reach 500 goals, scoring in the first period on a power play.

And finally

Kobe Bryant scores 61 points against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. 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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