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The Sports Report: Clippers end successful trip with a victory

Paul George drives to the basket against Cleveland's Jarrett Allen in the second half.
Paul George drives to the basket against Cleveland’s Jarrett Allen in the second half.
(Associated Press)

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

Andrew Greif on the Clippers: As soon as the Kansas women’s basketball team finished practice Wednesday night in Waco, Texas, Jayhawks assistant Terry Nooner went looking for the broadcast of the night’s Cavaliers-Clippers game.

In some ways, it was a matchup he had been looking forward to since Oct. 28, 2018, when he and a small group of friends spent the night at Tyronn Lue’s suburban Cleveland home, attempting to process Lue’s firing. Lue had coached the Cavaliers to three NBA Finals appearances and the city’s first major pro championship in 52 years, but a rebuilding season had begun 0-6, and that morning Lue learned he was out. The news quickly trickled out.

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“Kind of a shock,” said Nooner, a high school teammate of Lue’s who, only weeks earlier, had joined the Cavaliers’ staff as a player development coach. “There were so many people there who had a lot of love for him.

“The day that he got let go, I seen grown men that were crying in the office. Guys, we don’t cry in front of each other, especially grown men -- but literally, in tears.”

The day was “surreal,” Nooner said. And yet what has happened ever since, with Lue now four months into a Clippers job that has seen him leave his imprint on one of the league’s best teams -- a run that continued with a 121-99 win Wednesday that pushed the Clippers to 17-6 -- is no surprise at least to friends who have heard Lue repeat a certain motto over the years.

“‘It always turns out good for ol’ Lue,’” Nooner said, his laugh punctuating a phone interview. “No matter what happens in his career, stuff always ends up working out great for him, all the time.”

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Perhaps that is rubbing off on his team, too.

Nine days after beginning a six-game road trip with uncertainty, missing three starters either because of injury of the NBA’s health and safety protocols, the Clippers returned to Los Angeles carrying a confidence that emerged after weathering significant hurdles en route to a 4-2 trip record.

“Just a great overall team road trip,” said Paul George, who along with Kawhi Leonard missed the first two games. “Great camaraderie. I thought we built a lot of just team chemistry.”

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RAMS

Gary Klein on the Rams: After five seasons in Los Angeles, quarterback Jared Goff on Wednesday said goodbye to Rams fans.

The farewell via social media came four days after the Rams sent Goff, a 2021 third-round draft pick and No. 1 picks in 2022 and 2023 to the Lions for quarterback Matthew Stafford.

“Thank you to the entire city of Los Angeles for welcoming a 21-year-old kid with open arms and making this town feel like home,” Goff wrote. “This city has shaped the man I’ve become and I will forever be grateful for the Kroenke family, my coaches, the support staff, and most importantly, my teammates for competing and fighting with me every Sunday — I’ve made memories with every one of you in that locker room that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

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“To the fans, thank you for the relentless support through all the ups and the downs — it has meant the world to me. From the bottom of my heart, it’s been an honor to represent the city of LA.

“With that said, I couldn’t be more excited for this next chapter and I’m ready to attack this new opportunity that lies ahead.

“Detroit, here I come.”

USC FOOTBALL

Ryan Kartje on USC: On paper, last February, it probably would’ve seemed like a pipe dream: The top high school football prospect in the nation. Nine of the top 20 players in California. An entire operation, modernized and organized, rebuilt and rebranded, all over the course of an entirely virtual recruiting cycle.

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When its lofty plans to rewrite recruiting wrongs were drawn at this time last year, USC had bottomed out, missing on all of its top targets, falling to 64th in the national rankings. A disappointing class finished with a whimper on national signing day, when USC inked just one prospect, tight end Jack Yary, who would never play a down for the Trojans.

What a difference a year can make. By Wednesday, when Santa Ana Mater Dei linebacker Raesjon Davis, the No. 3 player in the state, signed with USC, putting an exclamation point on the eighth-ranked class in the nation according to 247Sports, a strong finish to the Trojans’ recruiting turnaround felt less stunning than it did assured.

After landing one of the state’s top 20 prospects a year ago, USC signed nine in its 2021 class, the most it has claimed in-state of that caliber since 2004. The nation’s top prospect, Corona Centennial defensive end Korey Foreman, chose the Trojans, along with four more of the nation’s top-100 prospects, two of whom — Davis and Los Angeles Loyola cornerback Ceyair Wright — signed Wednesday.

UCLA MEN’S BASKETBALL

Ben Bolch on UCLA: If Jonah Mathews created a moment to remember, Jake Kyman suffered through one to forget.

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The screen that had freed him beyond the three-point arc with UCLA trailing USC by one point in the final minute. The pass heading toward him. His feet getting tangled, causing him to slip and fall as the ball sailed over his head out of bounds.

Everywhere he went in the offseason, Kyman carried the memory with him. He made sure it lingered no matter the pain, using it as motivation, as if the shots he took were a chance at a do-over.

The worst part was that he never got to take the shot that could have beaten the Trojans in March at Galen Center.

“I trust in my abilities and I know I would have made it if I didn’t slip and fall,” Kyman said Wednesday as No. 21 UCLA (13-3, 9-1) prepared for a rivalry rematch on the same court Saturday against USC (14-3, 8-2) with first place in the Pac-12 Conference standings on the line. “I believe we would have won that game.”

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Bruins coach Mick Cronin acknowledged a few regrets of his own from his team’s 54-52 loss that erased its hopes of winning the Pac-12 regular-season title. If only he had a timeout left to set up his defense after forward Cody Riley made his second free throw to give UCLA a 52-51 lead. If only the Bruins could have gone into some sort of soft zone press. If only they had kept the ball out of Mathews’ hands before he lofted the three-pointer that gave the Trojans the victory and a season sweep of the Bruins.

“I lose sleep over everything, trust me,” Cronin said.

CHARGERS

Sam Farmer on the Chargers: Quarterback Justin Herbert was scorching for the Chargers this season.

On Wednesday, he’ll be focused more in indirect heat.

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The star rookie will be going live on Traeger’s Instagram channel at 4 p.m. PST, along with barbecue expert Chad Ward, smoking a beef brisket for the masses.

The event is part of the #TraegerGameDay campaign, which encourages backyard chefs — or aspiring ones — to take a photo of their culinary creations and post them on social media using that hashtag.

All sorts of Traeger prizes are up for grabs, as is the company’s first championship ring, which, naturally, features the slogan “Go pig, or go home.”

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1861 — The Philadelphia Athletics beat Charter Oak 36-27 in a baseball game played on frozen Litchfield Pond in Brooklyn, N.Y., with the players wearing ice skates.

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1924 — The first Winter Olympics close in Chamonix, France. Sixteen countries competed in 17 events from seven sports.

1932 — The Winter Olympics open in Lake Placid, N.Y., the first Winter Games in the United States.

1957 — Joe McCarthy and Sam Crawford are elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

1969 — The 24 major league owners unanimously select Bowie Kuhn as commissioner for a one-year term at a salary of $100,000.

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1971 — The Baseball Hall of Fame establishes a separate section for players from the old Negro Leagues. In July, commissioner Bowie Kuhn, along with Hall president Paul Kirk, announce a change of heart and scrap plans for the separate section.

1976 — U.S. District Court Judge John W. Oliver upholds the ruling of arbitrator Peter Seitz that declared Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally free agents.

1977 — Rick Martin scores two goals in the third period, including the game-winning goal with under two minutes to play, to lead the Wales Conference to a 4-3 win over the Campbell conference in the NHL All-Star game at Vancouver.

1979 — Denver’s David Thompson scores 25 points on 11-of-17 shooting to lead the West Conference to a 134-129 victory over the East at the 1979 NBA All-Star Game in Detroit. Thompson also grabs five rebounds and is named the games MVP. Philadelphia’s Julius Erving leads all scorers with 29 points and san Antonio’s George Gervin adds 26 for the East.

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1987 — The Sacramento Kings have the worst first quarter since the inception of the shot clock in 1954. The Kings set the NBA record with only four points in the opening quarter of a 128-92 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

1987 — Stars & Stripes, skippered by Dennis Conner, sweeps Kookaburra III 4-0 at Fremantle, Australia, to bring sailing’s America’s Cup back to the United States.

1991 — The doors of Cooperstown are slammed shut on Pete Rose when the Hall of Fame’s board of directors votes 12-0 to bar players on the permanently ineligible list from consideration.

1997 — Mario Lemieux scores his 600th goal, an empty netter, to help the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 6-4 win against the Vancouver Canucks. Lemieux is the first player to score 600 goals while spending his NHL career with one team.

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2003 — Jaromir Jagr scores three goals, including his 500th, for his 11th career hat trick as Washington beat Tampa Bay 5-1.

2007 — Peyton Manning is 25-of-38 for 247 yards and a touchdown as he rallies Indianapolis to a 29-17 Super Bowl victory over Chicago in the South Florida rain. Tony Dungy becomes the first black coach to win the championship, beating good friend and protege Lovie Smith in a game that featured the first two black coaches in the Super Bowl.

2012 — Lindsey Vonn captures her 50th World Cup victory, winning the downhill with temperatures plunging to minus 13 on the demanding Kandahar course in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

2017 — Gregg Popovich becomes the winningest coach with a single franchise in NBA history, leading the San Antonio Spurs to a 121-97 victory over the Denver Nuggets. Popovich earns his 1,128th victory to pass former Utah coach Jerry Sloan for the mark.

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2018 — The Philadelphia Eagles win a record-setting shootout between Nick Foles and Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. Foles, the backup quarterback, leads a pressure-packed 75-yard drive to the winning touchdown, 11 yards to Zach Etrz with 2:21 to go. Then the defense makes two final stands to win 41-33.

And finally

The Lakers outscore the Kings 40-4 in the first quarter. 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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