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The Sports Report: UCLA-Alabama State game canceled because of COVID concerns

UCLA coach Mick Cronin on the sidelines.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

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

Ben Bolch on the Bruins: UCLA canceled its game Wednesday night against Alabama State because of COVID-19 protocols that had already prevented Mick Cronin from being able to coach the Bruins.

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Hours after UCLA announced Cronin would not attend his fourth-ranked team’s game against Alabama State at Pauley Pavilion because of COVID-19 protocols, the university decided to cancel the game for the same reason.

Darren Savino, a longtime assistant under Cronin who followed him from Cincinnati to Westwood, was supposed to serve as the team’s acting head coach against the Hornets.

Cronin’s older brother, Dan, wrote on Twitter that Mick was doing OK.

“He is fine he will be back soon everyone relax,” Dan Cronin tweeted.

Every UCLA player besides those recovering from injuries was expected to be available to play against Alabama State, an athletic department spokesperson said. The Bruins have had several COVID-19 disruptions since the start of the pandemic but none involving their own players or coaches that led to the cancellation or postponement of a game.

Cronin is among a parade of players and coaches across the nation who have been affected by COVID-19 issues in recent weeks. Washington has had multiple games canceled or postponed, including a game against UCLA earlier this month that the Huskies were forced to forfeit, after several players and coaches were placed in COVID-19 protocols.

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LAKERS

Dan Woike on the Lakers: LeBron James’ deep three missed so badly it could’ve fractured the glass backboard — the only thing keeping the shot from rocketing into the Mavericks’ crowd. Anthony Davis’ corner three sailed over the rim, failing to even graze the iron.

And Wayne Ellington’s wide-open look from above the break missed it all, as bad of a miss that an open quality shooter could imagine.

But the clock kept ticking long enough for redemption — for the team’s awful late-game shooting to be undone with one sweet stroke from the deep left corner.

First it was Ellington atoning for his misses, then it was Westbrook from the same corner and lastly, it was rookie Austin Reaves.

Reaves hit a wild three with just fractions of a second left to lead the Lakers to a 107-104 win over Dallas in overtime. It’s just the second time this season the Lakers have won three in a row.

Reaves hit five threes off the Lakers bench, the team missing three players because of the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols. James led the Lakers with 24, Westbrook had 23 and Davis scored 20 in the win.

CLIPPERS

Andrew Greif on the Clippers: Wednesday for the Clippers began with a grimace.

Running around imaginary screens inside Vivint Arena before the team’s morning shootaround, as Kawhi Leonard casually dribbled on the court’s other end while shooting with his left hand in a down-filled parka, Nicolas Batum ran around imaginary screens, testing his sprained ankle. By the expressions on his face, it quickly became apparent the Clippers would face Utah hours later without the glue of their bench unit. Leading scorer, Paul George, with a sprained elbow, was later ruled out for a fourth consecutive game, as well.

And so the Clippers were back where they were last time they visited Utah, six months ago – short-handed underdogs facing one of the league’s most formidable opponents.

That victory, in Game 5 of a second-round series eventually won by the Clippers in six games, will go down among the most important postseason games in franchise history. Wednesday’s 124-103 loss, in contrast, will likely quickly be forgotten.

But as the Clippers continue to search for who they are this season, six months after their emotional win in Utah paved the way for a postseason breakthrough, this night underscored that progress -- and what has hindered it, beyond simply attrition.

The worst transition team in the NBA by at least one metric, the Clippers needed 35 minutes to score their first fastbreak point. Such transition struggles have left them unable to capitalize on opponents’ mistakes, and again Wednesday, it took them 39 minutes to turn a Utah’s seventh turnover into points.

The Clippers’ four-game winning streak ended after being outscored 18-2 in points off turnovers, and Donovan Mitchell (27 points) was one of four Jazz players to finish with at least 20 points, the kind of balanced scoring that has led Utah to lose just once since Thanksgiving.

USC MEN’S BASKETBALL

Chevez Goodwin scored a season-high 23 points, Isaiah Mobley added 22 points and 12 rebounds, and No. 10 USC rallied from a 10-point deficit to beat UC Irvine 66-61.

Goodwin had 17 points in the second half to help the Trojans (11-0) remain one of seven unbeaten teams in the nation. The 6-foot-9 senior’s biggest basket came with 24 seconds remaining when his layup off a missed shot by Mobley put USC ahead 63-59.

Mobley had his fifth double-double in six games.

Collin Welp led UC Irvine with 24 points and DJ Davis scored 12. Austin Johnson had 10 points and nine rebounds for the Anteaters (5-3), who have dropped two straight following a five-game winning streak.

RAMS

Gary Klein on the Rams: The COVID-19 outbreak that forced the Rams into enhanced protocols continued Wednesday with three more players added to the NFL’s reserve/COVID-19 list.

Linebacker Justin Hollins and tight ends Johnny Mundt and Jared Pinkney were added to the list, the team announced, increasing the number of Rams players to 16.

On Tuesday, the day after the short-handed Rams defeated the Arizona Cardinals 30-23 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was among nine players who were put on the list.

Cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and Dont’e Deayon, running back Darrell Henderson, tight end Tyler Higbee and offensive lineman Rob Havenstein did not play against the Cardinals because they were on the list.

CHARGERS

Jeff Miller on the Chargers: The Chargers have a chance to take over first place in their division, a chance to move up on the No. 3 seed in their conference, a chance to sweep the regular-season series from Kansas City.

What they won’t have Thursday night at SoFi Stadium is just as significant: standout rookie left tackle Rashawn Slater, who remains on the COVID-19 reserve list.

So the Chargers will play their most important game yet this season with little-used backup Trey Pipkins III protecting Justin Herbert’s blindside.

While praising Pipkins’ potential and preparation, Herbert offered the most fitting view of the Slater situation.

“You can’t worry about that,” he said, “because the Chiefs don’t care whether he’s out there or not.”

No, they most certainly do not care. Just like the Chargers aren’t going to fret if Chris Jones is unavailable. Kansas City’s two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle also is on the COVID list, one report Wednesday saying he, too, will be out.

This game is going to happen anyway, and all the resulting fallout will be real. The winner controls first place in the AFC West with three games to go. A loss likely would leave the Chargers competing for a wild-card spot.

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NFL roundtable: Rams, Chargers still can win their wild West divisions

UCLA FOOTBALL

Ben Bolch on the Bruins: The biggest development in UCLA football recruiting Wednesday wasn’t the players who said they were coming on the first day of the early signing period, but the one who might be on the way.

Several recruiting analysts from 247Sports.com projected the Bruins to land Central Florida transfer Dillon Gabriel, one of the nation’s most prolific quarterbacks during his first two college seasons before a broken collarbone limited him to only three games in 2021.

The Bruins heavily pursued Gabriel once he entered the transfer portal late last month, with quarterbacks coach Ryan Gunderson traveling to Gabriel’s native Hawaii for a recruiting visit. A 6-foot left-hander with a strong arm who completed 60.7% of his passes for 8,037 yards with 70 touchdowns and only 14 interceptions, Gabriel could be the successor to Dorian Thompson-Robinson if the UCLA senior quarterback heads for the NFL draft after this season. Gabriel has three seasons of eligibility remaining.

Officially, the Bruins signed 11 high school players Wednesday as part of a class that’s ranked No. 5 in the Pac-12 and No. 46 nationally. But coach Chip Kelly said the class was small by design to leave room for the juniors and seniors with remaining eligibility who want to return as well as a handful of transfers.

“We just don’t have a lot of scholarships, so the quantity isn’t what I think it is with some [teams],” Kelly said. “But I really believe that the quality is outstanding.”

USC FOOTBALL

Ryan Kartje on the Trojans: During the 17 whirlwind days since he was hired as USC’s coach, as expectations for him soared on the recruiting trail, Lincoln Riley bounced from living room to living room, building his first class largely from scratch. Just three commits remained in the Trojans’ 2022 class by the time he’d been introduced as coach, none of whom he’d known beforehand, so Riley understood his work was cut out for him. The path to the early signing period would be a mad dash across the map for the new coach and his staff, jam-packed with out-of-state, in-home visits and on-campus recruiting extravaganzas, all with the intent of making both a convincing final pitch and a lasting first impression on a tight deadline.

But in any yet-to-be-told tale of USC’s still-hypothetical return to recruiting prominence, Wednesday is unlikely to factor all that prominently. Unlike the chaotic days leading up to it, the first day of the early signing period proved mostly uneventful for the Trojans and their new coach. There were no unexpected flips, no last-second surprises. Six players ultimately signed, four of whom were already committed. One transfer, Texas Christian defensive lineman Earl Barquet, also pledged to USC.

As several top prospects delayed their decisions, by days or even months, the Trojans barely had any announcements to monitor Wednesday.

The only noteworthy one came shortly after noon, when four-star Bishop Gorman (Nev.) safety Zion Branch chose USC, handing its new coach an important early recruiting victory. Branch, who was first recruited by Riley at Oklahoma, said as he announced that the coach’s arrival at USC “was like a dream.” Next to him, his brother, Zachariah — a five-star receiver in the 2023 class — was smiling, decked out in his own USC swag, offering added hope for a future Trojans class.

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Southern California well represented on early national signing day

DUCKS

Troy Terry scored his 18th goal and Derek Grant got a short-handed goal in the Ducks’ fourth victory in five games, 4-1 over the Seattle Kraken.

Trevor Zegras and Sam Carrick also scored for the Pacific Division-leading Ducks, who spoiled expansion Seattle’s first appearance in Southern California with a one-sided win. Anthony Stolarz made 19 saves for Anaheim, which has scored 11 goals on the Kraken in two meetings this season.

Ryan Donato scored a power-play goal in Seattle’s fourth loss in five games. Philipp Grubauer stopped 15 shots through the first two periods of his fourth consecutive winless appearance before Chris Driedger finished up the Kraken’s two-game California road trip, which began with a win at San Jose on Tuesday.

The Ducks earned at least one point for the eighth time in nine games and moved out to a three-point lead on Calgary atop the division, continuing its abrupt transformation after missing the playoffs the previous three seasons. The Ducks got a goal from both their power play and their penalty-killing unit, extending their excellent play on special teams after being among the NHL’s worst last season.

Stolarz also was solid in his first back-to-back starts of the season in place of injured John Gibson. Stolarz hasn’t lost in six starts since October.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1918 — Jack Dempsey knocks out Carl Morris in 14 seconds in a heavyweight bout in New Orleans.

1930 — Golfer Bobby Jones wins the first James E. Sullivan Award. The award is given to “the most outstanding amateur athlete in the United States.”

1940 — Joe Louis knocks out Al McCoy in the sixth round at the Boston Garden to retain the world heavyweight title.

1945 — The Cleveland Rams beat the Washington Redskins 15-14 for the NFL championship. The deciding play turns out to be a first-quarter automatic safety when the Redskins’ Sammy Baugh passes from his own end zone and the wind carries the ball into the goal post.

1967 — Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors scores 68 points in a 143-123 victory over the Chicago Bulls.

1973 — O.J. Simpson of the Buffalo Bills rushes for 200 yards in a 34-14 victory over the New York Jets and sets an NFL record with 2,003 yards rushing for the season. Simpson needed 61 yards to break Jim Brown’s NFL single season rushing record of 1,863 yards set in 1963.

1990 — Warren Moon passes for a 527 yards — the second-greatest passing day in NFL history — as the Houston Oilers beat Kansas City 27-10.

2003 — New Orleans Saints receiver Joe Horn is fined $30,000 by the NFL for making a choreographed cell-phone call in the end zone to celebrate a touchdown during the Saints’ 45-7 rout of the New York Giants on Dec. 14.

2006 — Morten Andersen becomes the greatest scorer in NFL history. The 46-year-old Andersen breaks Gary Anderson’s career scoring record of 2,434 points with the second of four extra points in the Atlanta Falcons’ 38-28 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

2007 — Brett Favre passes for 227 yards in Green Bay’s 33-14 win over St. Louis, eclipsing Dan Marino to become the NFL career leader in yards passing. Favre, in his 17th season, finishes the game with 61,405 yards. Marino had 61,361 in 17 seasons.

2007 — Kikkan Randall becomes the first U.S. woman and second American to win a World Cup cross country race when she defeats world sprint champion Astrid Jacobsen of Norway in the final meters of a 1.2-kilometer freestyle race. Randall is the first American to win a World Cup cross country race since Bill Koch in 1983.

2010 — American Ryan Lochte sets the first individual swimming world record since high-tech bodysuits were banned, winning the 400-meter individual medley at the short-course world championships in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

2012 — Ryan Lochte wins two more races at the short-course world championships in Istanbul, finishing the event with six golds and one silver. The result matches his medal total from the last championships, in Dubai in 2010.

2013 — Justin Tucker makes six field goals, including a 61-yarder in the final minute, to give the Baltimore Ravens an 18-16 win over the Detroit Lions.

2014 — Nick Bjugstad scores the game-winning goal in the longest shootout in NHL history to lift the Florida Panthers over the Washington Capitals 2-1. Bjugstad’s goal comes in the 20th round of a shootout — on the 40th shot — and beats Braden Holtby on the right side.

2016 — James Harden gets his sixth triple-double of the season and the Houston Rockets make an NBA-record 24 three-pointers in a 122-100 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Supplied by the Associated Press

And finally

Highlights from the Lakers-Mavericks game. Watch and listen 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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