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The Sports Report: Buddy who? Lakers outlast the Kings

LeBron James shoots over Maurice Harkless.
LeBron James shoots over Maurice Harkless.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

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

Dan Woike on the Lakers: The words – “three pointer, Buddy Hield” – were heard over the arena’s public-address system seven times, each time met with a louder groan from the crowd.

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It wasn’t so much that the Lakers were letting one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA get hot – fans have seen this defense be ineffective plenty of times 39 games into the season. No, it was the inescapable reminder that those three points could’ve belonged to the Lakers.

And instead, of cheering for something that’s super easy to digest – a wing shooter hitting wing shots – fans were left murmuring as Russell Westbrook and the Lakers struggled to make sense of who they are one missed perimeter shot at a time.

The Lakers, though, can overcome those issues on a nightly basis thanks to LeBron James, who once again was dazzling, and the shooter the team ended up landing this offseason, Malik Monk.

James scored 31, Monk had 24 and Westbrook finished with 19, helping trigger a few of the team’s biggest defensive stops down the stretch of a 122-114 win against the Kings.

It’s the Lakers’ third win in a row and their fourth in their last five games.

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UCLA MEN’S BASKETBALL

Ben Bolch on the Bruins: Chopsticks in one hand and cellphone in the other, Mick Cronin could be forgiven if he seemed a little distracted while eating sushi with his longtime girlfriend Monday night.

The UCLA basketball coach desperately needed to find games for his team. After finally getting every available player back at practice this week following a lengthy COVID-19 shutdown, the Bruins remain stuck in the longest in-season pause since at least the mid-1940s, with no assurances whom or when they might play next.

A makeup game against Arizona State scheduled for Wednesday had to be postponed because of the Sun Devils’ own problems with the coronavirus. A game against California scheduled for Saturday in Berkeley may be in jeopardy if the Golden Bears contracted the disease while playing Arizona State last weekend.

UCLA’s games for next week are now in doubt after Oregon and Oregon State postponed games in recent days because of virus issues.

After four hours of calling around in search of a game — even against nonconference opponents — Cronin learned that multiple teams within the Big West, West Coast and Mountain West conferences were also ravaged by the virus.

Finally, a breakthrough came Tuesday when Long Beach State agreed to play UCLA at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Pauley Pavilion in what will be the Bruins’ first game in nearly a month. It will be the second game between the teams this season after UCLA posted a 100-79 victory over the Beach in November.

UCLA-USC WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

Thuc Nhi Nguyen on the Bruins and Trojans: Just as UCLA and USC prepared to get their seasons back on track after extended COVID-19 pauses, an outbreak in a conference foe‘s program will cost the teams another game.

UCLA‘s and USC’s Pac-12 games at Utah will be postponed because of COVID-19 issues within the Utes program, the schools announced Tuesday. The Bruins (5-3) were expected to face Utah on Friday in their first game in almost a month. USC (7-3) was scheduled to play Utah on Sunday after starting its conference season on Friday at Colorado.

USC’s game against the Buffaloes will be its first since Dec. 18. The Trojans, who are playing under first-year head coach Lindsay Gottlieb, canceled their nonconference finale against Long Beach State, rescheduled a game against UCLA and postponed two home matchups against Arizona and Arizona State during their pause.

The Bruins have had an even longer wait to get back on the court. Their last home game was on Dec. 11 against Connecticut in Newark. N.J. The team’s coronavirus outbreak has now affected seven consecutive games. UCLA canceled its last three nonconference games and, like USC, postponed home games against Arizona and Arizona State. The rivalry games between UCLA and USC were rescheduled for Jan. 20 at Pauley Pavilion and Jan. 23 at Galen Center.

UCLA FOOTBALL

Ben Bolch on the Bruins: Kyle Philips, UCLA’s leading wide receiver last season and possibly pound for pound the toughest player on the team, announced Tuesday that he will declare for the NFL draft.

“Thank you to my teammates for the best four years of my life,” tweeted the 5-foot-11, 191-pound Philips, who finished last season with 59 catches for 739 yards and 10 touchdowns despite missing one game for unspecified reasons. “It might not have ended how we would have liked but I am walking away grateful and with a full heart.”

A sure-handed receiver who ran precise routes and was selected first team All-Pac-12 as a redshirt junior, Philips became quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s favorite target over their four seasons together.

Philips’ 67.2 yards receiving per game last season ranked second in the Pac-12, trailing only Washington State receiver Calvin Jackson Jr.’s 75.9 yards (among eligible players). Philips also scored a touchdown on a punt return last season, his average of 22.6 yards per return leading the conference among players who returned more than one punt.

USC SPORTS

Ryan Kartje on USC: Amid a tidal wave of COVID-19 cases that’s surging through campuses and upending college athletics, USC will close its indoor home athletic events to the general public through Jan. 14, leaving the Trojans to play, for a brief time, in front of near-empty arenas again.

As of now, only three indoor athletic events will be affected as USC briefly closes its doors to fans. USC men’s basketball, which just returned from a COVID-19 pause, will play Oregon State with no fans on Jan. 13, while the USC men’s volleyball team will play two games (Princeton and Erskine) closed to the public.

Family members and guests of team members will still be allowed to attend.

DUCKS

Troy Terry scored his first NHL hat trick and the Anaheim Ducks defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1.

The right wing is third in the league with 21 goals, including 11 that have tied the score or given the Ducks a lead. He had a pair of goals in the first period and completed the first hat trick of his five-year career on an empty-net goal with 49 seconds remaining.

Sonny Milano also scored and Jamie Drysdale had two assists for Anaheim, which snapped a two-game skid. John Gibson stopped 28 shots.

Ducks coach Dallas Eakins earned his 100th NHL win.

CLIPPERS

Andrew Greif on the Clippers: With Xavier Moon’s 10-day contract nearly expired Monday, acting Clippers coach Brian Shaw said that Moon, a 27-year-old point guard who played in Canada and the G League before earning his first NBA call-up, “belongs in this league.”

He’ll be staying in it at least 10 days longer.

The Clippers signed Moon to a second 10-day contract Tuesday under the NBA hardship allowance. The rule was relaxed last month to allow teams to replace players in the league’s COVID-related health and safety protocols with an equal number of replacements on 10-day contracts. Moon, a 6-foot-2 guard, appeared in four games during his first stint, playing 67 minutes.

HORSE RACING

John Cherwa on horse racing: Dr. Jeff Blea, equine medical director of the California Horse Racing Board, had his veterinary license temporarily suspended on Monday by the state Veterinary Medical Board, setting up a showdown with the racing board, which plans to keep Blea in his job.

The interim suspension order, issued by Administrative Law Judge Nana Chin, indicates that the medical board’s motivation in suspending Blea was to keep him from overseeing the investigation into the death of Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit. The VMB made that clear by mentioning the horse and the subsequent investigation at the beginning of its petition for suspension.

In summarizing the VMB’s argument, Chin wrote the board was concerned that Blea “could affect ongoing inquiries by the CHRB into recent sudden racehorse deaths.” The equine medical director‘s job does not require a valid veterinary license.

From Nathan Fenno: As the mob jostled with two dozen police officers in helmets and gas masks blocking a hallway to the Senate chamber in the U.S. Capitol, a voice boomed above the din.

“F— Nancy Pelosi!”

“F— Chuck Schumer!”

The shouts came from a man who in some ways resembled the other rioters — black beanie embroidered with President Trump’s name, dark sunglasses and a teal handkerchief pulled over his beard.

But Klete Keller, standing 6 feet 6, towered over the roiling sea of people. He wore a navy blue coat with “USA” emblazoned on the back in large white letters and the U.S. Olympic logo on the front that had been issued to athletes competing for Team USA. Internet sleuths and law enforcement took weeks or months to identify the bulk of more than 700 people charged in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack, but the jacket gave Keller away almost immediately.

The USC graduate had been among the world’s elite freestyle swimmers in the 2000s, competing in three Olympics and winning two gold medals. Friends and fellow swimmers knew him as easygoing and likable. Now they were mystified. Why had someone who spent much of his life representing his country joined the mob to attack a defining symbol of American democracy?

“That’s what has made this so confusing, so frustrating for so many people,” said Gary Hall Jr., the 10-time Olympic swimming medalist who has known Keller for more than two decades. “It seems so far outside of his character, his personality to get wrapped up in this.”

Hundreds of pages of court records, emails and interviews with more than 30 friends, teammates and associates show that Keller’s journey to the Capitol was the latest and most bewildering choice in a life beset by struggles since retiring from swimming more than a decade ago. A revolving series of jobs. Divorce. Living in his car for 10 months. A bitter child custody dispute. Allegations of erratic behavior.

Read the rest by clicking here.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1964 — Keith Lincoln of the San Diego Chargers, rushes for 206 yards in 13 carries, catches seven passes for 123 yards, completes one pass for 20 and scores two touchdowns in a 51-10 rout of the Boston Patriots for the AFL title.

1983 — In his 42nd game, Edmonton’s Wayne Gretzky scores his 100th point of the season with an assist in the Oilers’ 8-3 triumph over the Winnipeg Jets.

1991 — Kevin Bradshaw of U.S. International scores 72 points to break Pete Maravich’s NCAA Division I single-game scoring record of 69, but Loyola Marymount sets an NCAA team scoring record in defeating the Gulls 186-140.

1993 — Reggie Jackson, who hit 563 homers and played on five championship teams in 21 seasons, is the only player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

1997 — The second-year Carolina Panthers, behind John Kasay’s four field goals, beat the Dallas Cowboys 26-17 to advance to the NFC Championship game.

1999 — Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount are voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the biggest class of first-time candidates since Babe Ruth and four others were chosen in the original election of 1936.

2009 — Pittsburgh makes it to the top of The Associated Press’ men’s college basketball poll for the first time. The Panthers are one of a record nine Big East teams in the poll. The 16-team league had a record eight schools ranked for three weeks earlier in the season.

2013 — Aaron Rodgers connects with an NFL playoff-record 10 receivers as he throws for 274 yards in his first playoff victory at home, leading Green Bay to a 24-10 victory over Minnesota.

2013 — Arian Foster rushes for 140 yards and a touchdown in Houston’s 19-13 win over Cincinnati, and becomes the first NFL player to have 100-yard games in each of his first three playoff games.

2017 — The Columbus Blue Jackets lose 5-0 to the Washington Capitals ending their winning streak at 16 games, one shy of the NHL record. Columbus lose for the first time since Nov. 26, ending a captivating run that fell short of the 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins’ record of 17 consecutive wins.

Supplied by the Associated Press

And finally

Nolan Ryan’s Hall of Fame speech. Watch and listen here. Reggie Jackson’s Hall of Fame speech. 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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