The Sports Report: Clippers rally to defeat Nuggets

Clippers forward Nicolas Batum gets fingers in the face as he drives against Nuggets guard Bones Hyland.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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

Andrew Greif on the Clippers: There was no way to plan for such a moment, for seeing what seemed to be impossible become real, and so what took place after Tuesday’s final buzzer was wholly improvised by a team that has survived its share of comebacks, but never from situations so dire as this.


The Clippers looked for teammates to hug, for the scoreboard to double-check that the final score of 87-85 was real, for friends and family in the stands to exchange quizzical glances.

When Amir Coffey ran into the tunnel toward his locker room, he stopped to hug point guard Reggie Jackson, who by that point had given his Nikes, his glasses and his headband to fans. Jackson walked to the locker room in his socks, breathing deeply, the franchise’s fourth-largest comeback behind him, the season’s second-half ahead.

After mustering only 28 points in the first half, and trailing by 25 points while being outrebounded by 20 in the third quarter, the Clippers went small to win big and create a victory that combined the hallmarks of their season’s first half – at-times brutal offense, stable defense and a grit that has yet to let them quit.

Denver’s Nikola Jokic missed a running three-pointer in the final seconds to secure one of the most improbable second halves of the season considering what took place during the first.

They looked listless.

Then they turned relentless.

They couldn’t score a basket, making one of their first 14 three-pointers.

Then they made nine of their last 20.

It looked as though they had crossed the midway point of their schedule by delivering their season’s low-water mark. Instead they hope it will become a springboard.

“We really needed that,” coach Tyronn Lue said.

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Dan Woike on the Lakers: Some nights, Russell Westbrook will sit at the Lakers’ postgame news conference, stare at his phone and fire off short answers to questions that don’t interest him.

If he finds one particularly ridiculous, maybe he’ll audibly scoff or laugh, looking up for a second before putting his head back down.

Other nights, Westbrook will try to explain himself — something that’s been a challenge ever since he helped rewrite the description of what a point guard is and how one could (and maybe should) play.

On one of the “bad” nights, writers are left to look for clues as to what he’s thinking — his minimal sentences offering only the faintest hints.

“That’s funny,” he interrupted one reporter when asked about Ja Morant’s blocked shot Sunday, when the Lakers’ four-game winning streak came to an end. The reporter had said both Westbrook and the Memphis star were thepoint guard of their respective teams, and it’s not unreasonable to wonder if Westbrook really is — or feels like — the Lakers’ point man.

Cold symptoms kept Westbrook away from practice Tuesday, so he couldn’t be asked for clarity, though his own words this season make it seem clear that he doesn’t feel he has the on-court control he’s used to.


Harrison Ingram and Spencer Jones scored 21 points apiece and Stanford beat No. 5 USC 75-69 Tuesday for its first win over a top five team in nearly 15 years.

The Cardinal (9-4, 2-1 Pac-12) returned from a nearly three-week break for COVID-19 protocols and delivered a big win in a nearly empty arena. Stanford had lost 14 straight games against teams in the top five of the AP poll since beating No. 3 UCLA 75-68 on Jan. 28, 2007.

Isaiah Mobley scored 16 points to lead the Trojans and Boogie Ellis added 14.

The Trojans (13-1, 3-1) were looking to tie the 2016-17 team for the school’s best start in more than 50 years but came up short at the end against Stanford. The loss coupled with No. 1 Baylor’s defeat means there are no unbeaten teams left in the country.

“We just didn’t defend at a high enough level, and offensively we couldn’t make open shots,” coach Andy Enfield said. “We had plenty of good looks. ... Our offense didn’t give our defense much margin for error. We weren’t good on either side of the ball, as we have been for most of the season.”

USC missed six of seven shots and three free throws over the final five minutes.


USC coach Andy Enfield has found a formula for success that’s finally built to last


Evgeni Malkin scored twice and had an assist in his season debut, Jeff Carter added two goals and the surging Pittsburgh Penguins rolled to a 4-1 victory over the Ducks.

Malkin had not played since undergoing right knee surgery in June. The four-time All-Star and 2012 Hart Trophy winner had been skating with teammates for several weeks and was a full participant in Monday’s practice.

It was Malkin’s 63rd multigoal game during the regular season and first since March 10, 2020. The 35-year-old Russian center had a career-low eight goals and 28 points in 33 games last season.

Jakob Silfverberg scored Anaheim’s goal and Anthony Stolarz made 30 saves.


Kevin Baxter on figure skating: Donovan Carrillo is the best ice skater in Mexican history, which is a little like being the best bartender at a temperance convention or best speaker at a school for mimes.

It’s an accomplishment but not one that’s widely understood or appreciated.

And that goes a long way toward explaining why Carrillo has been preparing for next month’s Olympics in a shopping mall, on an undersized rink tucked between a travel agency and a Japanese import store, often sharing the ice with teenagers on dates and frightened preschoolers wobbling on rented skates.

“It’s not like I go to the supermarket and everyone is asking for pictures,” Carrillo said.

In 2018, he became the first male Mexican to qualify for the International Skating Union’s world junior championships, and the next year, he became the first to land a triple axel — one of figure skating’s most difficult jumps. Since then, Carrillo has notched six top-10 finishes in major international events and added the difficult quadruple salchow to his repertoire.

But in a country that has nearly three times as many international airports as it does skating rinks, he’s mostly unknown, even where he trains. When a visitor arrived at the rink on a recent morning and asked for Carrillo, the lone woman behind the counter responded quizzically, “¿Quién?”


John Cherwa on horse racing: In the latest twist to the bizarre situation surrounding the California Horse Racing Board’s equine medical director, Dr. Jeff Blea has been placed on administrative leave by UC Davis pending further review of his veterinary license. Blea has not been performing the functions of EMD since Thursday after state attorneys indicated he needed a veterinary license.

The board was informed on Wednesday night that its interpretation that the equine medical director did not need a veterinarian’s license was not entirely accurate. Blea had his license suspended last Monday at the request of the California Veterinary Medical Board after an emergency hearing on Dec. 24.

Blea has been charged with eight violations, mostly minor including inadequate bookkeeping. Two other veterinarians charged at the same time did not have an emergency license review even though they are still practicing veterinarians while Blea has moved to a regulatory role and does not see patients.


Ben Bolch on the Bruins: Justin Frye, UCLA’s offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, has agreed to become Ohio State’s offensive line coach and associate head coach for offense in a move that helps him return closer to his Midwestern roots.

His departure will deprive UCLA of one of its top assistants, Frye developing the team’s offensive line into a considerable strength in recent seasons while also becoming a dogged recruiter.

Frye’s departure should not heavily impact the Bruins’ play calling because coach Chip Kelly is believed to largely handle those responsibilities.


Robert “Bob” Falkenburg, who saved three championship points en route to winning the 1948 Wimbledon men’s singles final at age 22 and brought fast food to Brazil during his post-tennis entrepreneurial career, has died. He was 95.

Falkenburg died Thursday from natural causes at his home in Santa Ynez, his daughter, Claudia, said.

In addition to his singles triumph at the All England Club, Falkenburg won two Grand Slam men’s doubles titles during the amateur era of tennis: at Wimbledon in 1947 with partner Jack Kramer, and at the U.S. National Championships in 1944 with Don McNeill.

Falkenburg was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1974.

Falkenburg entered his last Grand Slam tournament in 1955 after moving to Brazil with his wife, Lourdes “Lou” Mayrink Veiga Machado, and founded a series of fast food and ice cream shops called Bob’s. He later sold the franchise. Eventually, more than 1,000 Bob’s opened in Brazil.


The Rams’ loss Sunday to San Francisco was quite costly, from guaranteeing two home games if they win in the wild-card round to dropping to the lowest division seed. Not the easiest route to the Super Bowl. Rams beat writer Gary Klein, NFL writer Sam Farmer, columnist Bill Plaschke and staff writer Mike DiGiovanna discuss their prospects in a roundtable chat:

Now that the Rams are going to play the Cardinals for a third time this season, which philosophy do you believe: It’s easier to prepare for a team you are familiar with OR you’d prefer not to play a team in the playoffs that knows you so well?

Klein: Both are valid. The Rams know the Cardinals and the Cardinals know the Rams. That eliminates the unknown. Now it’s just a matter of who plays with fewer errors and which coaching staff adjusts appropriately to whatever surprise wrinkles are thrown at them.

Farmer: I’d say that’s case by case. The Rams have to feel pretty good about playing the Cardinals, seeing as they have only lost to Arizona once in the Sean McVay era, and the Cardinals have lost four of their last five games. It’s worth noting that Arizona was much better this season on the road (8-1) than at home (3-5), so it’s probably to their benefit, at least psychologically, that they are making a trip for this one. But yes, there’s no element of surprise between these teams.

Plaschke: I think this is the best possible first-round matchup for the Rams. They not only know Arizona’s personnel and schemes, but they dominated them in Arizona in their last meeting even though the Rams were short-handed. I think Sean McVay has figured them out, and I expect the Rams to roll.

Read the rest of the discussion by clicking here.


The Chargers went to overtime in the last game of the season with a chance to qualify for postseason play in their first year under coach Brandon Staley. However, after a promising start to the season, the Chargers felt just short. Mediated by Times NFL editor Athan Atsales, Chargers beat writer Jeff Miller, Times NFL writer Sam Farmer, Rams beat writer Gary Klein, columnist Bill Plaschke and writer Mike DiGiovanna discuss what went wrong.

There were monumental moments through the Chargers-Raiders game. Yes, Staley’s philosophy all season has been to take chances, but what were you thinking when the Chargers went for it on fourth down from their 18?

Plaschke: I thought Brandon Staley had lost his mind. Then I remembered how he’s taken unnecessary risks before, failing three times on fourth down in a critical loss to Kansas City. Then I thought, wait a minute, this is a much bigger gamble, the biggest gamble of the season, going for it on fourth down FROM YOUR OWN 18-YARD-LINE!!!! Then I concluded, yeah, Brandon Staley had lost his mind.

DiGiovanna: I also was thinking, “What are they thinking???” Like Bill, I was not a fan of the Chargers passing up three makeable field goals to go for it on fourth down in a 34-28 overtime loss to Kansas City in Week 15, and I did not like Sunday night’s decision, either. I understand the analytics favor going for it on fourth down, but there is a time and a place. With so many one-score games in the NFL, how can you forego so many sure points, like the Chargers did against the Chiefs, and give up an easy three points like they did with that fourth-down decision against the Raiders?

Farmer: Not only that, but you’re not putting that situation in Justin Herbert’s hands? I didn’t get that at all. Yes, there’s upside to converting, but it’s vastly outweighed by the downside of failing to convert. It was an unsuccessful slap in the face of the Raiders, and it was like jet fuel to that crowd. To me, this was the dangling sweater thread that started the second-half unraveling.

Miller: Staley will tell you his philosophy is not to take chances; it’s to seize what he likes to call advantage looks. At least one analytics site strongly recommended going for it on that play Sunday night. Staley often said during the season that he never felt like his decisions were gambles or examples of him being reckless. This case, to me, did feel like a gamble, even by Las Vegas’ gaudy standards.

Klein: Staley stayed true to his philosophy and formula. Unfortunately, for Chargers fans, it doesn’t always work.

Read the rest of the discussion by clicking here.


NFL: Giants fire Joe Judge as coach after 10-23 record in two years


All times Pacific

Wild-card round

Las Vegas at Cincinnati, 1:30 p.m., NBC, Cincinnati favored by 5 1/2 points
New England at Buffalo, 5:15 p.m., CBS, Buffalo by 4

Philadelphia at Tampa Bay, 10 a.m., Fox, Tampa Bay by 8 1/2
San Francisco at Dallas, 1:30 p.m., CBS, Dallas by 3
Pittsburgh at Kansas City, 5:15 p.m., NBC, Kansas City by 12 1/2

Arizona at Rams, 5:15 p.m., ABC, ESPN, Rams by 4

Note: Super Bowl is Sunday, Feb. 13 on NBC.


1951 — Ezzard Charles knocks out Lee Oma in the 10th round at Madison Square Garden in New York to retain the heavyweight title.

1958 — Dolph Schayes of the Syracuse Nationals sets an NBA record for career points in a 135-109 victory over the Detroit Pistons. Schayes scores 23 points to bring his career mark to 11,770, breaking the record of 11,764 held by George Mikan.

1958 — The NCAA rules committee makes the first change in football scoring rules since 1912 by adding the two-point conversion.

1960 — Syracuse’s Dolph Schayes becomes the first player in NBA history to score 15,000 career points.

1969 — New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath “guarantees” a victory before the game against the 17-point favorite Baltimore Colts, then leads the AFL to its first Super Bowl victory, a 16-7 triumph over a Baltimore team that had lost only once in 16 games all season.

1975 — The Pittsburgh Steelers totally shut down Minnesota’s offense, handing the Vikings their third Super Bowl defeat, 16-6. Franco Harris, the game’s MVP, sets a Super Bowl rushing record with 158 yards.

1986 — Chicago’s Denis Savard ties an NHL record for the fastest goal to start a period by scoring four seconds into the third period of the Blackhawks’ 4-2 victory over the Hartford Whalers.

1991 — Princeton beats Cornell 164-71 in an unusual swimming meet. The schools agree to compete by telephone due to a blizzard making transportation a problem to Ithaca, N.Y. Both teams swim in their owns pools and the results are exchanged by FAX.

2001 — Minnesota defenseman J.J. Daigneault ties an NHL record by playing for his 10th team when he appears in a 5-0 loss to the Avalanche.

2007 — Tadd Fujikawa, just shy of his 16th birthday, steals the show at the Sony Open. Fujikawa shoots a 4-under 66, making him the youngest player in 50 years to make the cut on the PGA Tour.

2008 — Tom Brady completes all but two of his 28 passes to lead New England to its second straight AFC championship game with a 31-20 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Patriots improve to 17-0, matching the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the only team to go unbeaten from the first game of the season through the Super Bowl.

2008 — The Green Bay Packers beat the Seattle Seahawks 42-20 to reach the NFC championship game. Ryan Grant recovers from two fumbles that put the Packers down 14-0 after only four minutes. Grant sets a team postseason record by running for 201 yards, and scores three times.

2012 — Dwight Howard breaks Wilt Chamberlain’s nearly 50-year-old NBA record for most free throw attempts in a game, making 21 of 39 in the Orlando Magic’s 117-109 victory over the Golden State Warriors. Chamberlain shot 34 for the Philadelphia Warriors against St. Louis on Feb. 22, 1962.

2013 — Colin Kaepernick rushes for a quarterback playoff-record 181 yards and two touchdowns and throws two scoring passes to Michael Crabtree in San Francisco’s 45-31 win over Green Bay.

2013 — Joe Flacco throws a 70-yard score-tying touchdown to Jacoby Jones with 31 seconds left in regulation, helping send it into overtime and Baltimore beats Denver in the second extra period, 38-35.

2014 — Jeremy Abbott wins his fourth U.S. figure skating title. Teenager Jason Brown finishes second and defending champion Max Aaron places third.

2015 — Ezekiel Elliott rushes for 246 yards and four touchdowns and Ohio State wins the first national title in college football’s playoff era, running over Oregon 42-20.

Supplied by the Associated Press

And finally

Joe Namath and the Jets win Super Bowl III. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

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