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The Sports Report: For his birthday, Sean McVay would like....

Rams head coach Sean McVay.
Rams head coach Sean McVay.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
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Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

Gary Klein on the Rams: On Jan. 12, 2017, the Rams hired then-30-year-old Sean McVay, making him the youngest coach in modern NFL history.

On Monday, McVay celebrated his 36th birthday by beginning to prepare for the NFC championship game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at SoFi Stadium.

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“I feel really grateful for these five years,” McVay said during a videoconference with reporters. “Has it accelerated my aging? Yes. It’s like dog years, but I’ve loved every second of it.

“But I definitely feel like I’ve aged more than five years over the last handful of seasons.”

The Rams were on the verge of taking years off McVay when they lost four fumbles and blew a 24-point lead in a divisional-round playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday in Tampa, Fla. But Matthew Stafford’s long pass to Cooper Kupp set up Matt Gay’s game-winning field goal for a 30-27 victory over Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champions.

The win put the Rams back in the NFC championship game for the first time since 2018, when McVay led his team to Super Bowl LIII. McVay has a 55-26 record in the regular season, 5-3 in the playoffs.

“I’m very refreshed,” McVay said when asked how old he felt. “If you said, ‘What’s the birthday present I wanted?’ It’s to be able to still keep working.”

Now, to fulfill their mandate to play in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium, McVay must figure a way to get past the 49ers and coach Kyle Shanahan, his friend, mentor and nemesis who has no doubt accelerated McVay’s aging process.

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The Rams have not defeated the 49ers since 2018, a streak of six games.

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NFL PLAYOFFS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

Conference championships

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Sunday

Cincinnati at Kansas City, Noon, CBS, Chiefs favored by 7
San Francisco at Rams, 3:30 p.m., Fox, Rams by 3 1/2

Note: Super Bowl is Sunday, Feb. 13 at 3:30 p.m. on NBC.

LAKERS

Broderick Turner on the Lakers: All-Star Anthony Davis, after missing the last 17 games, has been “upgraded to probable” by the team for the game Tuesday night at Brooklyn.

This is another step in the right direction for Davis and the Lakers, who had upgraded the forward to questionable and a game-time decision for their game Sunday at Miami. But Davis didn’t play against the Heat.

He has been out since he sprained a right knee ligament Dec. 17 at Minnesota.

The Lakers said Davis would be re-evaluated in four weeks after the injury, but it turned out that they were more cautious with him.

“Any time you get a talent like that that comes back to the lineup, it boosts our team, not only physically, mentally, spiritually, everything,” LeBron James said after the Lakers lost in Miami on Sunday. “You get a big-time player like that on both sides of the floor so it’s no pressure when he decides he’s ready or when the doctors and his staff tell him he’s ready. But we look forward to when he’s in the uniform again with us.”

UCLA BASKETBALL

Ben Bolch on the Bruins: UCLA fans have been welcomed back to Pauley Pavilion. Now, they just need the Bruins to help them score invitations to tag along to Viejas Arena in San Diego and the Chase Center in San Francisco.

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Those would be the most favorable NCAA tournament destinations for UCLA prior to the Final Four if it can overtake Arizona to win the Pac-12 Conference and challenge Gonzaga for the top seed in the West Regional.

It’s a California dreaming scenario that is going to require some wins of change for the team that sits one game behind Arizona in the conference standings. Fortunately for the seventh-ranked Bruins — or unfortunately, depending on how things go — they will face the third-ranked Wildcats twice in 10 days beginning with a rare Tuesday night showdown on UCLA’s home court.

“Definitely should be a fun environment,” Bruins guard Johnny Juzang said Monday of having a large turnout inside Pauley Pavilion for the first time since Dec. 1 after the school’s recent loosening of restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

USC BASKETBALL

Ryan Kartje on the Trojans: As the drought dragged into its seventh minute, disaster knocked at USC’s door. Shots refused to fall. Errant passes flew inexplicably out of bounds. Turnovers piled up at an alarming clip. Any rhythm the Trojans had found on their Rocky Mountain road trip had apparently been lost upon landing in Los Angeles. The first crowd at Galen Center in over a month could only look on in confusion at a team that had looked like one of the nation’s best the last time it played in front of home fans.

Nothing was working on Monday night until freshman Reese Dixon-Waters caught a pass just behind the arc, 13 minutes into one of USC’s worst starts in recent memory. The Trojans had nearly as many turnovers (eight) as points (10). They’d missed 11 straight from the field over seven scoreless minutes, spotting Arizona State, one of the Pac-12’s worst teams, an early 12-point lead.

That’s when the wide-open freshman lifted up from long range and bid impending disaster adieu.

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Dixon-Waters’ three-pointer was all it took to finally open the floodgates, and from there, there was nothing to stop the Trojans’ surge as USC rolled to a 78-56 victory over Arizona State that hardly looked assured through most of the first half.

KINGS

Adam Fox scored the deciding goal in the sixth round of a shootout and the New York Rangers beat the Kings 3-2 for their ninth win in 12 games.

Chris Kreider got his NHL-leading 30th goal, Barclay Goodrow also scored and Artemi Panarin had two assists as New York won its fifth straight at home. Igor Shesterkin stopped 28 shots to pick up his 20th win of the season.

Blake Lizotte and Alex Iafallo scored in the second period for the Kings. Jonathan Quick stopped 34 shots as the Kings lost for the fourth time in five games.

Kings captain Anze Kopitar and Panarin scored in the third round of the tiebreaker, and Kings rookie Quinton Byfield and New York’s Alexis Lafreniere converted in the fifth round. After Shesterkin denied Arthur Kaliyev in the sixth round, Fox roofed a slick backhand that stuck in the net to win it.

DUCKS

Troy Terry scored his team-leading 23rd goal, Ryan Getzlaf had a goal and set up another, and the Ducks cooled off the Boston Bruins with a 5-3 victory.

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Isac Lundestrom, Derek Grant and Greg Pateryn also scored for the Ducks, who won for the fourth time in 11 games. John Gibson made 23 saves and Hampus Lindholm had three assists.

David Pastrnak scored his 20th goal for Boston, with 12 coming in 13 games this month. Taylor Hall added a power-play goal and Erik Haula scored late for the Bruins, who had gone 10-2 since New Year’s Day.

WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE FOOTBALL PLAYER?

Beginning Jan. 31 and ending Feb. 14, a special bonus edition of the Sports Report will be delivered to your inbox every morning at 6 a.m., focusing on the Super Bowl, which will be played at SoFi Stadium on Sunday, Feb. 13. In the meantime, please send me in your favorite football player of all time, and why. Answers will be printed in the special Super Bowl newsletter each day right up until Super Bowl Sunday. Is your favorite player of all time a former Ram? Walter Payton? Jim Brown? Joe Namath? Whoever it is, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com and let me know. Include a couple of sentences explaining why that player is your favorite. It’s your chance to be read by the tens of thousands of people who subscribe.

Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com with your choice.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1894 — Jim Corbett knocks out Charley Mitchell in the third round to retain the world heavyweight title.

1924 — The first Winter Olympics are held in Chamonix, France.

1939 — Joe Louis knocks out John Henry Lewis at 2:39 of the first round to retain the world heavyweight title.

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1945 — Larry MacPhail, Dan Topping and Del Webb buy the New York Yankees for $2.8 million.

1960 — Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors sets a record for rookies with 58 points in a 127-117 triumph over the Detroit Pistons. Chamberlain also grabs 42 rebounds.

1968 — Bob Seagren sets an indoor pole vault record in the Millrose Games at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Seagren’s world record leap is 17 feet, 4 1/4 inches.

1972 — Eddie Woods of Oral Roberts grabs 30 rebounds in a 109-95 victory over Louisiana Tech.

1981 — Jim Plunkett’s two first-quarter touchdown passes, including a Super Bowl-record 80-yard strike to running back Kenny King, leads the Oakland Raiders to a 27-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

1987 — The New York Giants win the Super Bowl with a 39-20 rout of the Denver Broncos. The Giants, trailing 10-9 at halftime, score 30 points in the second half to set a Super Bowl record. Phil Simms completes a record 10 straight passes and 22 of 25 attempts overall.

1988 — Utah guard Rickey Green scores the NBA’s 5 millionth point when the Jazz beat Cleveland 119-96.

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1991 — Brett Hull scores two goals to become the third player in NHL history to score 50 goals in less than 50 games (49). Hull adds two assists to lead the St. Louis Blues to a 9-4 rout of the Detroit Red Wings.

1998 — John Elway and the Denver Broncos win a Super Bowl for themselves and the AFC, by beating the Green Bay Packers 31-24. Terrell Davis, selected the MVP, rushes for 157 yards scores on three 1-yard touchdown runs, including the winner with 1:45 left.

2003 — Serena Williams survives an error-filled match to beat elder sister Venus 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-4 to win the Australian Open for her fourth straight major championship.

2014 — Li Na, who turns 32 next month, beats Dominika Cibulkova 7-6 (3), 6-0 in the Australian Open final to become the oldest woman to clinch the title here in the Open era.

2014 — Kate Hansen becomes the first American in nearly 17 years to win a World Cup singles luge race, prevailing at the season finale in Sigulda, Latvia. She’s the first World Cup winner for USA Luge since Cameron Myler won in 1997.

2014 — Tiger Woods shoots a 79 at Torrey Pines to match his worst score on American soil. Woods misses the 54-hole cut for the first time in his career at the Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is an eight-time winner at Torrey Pines, including the 2008 U.S. Open.

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2015 — Mike Krzyzewski earns his 1,000th win, making him the first NCAA Division I men’s coach to reach the milestone, when No. 5 Duke surges past St. John’s for a 77-68 victory at Madison Square Garden.

Supplied by the Associated Press

And finally

The Raiders defeat the Eagles to win Super Bowl XV. 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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