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The Sports Report: Tired Clippers lose to Pacers

Amir Coffey shoots over Pacers guard Chris Duarte in the second half.
Amir Coffey shoots over Pacers guard Chris Duarte in the second half.
(AJ MAST / Associated Press)
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Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Looking for Rams news? That comes in our special Super Bowl newsletter that you will get at 6 a.m. each day until the day after the Super Bowl. If you are subscribed to this newsletter, you are automatically subscribed to the Super Bowl newsletter.

Andrew Greif on the Clippers: One more day was left before the Clippers could slip into their comfortable sheets in their home bed, hug their loved ones, bask for a few days in the warmth of the Los Angeles sun.

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They were on the road for two weeks, spending days of their lives in the sky. Sure, there was a fun novelty in the team dinners and hotel hangouts, and sharpshooting wing Luke Kennard sprinting up and down their plane’s aisle to dole out high-fives after his Cincinnati Bengals advanced to the Super Bowl, but everyone was thinking of getting back home, coach Tyronn Lue said.

First, they had one more game to play, the decimated Indiana Pacers standing in their way after a victory in Charlotte the previous afternoon.

“It’s going to be hard, it’s going to be tough — we understand it’s eight games in [13] days,” Lue said before the game Monday night in Indianapolis. “But this is a huge game for us, so we’ve got to be ready to go.”

Lue was right: This one was tough. The Clippers came out of the locker room Monday looking like a team in need of a hot tub and a few leg massages. For a minute, it looked as if they would pull off another signature comeback, cutting a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to three with just three minutes left — but the gas tank was empty, and Indiana pulled away in the final minutes to secure a 122-116 victory.

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WINTER OLYMPICS

Luggage belonging to members of the U.S. Olympic team waits to be shipped to Beijing ahead of the Winter Olympics.
(US Olympic Committee)

David Wharton on the Winter Olympics: Cold-weather sports require gloves and goggles and helmets, duffel bags bulging with hockey sticks, rifles for biathletes and four-man bobsleds the size of grand pianos. Downhill racers bring multiple pairs of skis for every conceivable type of snow and weather.

“Yeah, the Winter Games are equipment-heavy,” said Sara Studebaker-Hall, a former Olympian who, as operations director for USA Biathlon, helps current athletes with travel. “It’s plenty of luggage.”

The American team that departed Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday, headed for the Beijing Games that begin on Feb. 4, was a study in careful packing.

“You can tell the veteran by how much stuff they bring,” said David Wise, a two-time gold medalist in freestyle skiing. “The person who shows up to the airport, going on an overseas trip with five bags, you can tell is a rookie.”

At about one-third the size of their summer counterpart, the Winter Olympics comprise fewer events, fewer countries and smaller teams, so the total amount of gear is less. But, on a per-capita basis, there is no comparison—that snowboarder’s pockets could probably accommodate a wrestler’s singlet too.

The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee sent 160 pallets of equipment to China ahead of time, hiring a shipping company known for handling rock ‘n’ roll tours for the likes of Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen and Queen. Still, officials did the math before takeoff.

“We have to be conscious of the number of people who are going to fly while also accounting for the weight of baggage,” USOPC spokesman Jon Mason said. “It was definitely an equation that went into play.”

LAKERS

Dan Woike on the Lakers: Twenty-one games into this NBA season, Anthony Davis boldly predicted the Lakers were capable of winning 10 in a row. Maybe even more.

That would change the narrative, Davis said, shut up the critics and prove that the attention paid to his team would be earned and not merely given.

“We’re the Lakers,” he said.

At that point, being these Lakers wasn’t such a losing proposition. The hope wasn’t so abstract, the future not so dark and the clock not close to running out on them.

Fifty-one games into the season, that’s all changed.

“I still believe that we got a good team. We just haven’t been all the way healthy for our team. I mean, all our players. LeBron [James] is now out. I just came back. I think the most frustrating part is that we can’t finish games. We’ve had a lot of games that we had won and teams come back and beat us,” Davis said. “…But I still have belief, man. We’re a good team. No matter what happens in the regular season, if we get into the playoffs, we’re a good team. And I still believe that.”

BASEBALL

A plaque honoring baseball legend Jackie Robinson that was vandalized in Georgia is coming to Kansas City’s Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Missouri to be put on display.

The sign was erected in 2001 outside the birthplace of Robinson near Cairo, Ga. Community members there discovered last year that someone had shot the plaque multiple times.

Curator and museum vice president Ray Doswell told the Kansas City Star that displaying the defaced marker is an opportunity to teach the public about Robinson’s story and combat hate. Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier in 1947 when he became the league’s first Black player.

Robinson’s hometown replaced the damaged marker, with help from the league, and added another marker at a library last week.

NASCAR

Lane lines are painted ahead of the NASCAR race at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Luca Evans on NASCAR at the Coliseum: USC fans who walk into the Coliseum on Sunday won’t find the usual swath of green grass that serves as the Trojans’ stomping grounds. Rather, they’ll see a quarter-mile loop of asphalt serving as the site for NASCAR’s preseason Busch Light Clash.

Natural as it might look on race day, this is the first time NASCAR has experimented with building a track inside a stadium. The small dimensions have given executives like Martin Flugger, NASCAR’s vice president of engineering services, a challenge. But with the spectacle in a historic venue, NASCAR is hoping to usher in a new era for the sport.

“Knowing what this event would end up being,” said Joe Furin, general manager of the Coliseum, “literally took my breath away.”

Ben Kennedy was driving down the 110 freeway in August 2019, the Los Angeles afternoon sun smiling down, when he saw the iconic arches of the Coliseum whiz by.

Kennedy, the NASCAR vice president for strategy and innovation, was on a trip to explore new markets. A simple thought popped into his head: How cool would it be to have a race in there?

Talks between NASCAR and the Coliseum stalled during the pandemic but picked up again last summer. The first step was determining whether the dimensions of the stadium could yield a legitimate race.

“I think there were rumors, ‘Oh, they’re going to build a street course outside of it — there’s no way they can actually build a track inside of it,’” Kennedy said.

Yet after Flugger’s team drew up concept sketches and created a virtual version of the course with simulation service iRacing, they realized the Coliseum wasn’t a normal football stadium. A dirt track borders the field, which gave just enough space for a race to be feasible.

“At a certain point, the corners might get too tight,” Flugger said. “This setup was perfect.”

DUCKS

Jordan Oesterle scored 2:11 into overtime as the Detroit Red Wings beat the Ducks 2-1.

Dylan Larkin had a goal and an assist to help Detroit win for the second time in six games. Alex Nedeljkovic, starting for the 10th time in 11 games, had 14 saves.

Rickard Rakell scored for Anaheim, and John Gibson finished with 26 saves. The loss snapped the Ducks’ two-game win streak.

In the extra period, Oesterle one-timed a feed off a faceoff from Larkin for his first goal with the Red Wings.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1913 — Jim Thorpe, star of the 1912 Olympics, signs to play baseball with the New York Giants.

1914 — The Chicago White Sox and New York Giants play an exhibition game to promote baseball in Egypt. The game ends in a 3-3 tie.

1956 — Hayes Alan Jenkins leads the United States in a sweep of Olympic men’s figure skating in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. The silver goes to Ronald Robertson, and Jenkins’ younger brother, David, wins the bronze.

1964 — Bobby Rousseau of the Montreal Canadiens scores five goals in a 9-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.

1995 — Utah guard John Stockton becomes the NBA’s career assist leader, setting up Karl Malone with 6:30 left in the first half of the Jazz’s 129-88 victory over Denver. Stockton’s 9,922nd assist moves him ahead of Magic Johnson.

1998 — David Graham wins the longest playoff in Senior PGA Tour history, beating Dave Stockton with a birdie on the 10th extra hole in the Royal Caribbean Classic.

2003 — Regina Jacobs becomes the first woman to break four minutes in the indoor 1,500 meters at the Boston Indoor Games. Jacobs finishes in 3:59.98 to break the world record of 4:00.27 set by Romanian Doina Melinte in 1990.

2004 — The New England Patriots win their second Super Bowl in three seasons after Adam Vinatieri kicks a field goal with 4 seconds left to lift his team to a 32-29 victory over the Carolina Panthers.

2006 — New York’s Epiphanny Prince scores 113 points for Murry Bergtraum High School in a 137-32 win over Brandeis High School, breaking a girls’ national prep record previously held by Hall of Famer Cheryl Miller.

2008 — Jockey Russell Baze is the first to win 10,000th races in North America when he leads Two Step Cat to victory in the third race at Golden Gate Fields.

2009 — Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh offense end a Super Bowl of incredible swings with a final-minute touchdown for a historic victory, 27-23 over the Arizona Cardinals. Santonio Holmes makes a brilliant 6-yard catch deep in the right corner of the end zone with 35 seconds remaining, lifting the Steelers to a record-setting sixth Super Bowl win.

2014 — Ray Guy becomes the first punter elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

2014 — Oregon Institute of Technology men’s basketball coach Danny Miles becomes the second men’s coach at a four-year program to reach 1,000 career wins with a 71-51 victory over Corban.

2015 — Tom Brady throws for four touchdowns and Malcolm Butler intercepts Russell Wilson’s pass in the end zone with 20 seconds left, helping New England hold on to beat Seattle 28-24 for their fourth Super Bowl title.

2016 — For the first time in more than eight years, Duke is not in The Associated Press men’s basketball Top 25. The Blue Devils (15-6) had lost four of five, including two home games. They had been in every men’s poll since the preseason rankings of 2007-08.

Supplied by the Associated Press

And finally

The Steelers defeat the Cardinals to win Super Bowl XLIII. 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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