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The Sports Report: Lakers fall to 76ers

Philadelphia 76ers guard Matisse Thybulle fouls Russell Westbrook in the first half.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)
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Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

From Dan Woike: At the time, it seemed unnecessarily bold, the Lakers playing so-so basketball when Anthony Davis casually laid it all out in late November.

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“We could go on a 10-game winning streak, 12-game winning streak,” Davis said after the Lakers lost to the Sacramento Kings, “now the narrative is different.”

The narrative, months later heading into the last week of March, isn’t any different.

Since Davis’ statement, the Lakers have had just three total winning streaks, momentum impossible to come by in a season that’s gotten more and more hopeless as the season has worn on.

They won two in a row right after Davis’ proposition. Later, they’d win three in a row before winning four-straight in early January.

And since? Nothing.

That was 75 days ago.

For a franchise that once won 33-straight, the inability to string even two wins in a row could soon be season-ending. With the Lakers, at best, headed for the back-end of the NBA’s play-in tournament, they’ll need to win consecutive games first to even make the playoffs.

The latest quest for consecutive wins happened Wednesday night against Joel Embiid, James Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers. And despite plenty of fight — a trait that’s moved to the surface particularly in the last week, the Lakers walked off the court with a 126-121 loss.

The team’s last 10 wins have been followed by a loss.

Wednesday, the Lakers were underdogs — and that was even before the team ruled LeBron James out with a sore left knee.

“Played three games in four nights — lot of minutes,” Frank Vogel said of James’ recent road trip. “There’s enough soreness to keep him out.”

The next Lakers game is Sunday in New Orleans, giving James five days rest on an issue that he’s wrestled with since the end of January.

“If he can be in there,” Vogel said, “he wants to be in there.”

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NCAA MEN’S TOURNAMENT

How Jaime Jaquez Jr. became the UCLA Bruins’ toughest player

Four decades of March Madness link Clippers assistant Jay Larrañaga and his father Jim

Sweet 16
Today’s schedule

West
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 4 Arkansas, 4:09 p.m., CBS
No. 2 Duke vs. No. 3 Texas Tech, 6:39 p.m., CBS

South
No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 11 Michigan, 4:29 p.m., TBS
No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 5 Houston, 6:59 p.m., TBS

Friday’s schedule

East
No. 3 Purdue vs. No. 15 Saint Peter’s, 4:09 p.m., CBS
No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 8 North Carolina, 6:39 p.m., CBS

Midwest
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 4 Providence, 4:29 p.m., TBS
No. 10 Miami vs. No. 11 Iowa State, 6:59 p.m., TBS

NCAA WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT

NCAA tournament
Schedule and results

Sweet 16
Friday

Spokane Region
No. 2 Texas vs. No. 6 Ohio St., 4 p.m., ESPN2
No. 1 Stanford vs. No. 4 Maryland, 6:30 p.m., ESPN

Greensboro Region
No. 1 South Carolina vs. No. 5 North Carolina, 4 p.m., ESPN
No. 3 Iowa St. vs. No. 10 Creighton, 6:30 p.m., ESPN2

Saturday

Wichita Region
No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 4 Tennessee 70, 1 p.m., ESPN2
No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 10 South Dakota, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2

Bridgeport Region
No. 1 North Carolina St. vs. No. 5 Notre Dame, 8:30 a.m., ESPN
No. 2 Connecticut vs. No. 3 Indiana, 11 a.m., ESPN

USC BASKETBALL

From Ryan Kartje: When USC needed a stabilizing force to save its tournament life last week, it turned to Ethan Anderson, a veteran guard and former Fairfax High star who’d spent three seasons guiding the Trojans as their floor general, on and off the court.

But less than a week after USC came up short in that first-round NCAA tournament defeat, Anderson is on his way out, along with two other members of the Trojans’ rotation.

The junior point guard entered the NCAA transfer portal, announcing in a post on Twitter that he’s “so thankful to have played in front of the city that molded me.”

“I want to thank USC from the bottom of my heart for the amazing ride being on 3 tournament teams and doing things people thought I could never do,” Anderson wrote. “USC will forever be in my heart.”

On a day of upheaval for the Trojans, Anderson was joined in the transfer portal by Max Agbonkpolo, a junior forward who carved out a major role this season, and Boubacar Coulibaly, a reserve big man.

Agbonkpolo took a major step forward as a junior, earning a starting role late in the season. He averaged 7.7 points per game and 3.5 rebounds per game. Coulibaly played in just six games, scoring 20 total points this season.

DODGERS

From Jack Harris: The Dodgers didn’t explicitly tell Gavin Lux to work on his outfield play this winter.

But after blossoming in a utility role at the end of last season, when the natural infielder filled in at multiple spots in the outfield while the team battled injuries down the stretch, Lux understood it was something he needed to do — adding outfield work into his offseason routine at a massive indoor training facility near his home in snowy Wisconsin.

“It’s hard to really replicate game fly balls, especially when you’re stuck indoors in Wisconsin,” he said. “But I still got a chance to, with my trainer, work on opening up and your first-step reads and stuff like that. You still could do some drill work, but it’s not the real thing.”

That made Wednesday another important step for Lux, as he played in the outfield in a game for the first time this spring.

————

Hernández: Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw has pitched a lot of innings. He doesn’t regret any of them

DUCKS

Dylan Strome scored the go-ahead goal with 3:50 remaining and Patrick Kane had another big night against Anaheim as the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the skidding Ducks 4-2.

Strome redirected Riley Stillman’s shot from near the blueline past goalie John Gibson to help the Blackhawks snap a three-game losing streak.

Kane had a goal and two assists, giving him a point in nine consecutive games against Anaheim (seven goals, 11 assists). He gave the Blackhawks a 2-1 advantage at 11:37 of the second period with a slap shot from the right circle on a power play.

On March 8 in Chicago, Kane posted a career-high six points in an 8-3 win over the Ducks.

Sam Carrick — who was playing in his 100th NHL game — scored twice for Anaheim, marking the first time he has recorded a multigoal game.

However, it wasn’t enough for the Ducks, who have dropped eight straight games for the fifth time in franchise history. They also had an 0-6-3 skid early last season.

SOCCER

From Kevin Baxter: There is no more difficult place for the U.S. national team to play than Estadio Azteca, Mexico’s iconic fortress home and the largest soccer stadium in Latin America.

If the heat, the altitude and the passionate Mexican fans don’t get you, the smog will.

“The last time we played, we had players very ill after the game,” said Bruce Arena, who coached the U.S. in three World Cup qualifiers at Azteca without winning a game. “I remember walking out in the tunnel and Kellyn Acosta was doubled over puking.

“It’s, uh, challenging.”

It’s also why the U.S.-Mexico rivalry is among the most intense in international sports, one that turns especially bitter when the stakes are high as they will be Thursday when the teams play in Azteca with a World Cup berth up for grabs.

The duel could soon lose some of its luster if that game proves to be the last one the teams play in Mexico City during World Cup qualifying.

Both countries, along with Canada, are expected to get automatic berths in the 2026 tournament since they’re hosting it, precluding a qualifying tournament. And by 2030, with the World Cup field at 48 teams and the number of guaranteed CONCACAF entrants doubling to six, the current qualifying format will have to change.

WNBA

The U.S. State Department said Wednesday that a U.S. Embassy official has visited with WNBA star Brittney Griner, who remains detained near Moscow, to check on her condition.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price told CNN that the official found Griner “to be in good condition.” Price did not identify the official who had been granted consular access to Griner, something the U.S. had been demanding.

Griner was detained after arriving at a Moscow airport, reportedly in mid-February, after Russian authorities said a search of her luggage revealed vape cartridges that allegedly contained oil derived from cannabis, which could carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

CHARGERS

From Jeff Miller: He was brought in to help improve the run defense, a bigger body with intentions of clogging things inside … and then some.

“Just being stout in the middle,” Austin Johnson said, “making plays, running sideline to sideline.”

Signed by the Chargers last week as a free agent, Johnson was introduced to the local media Wednesday via video call.

Click here for highlights of that conversation plus a couple other tidbits from a day that saw Chargers nemesis Tyreek Hill traded some 1,500 miles out of the AFC West.

DUCKS

The NHL scrapped the trade of winger Evgenii Dadonov from Vegas to Anaheim over his no-trade list on Wednesday in an embarrassing end to a saga that dragged on more than 48 hours past the deadline and left the Golden Knights in a salary cap bind as they fight for a playoff spot.

The league voided the deal and said Dadonov’s limited no-trade clause “had not been complied with.” Under the terms of his contract originally signed in 2020 by Ottawa, the 33-year-old Russian winger submitted a list of 10 teams to which he would not approve a trade.

Though there is nothing in the rules stopping Vegas from making a post-deadline deal and sending Dadonov to a team not on his no-trade list, the team is expected to keep him.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1936 — Detroit’s Mud Bruneteau ends the longest game in NHL history with a goal after 116 minutes and 30 seconds (six overtimes) to edge the Montreal Maroons 1-0 in the semifinals of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

1941 — Long Island University wins the NIT championship with a 56-42 victory over Ohio.

1945 — NYU battles back from a ten-point deficit with two minutes to go to send the NCAA Tournament national semifinal game into overtime. NYU wins 70-65. At the time, a team got one free throw when fouled near end of game, but could elect instead to inbound the ball. Ohio State is fouled three times, opts to shoot the foul shot and misses each time.

1956 — San Francisco’s Bill Russell has 26 points and 27 rebounds to lead the Dons to an 83-71 win over Iowa and their second-straight national title and 55th consecutive victory, then an NCAA record.

1962 — Paul Hogue scores 22 points and grabs 19 rebounds and Tom Thacker adds 21 to lead Cincinnati to a 71-59 victory over Ohio State for its second NCAA basketball championship.

1970 — Jerry West of the Lakers wins his only NBA scoring title, accumulating 2,309 points in 74 games for a 31.2 ppg. average.

1973 — Kansas City-Omaha’s Nate “Tiny” Archibald becomes the first player in NBA history to lead the NBA in both scoring (34.0 ppg.) and assists (11.4 apg.) in the same season.

1975 — Muhammad Ali knocks out Chuck Wepner in the 15th round to retain the world heavyweight title in Cleveland.

1975 — Princeton becomes the first Ivy League school to win the NIT title with an 80-69 win over Providence.

1979 — Indiana State, led by Larry Bird, advances to the NCAA Championship game by squeezing past DePaul 76-74. Bird has 35 points, 16 rebounds and 9 assists.

1980 — Louisville beats UCLA 59-54 to win the NCAA basketball title.

1992 — Pittsburgh’s Mario Lemieux becomes the 36th player in NHL history with 1,000 points, getting an assist in the second period of the Penguins’ 4-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

1994 — Kansas State’s Askia Jones scores 62 points in 28 minutes in a 115-77 victory over Fresno State in the NIT quarterfinals. Jones shoots 18-for-25 from the floor, including 14-of-18 on three-pointers, and 12-for-16 from the line.

2013 — Florida Gulf Coast goes from shocking the men’s college basketball world to downright impressing it. The Eagles beat San Diego State 81-71 to become the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

2017 — Devin Booker scores 70 points, becoming the sixth different player in NBA history to reach that total, but the Boston Celtics get 34 points from Isaiah Thomas and outlast the Phoenix Suns 130-120.

2018 — Nathan Chen completes six quadruple jumps in the free program to become the first U.S. winner of the men’s world figure skating title since 2009.

2018 — Loyola Chicago romps to a 78-62 victory over Kansas State to cap off a stunning run through the bracket-busting South Regional. The Ramblers (32-5) match the lowest-seeded team (11th) ever to reach the Final Four, joining LSU (1986), George Mason (2006) and VCU (2011). The South is the first regional in tournament history to have the top four seeds — including overall No. 1 Virginia — knocked out on the opening weekend.

Supplied by the Associated Press

And finally

Muhammad Ali takes on Chuck Wepner. 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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