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The Sports Report: UCLA almost blows it, but hangs on to defeat USC

USC forward Harrison Hornery is fouled by UCLA forward Adem Bonain the second half.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
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Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

From Ben Bolch: If at first you don’t succeed, get the ball back in the hands of Jaylen Clark.

With his team on the verge of an epic collapse in the final minute against its archrival, badly outplayed for the entire second half, the UCLA junior guard found himself open for a three-pointer.

He missed.

As Clark’s shot caromed off the rim, the Bruins trailed by two points with 19 seconds left and the sellout Pauley Pavilion crowd grew uneasy at the prospect of the home team dropping a game that it once led by 18 points early in the second half.

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The Bruins would get one more shot at redemption courtesy of senior guard David Singleton, who snatched the rebound and immediately fed Clark for another open look from beyond the three-point arc. Without hesitation, Clark rose for another try.

“I normally don’t miss two in a row,” Clark would say later.

That held true again, Clark’s second shot fell through the net to send the celebrity-packed crowd into a frenzy with his Bruins once again holding a lead. Tenth-ranked UCLA held on for a 60-58 victory over USC after Boogie Ellis’ baseline jumper at the buzzer was off the mark, allowing the Bruins to exhale.

“We lucked out and got up out of here with a win,” said Clark, who led the Bruins with 15 points, “but not a performance we’re really proud of.”

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CLIPPERS

From Andrew Greif: Losers of three straight and seeking a spark, the Clippers hoped this night would represent a turnaround.

In one sense, that is exactly what took place.

After four quarters of their most ineffective, uncompetitive basketball of this season, the Clippers were spun around in circles so easily during a disastrous, 122-91 display in Denver that as the midway point of the season rapidly approaches, their season appears as though it is now heading backward.

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DAMAR HAMLIN

From David Wharton: The game of football and its fans have never been particularly squeamish about injuries. When players tear a knee ligament or dislocate a shoulder, when they wobble away from a jarring collision, trainers help them to the sideline and play resumes.

What happened to Damar Hamlin during a “Monday Night Football” game this week was different.

Time and again, television cameras returned to the field where the Buffalo Bills safety had suffered a cardiac arrest and collapsed to the turf. Viewers watched for nearly 20 minutes while medical personnel scrambled to revive him with CPR and defibrillation.

As Hamlin remains hospitalized in critical condition, the question lingers: Was that scene horrifying enough to cause fans to second-guess their love for a sport so inherently dangerous?

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Remarkably improved Bills safety Damar Hamlin’s first concern: ‘Did we win?’

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Damar Hamlin showing improvement: ‘All the cylinders are firing within his brain’

Bills vs. Bengals canceled: Breaking down playoff scenarios and neutral-site games

NO TAILGATING

From J. Brady McCollough: Georgia fans, excited to bring their passionate college football culture to Los Angeles for Monday’s College Football Playoff national championship game against Texas Christian, were hit with some bad news this week upon learning that no tailgating would be allowed in the SoFi Stadium parking lots pregame.

The social media backlash was predictable, with California’s wacky West Coast ways bearing the brunt of the angst, to the point that Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp couldn’t resist taking a shot Thursday morning from his Twitter account.

But, as it often turns out, the angry mob and politicians have misdirected their ire without gathering all the facts. Neither California, nor Los Angeles, nor Inglewood, nor SoFi Stadium is to blame for this unconscionable affront to Southern football culture.

It’s the Irving, Texas-based College Football Playoff’s decision to ban tailgating at its premier event — the same stance it took at last year’s game in Indianapolis, the year before that in Miami and the prior year in New Orleans.

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CHARGERS

From Jeff Miller: He declared himself 100% healthy, Derwin James Jr. having cleared the NFL’s concussion protocol and now fully back with the Chargers.

The three-time Pro Bowl safety offered another emphatic declaration Thursday:

“I’m not a dirty player,” James said. “If you look at how I play every week, I’m not out to hurt nobody. I don’t play the game that way. I wasn’t taught the game that way.”

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RAMS

From Gary Klein: Bobby Wagner is ready for another homecoming.

The veteran linebacker and Ontario native experienced one last March when he signed with the Rams after he was unceremoniously released by the Seattle Seahawks.

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Wagner returns to Seattle on Sunday when the Rams play the Seahawks at Lumen Field in the regular-season finale.

Wagner has strong emotions about the team that shaped him as a player and a city that shaped him as man.

“It will be fun to go back there,” Wagner said, “be back in front of those fans.”

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NFL readers Q&A: If Ravens and Chargers finish tied, who owns playoff tiebreaker?

ANGEL CITY

From Kevin Baxter: Angel City has acquired the top pick in next week’s NWSL draft in a three-team trade involving the Portland Thorns and NY/NJ Gotham FC and will use the selection to sign Harvard-Westlake’s Alyssa Thompson, according to several people with knowledge of the negotiations who are not authorized to speak publicly.

Angel City sent its natural first-round pick, the No. 5 overall selection; its second-round natural pick in 2024; and $200,000 in allocation money to Portland for midfielder Yazmeen Ryan, Angel City announced. The team then sent Ryan and an additional $250,000 in allocation money to Gotham FC for the top pick in the Jan. 12 draft. The trade was made official Thursday.

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Alex Morgan highlights U.S. women’s soccer call-up roster for January camp

ANGELS

From Bill Shaikin: The owner of the defending NBA champions confirmed Thursday he is exploring the purchase of the Angels.

In August, when Angels owner Arte Moreno put the team up for sale, Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob told the Los Angeles Times he would “look at good opportunities.” On a podcast with the Athletic columnist Tim Kawakami, Lacob said the Angels could indeed be a good opportunity.

“I’ve always felt that it had great possibilities,” Lacob said. “L.A. is a huge market, and it’s part of that L.A. overall market. They’ve drawn over 3 million fans, I think, 17 out of the last 20 years. We’re going to look at it. … It may be doable. So we’ll see.”

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KINGS

Trent Frederic scored twice in 34 seconds during the third period and the Boston Bruins extended their point streak to 12 games with a 5-2 victory over the Kings on Thursday night.

Frederic put in the go-ahead goal at 10:36 when he redirected Brandon Carlo’s shot from the point. The Boston center then quickly picked up his career-high ninth goal of the season at 11:10 when he beat Kings goaltender Pheonix Copley with a backhand in front.

Phillip Danault and Sean Durzi scored for Los Angeles.

DODGERS

Results of our poll, who is the greatest third baseman in Dodgers history, after 10,489 votes:

Ron Cey, 57.5%
Justin Turner, 25%
Adrián Beltré, 13.8%
Billy Cox, 3.7%

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1951 — The Indianapolis Olympians beat the Rochester Royals 75-73 in six overtimes, the longest game in NBA history.

1976 — Ted Turner, a millionaire communications executive and internationally known yachtsman, buys the Atlanta Braves for a reported $10-to-12 million.

1980 — The Rams, behind three field goals by Frank Corral, beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9-0 to win the NFC Championship. This is the first conference championship game in NFL history without a touchdown being scored.

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1980 — The Pittsburgh Steelers advance to their fourth Super Bowl appearance since 1974 by eliminating the Houston Oilers for the second consecutive year with a 27-13 triumph in the AFC title game.

1981 — John Tonelli ties a New York Islanders record with five goals in a 6-3 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Nassau Coliseum. Mike Bossy gets an assist on all six goals to set an Islanders record. Tonelli scores once in the first period, once in the second and three times in the third.

1985 — Dan Marino passes for a record 421 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Miami Dolphins to a 45-28 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC championship game.

1985 — The San Francisco 49ers holds the Chicago Bears to 186 yards and sacks quarterback Steve Fuller nine times to win the NFC Championship 23-0.

1994 — Nancy Kerrigan is attacked after practice at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit. Shane Stant clubs Kerrigan on the knee and flees the scene. Later that evening, Scott Davis wins the men’s U.S. Figure Skating title.

1995 — Lenny Wilkens becomes the winningest coach in NBA history as the Atlanta Hawks post a 112-90 victory over the Washington Bullets. Wilkens, with his 939th win, surpasses Red Auerbach’s record. Wilkens reaches the record in his 22nd year as an NBA coach, including four as a player-coach.

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2005 — For the first time in NBA history, a player leads his team in scoring without making a field goal. Detroit’s Richard Hamilton scores 14 points despite missing all 10 of his field goal attempts in a 101-79 loss to Memphis.

2011 — Miami of Ohio caps a historic season with a 35-21 win over Middle Tennessee in the GoDaddy.com Bowl. The RedHawks (10-4) are the first team in Football Bowl Subdivision history to win 10 games one season after losing 10. Miami finished a dismal 1-11 in 2009.

2014 — Patrick Maher of Division III Grinnell College breaks the NCAA record with 37 assists in a 164-144 victory over College of Faith.

2014 — Jameis Winston throws a 13-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds left and No. 1 Florida State beat No. 2 Auburn 34-31 to win the last BCS national championship game.

2015 — Patrik Elias has a goal and two assists to reach 1,000, NHL points, and the New Jersey Devils beat the struggling Buffalo Sabres 4-1. The goal is the 399th for Elias.

2016 — Ken Griffey Jr. is elected to the baseball Hall of Fame with the highest voting percentage ever, and Mike Piazza makes it in his fourth year on the ballot. Griffey is on 437 of 440 votes in his first appearance on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. His 99.3 percentage tops Tom Seaver’s 98.84 in 1992.

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2018 — Jon Gruden returns to the NFL as Oakland Raiders head coach after nearly a decade of broadcasting (ESPN Monday Night Football 2009-17)

Compiled by the Associated Press

And finally

The Rams beat Tampa Bay in the NFC title game. 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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