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The Sports Report: No LeBron, No AD means no victory for the Lakers

LeBron James and Anthony Davis look on from the bench during the second half Monday.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis look on from the bench during the second half Monday.
(Corey Sipkin / Associated Press)
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Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

From Dan Woike: Kyrie Irving, one of the slickest ballhandlers in the NBA, dribbled in front of the Lakers’ bench in the first half Monday night at Barclays Center. One of the league’s peskiest defenders, Patrick Beverley, tried to mirror him move for move before he eventually was called for a foul.

It was an entertaining sliver in the game — and a moment that ended with LeBron James, sitting on the end of the Lakers’ bench, reaching his hands into a box of popcorn and pulling out a few kernels.

Fresh off a game the Lakers believed they should’ve won in Boston, they played one where they certainly knew they could lose, Anthony Davis out in the front end of a back to back and James on the bench because of a persistent sore foot.

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Though the Lakers continued to show teams around the league that they’re not short on fight, with Davis and James on the bench — even against a Brooklyn team without Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons — the Lakers were too short on talent to win.

Brooklyn beat the Lakers 121-104 despite the Lakers leading by as many as seven points in the second half. Thomas Bryant scored 18 points and Russell Westbrook had 17, eight rebounds and 10 assists.

Troy Brown Jr. grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds.

Irving scored 26 to lead the Nets.

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CLIPPERS

From Andrew Greif: When Nicolas Batum mentioned to Clippers teammates last week that he believed they were about to start a five-game winning streak, his reasoning for choosing such a precise number was simple to deduce.

The sixth game in that stretch? It was scheduled to land Sunday, the very next night after Game No. 5. And as anyone who has watched the NBA this season knows, the Clippers have again been a leading example of the increasingly leaguewide strategy of holding out contributors on one night of back-to-back games, valuing rest ahead of the postseason over reps in the regular season.

For a team that had begun to find its stride during the streak that preceded Sunday’s “schedule loss,” however, the game marked an important schedule milestone: The Clippers aren’t scheduled to play on consecutive days again until March 2-3.

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It creates a 12-game window — Game 12 is the first night of that back-to-back set — in which Kawhi Leonard and Paul George should be available, barring injury, to play every night as the Clippers attempt to make up ground in the Western Conference standings and build chemistry.

All but one of those dozen games are against teams that entered Monday with winning records — and potential playoff teams. While the Clippers are 19-9 against teams that had losing records the day of their matchup, they are only 9-15 against opponents .500 or better. Beating good teams has been a missing element on the Clippers’ credentials, and they know it, with George saying last week that the team’s current six-game trip would be a “good test” because of the caliber of opponents.

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DODGERS

From Jack Harris: Ralph Avila, an influential former Dodgers executive and scout who led the organization’s efforts to develop players in Latin America, particularly in the Dominican Republic, during his tenure from 1970 to 1999, died Monday at 92.

Avila’s son, baseball executive Al Avila, told ESPN Deportes that his father died at his home in Miami from natural causes.

Originally hired by the Dodgers as a part-time scout in 1970 after leaving his native Cuba, where he was a semi-pro baseball player, Avila became a key figure in the franchise’s operations in the Dominican Republic and other parts of Latin America.

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NHL

From Helene Elliott: Gary Bettman made a name for himself in the 1980s as the NBA’s general counsel and third-in-command, the sharp, young lawyer who created the league’s salary cap. Working alongside Commissioner David Stern, Bettman helped stabilize the NBA and transform it into a star-centric league watched by a global audience.

Still, it was a surprise when the NHL, seeking a chief executive who could get them a salary cap and revenue boost, landed on Bettman. He wasn’t born into hockey or part of its old boys’ network. He was from Queens, N.Y., not Canada.

“When I first heard about it, I sent the guy a puck and I heard he spent all day at his desk trying to figure out how to open it up,” said Pat Williams, then general manager of the NBA’s Orlando Magic.

Bettman isn’t warm and fuzzy. He can be haughty, alienating the fans whose interests he claimed to be protecting when he locked players out three times during labor disputes.

Spots of color flame in his cheeks when he stubbornly defends what seems indefensible, such as his contortions to keep the Coyotes in Arizona at a tiny college rink and being unmoved by studies that have found links between repeated head trauma and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease found in autopsies of more than a dozen NHL players.

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Yet Bettman is smart. Very smart. He figured out how to open that puck and stretch the reach of a sport that doesn’t translate well to TV and has little tradition in many areas of the U.S. The longest-serving commissioner in the four major North American sports leagues, Bettman on Wednesday will celebrate 30 years on the job. He turned 70 last summer but has no retirement plans.

“Like birthdays, it’s just a number,” Bettman said. “Because everybody’s having me do it, I do reflect on the fact that I’ve been at this a while, and I continue to be excited and energized by what I do.”

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Hockey legend Bobby Hull, the speedy ‘Golden Jet,’ dies at 84

CHARGERS

From Jeff Miller: Moving quickly, the Chargers are hiring Kellen Moore as their offensive coordinator.

Moore, 33, spent five seasons with Dallas before he and the team parted ways Sunday in what the Cowboys termed a mutual decision.

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He replaces Joe Lombardi, who had the job for two years before being fired following the Chargers’ AFC wild-card playoff loss at Jacksonville.

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NFL PLAYOFFS

From Sam Farmer: The slogan is on T-shirts and hats, banners and balloons.

“It’s a Philly thing.”

That’s the cryptic playoff mantra for these Philadelphia Eagles, and it’s working pretty well so far — the team is heading to its second Super Bowl in six seasons, this time against the Kansas City Chiefs.

“This is something you dream about your whole life,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said in the aftermath of a victory over San Francisco in the NFC championship game. “Like I said to the guys: We’ve all been dreaming about it, whether you were dreaming about it when you were 2, 10, 14, 18 or when you got in the NFL.”

The game Feb. 12 in Glendale, Ariz., reunites Chiefs coach Andy Reid and the Philadelphia franchise he coached for 14 seasons.

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NFL PLAYOFF RESULTS, SCHEDULE
All times Pacific
Super Bowl
Sunday, February 12
at Glendale, Ariz.
Philadelphia vs. Kansas City, 3:30 p.m., Fox

SUPER BOWL POLL

We will win the Super Bowl? Click here to vote.

Super Bowl LVII: Four things to know about brothers/opponents Jason and Travis Kelce

Super Bowl LVII: Start time, odds and halftime show

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1920 — Joe Malone of the Quebec Bulldogs scores an NHL-record seven goals in a 10-6 victory over the Toronto St. Patricks.

1941 — Joe Louis knocks out Red Burman in the fifth round at Madison Square Garden to retain the world heavyweight title.

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1950 — High school pitcher Paul Pettit signs with the Pirates for a record $100,000. To do so, Pittsburgh has to purchase his contract from a film producer who had signed Pettit to an exclusive contract as an athlete/actor.

1988 — The Washington Redskins score 35 points in the second quarter to overcome a 10-0 deficit and beat the Denver Broncos 42-10 in the Super Bowl. MVP Doug Williams passes for four touchdowns and a record 340 yards. Timmy Smith rushes for a record 204 yards.

1991 — Michael Adams of the Denver Nuggets scores a career-high 45 points, hands out 12 assists and grabs 11 rebounds in a 123-119 win over New Jersey. The 5-foot-11 guard becomes the shortest player in the NBA to get a triple-double.

1993 — The Dallas Cowboys win the Super Bowl, beating Buffalo 52-17 and giving the Bills their third straight loss in the title game, a league record.

1998 — Martina Hingis, 17, becomes the youngest player in the Open era to defend a Grand Slam title, capturing her second Australian Open with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Conchita Martinez.

1999 — John Elway gets his second straight Super Bowl ring, weaving his magic for the final time during the Denver Broncos’ 34-19 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

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2004 — Justine Henin-Hardenne wins her third Grand Slam title and extends her dominance in major finals against countrywoman Kim Clijsters with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win in the Australian Open women’s title match.

2009 — Serena Williams routs Dinara Safina 6-0, 6-3 to win the Australian Open — her 10th Grand Slam title — and return to the No. 1 ranking.

2010 — Roger Federer beats Andy Murray 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (11) for a fourth Australian Open championship and his 16th Grand Slam title overall.

2011 — For the first time since the WTA rankings began in 1975, the top 10 players are from 10 countries. Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki remains No. 1.

2015 — Serena Williams wins her 19th Grand Slam title and extends her decade-long domination of Maria Sharapova with a commanding 6-3, 7-6 (5) win.

2015 — Lydia Ko, 17, becomes the youngest golfer, male or female, to be ranked No. 1. She shares second place at the LPGA Tour’s season opener, where she finishes a shot behind Na Yeon Choi.

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2018 - Houston guard James Harden becomes first player in NBA history to log a 60-point triple-double with 60 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists, 4 steals and a block in Rockets’ 114-107 win over Orlando Magic

Compiled by the Associated Press

And finally

Doug Williams leads Washington past Denver in the Super Bowl. 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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