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The Sports Report: New-look Lakers rout Pelicans. But is it for real?

Anthony Davis drives the ball against the Pelicans.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)
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Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

From Dan Woike: The evidence doesn’t just suggest a deep breath and a pause. It demands it.

For 58 games, the Lakers have been wildly inconsistent, more ups and downs — and honestly, more downs — than anyone inside the Lakers’ locker room wanted to stomach.

But before their final game before the All-Star Game, Lakers coach Darvin Ham grinned.

A new lineup was about to debut — maybe the lineup he and the organization has searched for all year.

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Maybe things would be different, like actually different, this time, the Lakers healthy and whole.

And they didn’t disappoint, previous evidence or not.

Ham opened with D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt alongside Anthony Davis and the returning LeBron James — the full roster available to the Lakers’ rookie coach for the first time since the trade deadline.

“I have a few surprises up my sleeve,” Ham said before the Lakers’ 120-102 victory over New Orleans at Crypto.com Arena.

Everything was aces early, the Lakers opening the game with eight straight points on their way to a quick 17-4 lead.

The Lakers assisted each of their first 12 made baskets, playing some of their most beautiful basketball of the season.

But deep breath.

Pause.

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NBA STANDINGS

Western Conference
Top six qualify for playoffs. Nos. 7-10 qualify for play-in tournament to determine final two playoff spots.

1. Denver Nuggets, 41-18, —
2. Memphis Grizzlies, 35-22, 5 GB
3. Sacramento Kings, 32-25, 8 GB
4. Phoenix Suns, 32-27, 9 GB
5. Clippers, 32-28, 9.5 GB
6. Minnesota Timberwolves, 31-29, 10.5 GB

7. Dallas Mavericks, 31-29, 10.5 GB
8. New Orleans Pelicans, 30-29, 11 GB
9. Golden State Warriors, 29-29, 11.5 GB
10. Oklahoma City Thunder, 28-29, 12 GB

11. Utah Jazz, 29-31, 12.5 GB
12. Portland Trail Blazers, 28-30, 12.5 GB
13. Lakers, 27-32, 14 GB
14. San Antonio Spurs, 14-45, 27 GB
15. Houston Rockets, 13-45, 27.5 GB

DODGERS

From Jack Harris: Exactly four months removed from their calamitous elimination in last year’s postseason, the Dodgers will begin a new trek that they hope will end differently come this October.

Despite significant roster turnover, questions at several key positions and the likely influx of a younger core over the course of 2023, the Dodgers still enter this new season with World Series expectations.

Both Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs project the team to finish atop the National League West standings (the latter, albeit, in a tie with the San Diego Padres). Most oddsmakers give them the shortest odds of winning the NL pennant. And anything short of a championship is likely to feel like a failure for a franchise with just one World Series title from its 10-year-playoff streak.

“When you wear the Dodger uniform,” manager Dave Roberts said, “that’s the bar.”

With the team opening camp Wednesday in Arizona, here are five things to watch this spring.

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Dave Roberts denies Dodgers cheating accusations, says MLB probe found ‘nothing’

Dodgers spring training updates: Jimmy Nelson re-signs, Blake Treinen hopes for 2023 return

ANGELS

From Bill Shaikin: Imagine this: August has come, and with it an exciting and long-overdue pennant race for Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout and all the Angels.

You could watch the games on MLB Network, which provides baseball programming all day, then airs the Angels in the Los Angeles market, including an Angels pregame show and postgame show.

You could stream the games wherever you are, including locally without a cable or satellite subscription, and in other geographical regions in which Angels games currently are blacked out.

Those are among the concepts under discussion within the headquarters of Major League Baseball, where league officials are trying to navigate a perilous financial dilemma and take one giant step into a brave new world, where the regional sports network is an endangered species and fans pay the league directly to watch whatever team they want, however they want to watch and wherever they live.

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There is a long and uncertain path from here to there, and we have some answers.

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Mike Trout says he’ll do whatever he can to keep Shohei Ohtani with the Angels

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred calls Angels owner Arte Moreno ‘a good steward’

UCLA FOOTBALL

As offensive lineman Atonio Mafi transitions from UCLA to the NFL, he is sharing his journey with Times staff writer Ben Bolch through a weekly diary leading up to the draft April 27. This week, Mafi discusses his training regimen.

Sometimes there’s not much you can do about it.

No matter how long I soak in the cold tub or use the foam roller, my lower back and hamstrings are going to be stiff. That’s just part of the deal. I’m training six days a week for the NFL draft. Body parts are going to be sore.

The important thing is managing the discomfort and making sure I can keep training without tearing a muscle. That’s why I use the roller on my body when I get back to my room at the resort where I’m staying in Pensacola Beach, Fla. The worst thing that could happen is I forget to use the roller and wake up with cramps.

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USC SPORTS

From Ryan Kartje: A new collective has emerged at USC intent on taking the reins of facilitating name, image and likeness deals for Trojan athletes at a university that not long ago viewed the rise of such a third-party group as an existential threat.

That once-contentious approach appears to have shifted with the launch of The Tommy Group, a donor-run collective led by six entrepreneurs with deep ties to USC.

Former Trojan football players Keyshawn Johnson, Alex Holmes and John Terzian, along with prominent businessmen and USC fans David Stromberg, Avi Chesed and Mike Hahn, have teamed up to launch the group, which they say will “bring large-brand opportunities to the table” to strike NIL deals for USC athletes.

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GOLF

From Steve Henson: Riv not LIV is the mantra this week at the Genesis Invitational.

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LIV Golf is the upstart circuit led by Greg Norman and financially supported by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. Its first tournament of 2023 will be at the El Camaleón Golf Course in Mayakoba, Mexico, next week and its golfers include last year’s Genesis winner, Joaquin Niemann.

Riv is a favored diminutive for Riviera Country Club, the venerable Pacific Palisades par-71 layout playing host to this week’s PGA Tour event that will include every golfer in the top 25 except Niemann and Cameron Smith, another LIV defector.

It also will include Tiger Woods, a surprise entry. Woods is a staunch PGA Tour supporter who has worked with Rory McIlroy and others for a year to combat LIV.

“It’s been very turbulent. ... It’s been difficult, there’s no lie,” Woods said. “We never would have expected the game of golf to be in this situation, but it is, that’s the reality.

“Obviously, [LIV] is a competitive organization trying to create their best product they possibly can, and we’re trying to create the best product that we think is the future of golf, how it should be played. How do we do that? We’re still working on that.”

The threat of LIV seems to thread nearly every conversation. Here is a deeper dive into that battle as well as other front-burner topics this week at Riviera.

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DUCKS

Tage Thompson scored his 36th goal of the season, Casey Mittelstadt had the go-ahead goal late in the second period and the Buffalo Sabres snapped a four-game losing streak with a 7-3 victory over the Ducks on Wednesday night.

Anaheim defenseman Cam Fowler had the fourth two-goal game in his 13-year career, Kevin Shattenkirk had a goal and an assist while Derek Grant had two assists. Lukas Dostal made 37 saves for the Ducks, who have dropped three straight games while being outscored 20-8.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1961 — Elgin Baylor scores 57 points to lead the Lakers over the Detroit Pistons 129-106.

1967 — Rick Barry of the San Francisco Warriors scores 52 points against Chicago at Fresno for his second consecutive 50-point game.

1969 — Alex Delvecchio of the Detroit Red Wings gets his 1,000th point with an assist in a 6-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings.

1970 — Joe Frazier retains his world heavyweight title with a fifth-round knockout of Jimmy Ellis.

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1972 — Wilt Chamberlain of the Lakers becomes the first player in NBA history to reach the 30,000 point mark during a 110-109 loss to the Phoenix Suns.

1989 — Chicago’s Michael Jordan scores 27 of his 50 points in the fourth quarter, to lead the Bulls to a 117-116 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

1992 — Martina Navratilova becomes the career singles titles leader by beating Jana Novotna in three sets in the final of the Virginia Slims of Chicago. Navratilova, with her 158th career singles championship, passes Chris Evert, who retired in 1989.

1992 — Chicago’s Michel Goulet becomes the 17th NHL player to score 500 goals, getting one in the first period of the Blackhawks’ 5-5 tie with Calgary.

1994 — John Stockton hands out 12 assists in Utah’s 103-99 road win over the Clippers to become the third guard in NBA history (joining Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson) to reach 9,000 career assists.

1997 — Jeff Gordon, 25, becomes the youngest winner of the Daytona 500 after Dale Earnhardt crashes 12 laps from the end to prolong his Daytona 500 jinx.

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2001 — Philadelphia coach Larry Brown earns his 1,000th pro win. Brown, 1,000-707 overall, ranks third on the career list behind Toronto’s Lenny Wilkens and Miami’s Pat Riley. Allen Iverson’s 42 points leads the 76ers to a 108-93 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

2009 — Harness driver Brian Sears drives seven winners on the Presidents Day afternoon card at the Meadowlands. The last driver to win seven races on a 10-race card at the Meadowlands was John Campbell on Feb. 3, 1983.

2013 — American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin becomes the youngest woman in 39 years to win the slalom title at the world alpine championships held in Schladming, Austria. At the age of 17 years, 340 days, Shiffrin edges local hope Michaela Kirchgasser. The only slalom world champions younger than Shiffrin were Hanni Wenzel of Liechtenstein in 1974 and Esme Mackinnon of Britain in 1931.

2014 — American Bode Miller (36) becomes the oldest medalist in Olympic alpine skiing history when he ties for bronze in the super-G in Sochi

2017 — Lowell Bailey upsets the pre-race favorites in the men’s individual competition to become the first American biathlete to win gold at the world championships. Bailey beats out Ondrej Moravec of the Czech Republic and three-time world champion Martin Fourcade of France.

2017 — Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby feeds Chris Kunitz for a first-period goal against Winnipeg to become the 86th player in NHL history to reach the 1,000-point plateau. He adds an assist on Phil Kessel’s game-tying goal in the third and then puts the winner past Connor Hellebuyck with 21 seconds left in overtime as the Penguins escaped with a 4-3 victory.

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Compiled by the Associated Press

And finally

Jeff Gordon wins the 1997 Daytona 500. 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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