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The Sports Report: LeBron James means business

The Sports Report: LeBron James means business
James Harden guards LeBron James. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP)

Howdy everyone, and welcome to the Friday edition of the Los Angeles Times daily sports newsletter. My name is Houston Mitchell and I’m your host for the festivities. Subscribe to this newsletter by clicking here.

Let’s get to it.

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Lakers

I can’t really improve upon what Tania Ganguli wrote for her flash gamer after the Lakers defeated the Houston Rockets, 111-106, so I’m not even going to try. Read some of it for yourself:

So this is what he meant.

He said he’d be different. He said he had no choice, and neither did his teammates.

He said his intensity had been activated.

LeBron James meant he’d do everything he could. He’d find his teammates in unseen corners. He’d wrestle for rebounds under the basket. He’d stand there underneath the basket and take a charge for James Harden’s sixth foul and send the Houston Rockets into a frustrated rage as the game’s final seconds ticked off.

The Lakers beat the Rockets, 111-106, to even their record at 29-29. It was their first opportunity after the All-Star break to show that they really had changed their intensity and that they could make the push they needed to reach the playoffs.

James led the Lakers with 29 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, but his impact extended beyond the score. Harden scored at least 30 points for the 32nd straight game, notching his final two points moments before he fouled out. Chris Paul notched 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists before he fouled out late in the game….

A thundering, one-handed dunk with 5:17 left in the game left no doubt about James’ intentions. He banked in a floater a few minutes later. And Reggie Bullock’s three-pointer with 1:31 left in the game sealed a critical Lakers win.

Their playoff hopes remain alive.

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Bill Plaschke writes: After an ordinary three quarters that ended with a Lakers seven-point deficit, James took over, and the crowd howled like it once howled for Kobe Bryant, stood like it once stood for Shaquille O’Neal, and celebrated like it has rarely celebrated in the last six years.

A look at the Western Conference standings. The top eight make the playoffs:

1. Golden State, 42-16, ---

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2. Denver, 39-18, 2.5 GB

3. Oklahoma City, 37-20, 4.5 GB

4. Portland, 35-23, 7 GB

5. Houston, 33-25, 9 GB

6. Utah, 32-25, 9.5 GB

7. San Antonio, 33-26, 9.5 GB

8. Clippers, 32-27, 10.5 GB

9. Sacramento, 30-28, 12

10. Lakers, 29-29, 13 GB

11. Minnesota, 27-30, 14.5 GB

12. Dallas, 26-31, 15.5 GB

13. New Orleans, 26-33, 16.5 GB

14. Memphis, 23-36, 19.5 GB

15. Phoenix, 11-49, 32 GB

Dodgers

A lot of eyes will be on Alex Verdugo this season. He has proven everything he can in the minors, and a spot in the majors awaits him. But how much will he play, since it looks like he will be sharing left field with Joc Pederson?

“They’re both going to play a big role [on] our ballclub this year,” manager Dave Roberts said Thursday. “And I just don’t think it makes a whole lot of sense right now to try to project what’s going to happen. Or try to forecast. I know that they’re both major-league players. Obviously, Joc’s done it considerably more so we’re going to figure it out.”

Meanwhile, the Dodgers announced they will wear a commemorative patch this season honoring Don Newcombe.

Olympics

The organizing committee for the Paris 2024 Summer Games announced Thursday that it wants to add breakdancing as a sport. Yes, breakdancing.

This got me to thinking about what sports we could add for the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles. Here are some options:

Fastest to leave the Dodger Stadium parking lot after a game ends

Best tan

Most realistic looking plastic surgery

Best daily sports newsletter (too soon?)

Speed eating (In-n-Out hamburgers)

Most time spent in traffic

Person who has the most friends who are friends with someone who knows someone famous

Best Kardashian

Do you have any suggestions? E-mail me with them and I will include them in a future newsletter. Make sure you include your name.

Odds and Ends

UCLA gymnastics is a surging powerhouse with a following to match…. Former UCLA linebacker Jaelan Phillips announces he’s headed to Miami…. New-look Clippers benefit from early trade deadline…. Angels pitcher Dillon Peters is ready to give his new fastball a whirl…. The Kings face a harsh reality after a 2-1 loss to Nashville. They also traded Carl Hagelin to Washington…. UFC star Georges St-Pierre retires…. Nike calls Zion Williamson’s shoe malfunction an isolated occurrence…. Ethan Anderson plans to help Fairfax avenge Westchester loss in City Section final.

Scheduling note

I have written this newsletter now for 313 consecutive days (that may be a slight exaggeration) so I am going to take this weekend off. No newsletter Saturday or Sunday. Back in action Monday.

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Best sports movie

Well, we are finally here at the finals for the poll on best sports movie. After several rounds of voting and thousands of votes, we are down to the final five. So please vote for what you feel is the best of the below movies by clicking here or by emailing me here. Results will be announced on Monday. The final five:

“Bull Durham”

“Field of Dreams”

“Hoosiers”

“A League of Their Own”

“Rocky”

Born on this date

1934: Baseball manager Sparky Anderson

1940: NBA player Chet Walker

1943: NBA player Dick Van Arsdale

1943: NBA player Tom Van Arsdale

1950: NBA player Julius Erving

1956: Golfer Amy Alcott

1963: Golfer Vijay Singh

1965: NBA player Chris Dudley

1965: NHL player Pat LaFontaine

1971: Softball player Lisa Fernandez

1972: Tennis player Michael Chang

1975: UCLA basketball player Charles O'Bannon

And finally

That concludes the newsletter for today. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, please email me here. If you want to subscribe, click here.

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