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The Sports Report: Clippers outlast Celtics in overtime

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Kawhi Leonard, left, and Paul George enter the game together against the Celtics in the fourth quarter.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

CLIPPERS

Lou Williams scored 27 points, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George combined for 42 points in their first game together for the Clippers, and Los Angeles rallied to edge the Boston Celtics 107-104 in overtime Wednesday night.

George scored 25 points. Leonard added 17 and blocked Kemba Walker’s potential tying three-point attempt. The Clippers improved to 9-1 at home after rallying from a 10-point deficit in the fourth.

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In overtime, George hit a three-pointer after he missed his first attempt and Patrick Beverley got the offensive rebound, then George fed Beverley for a three of his own. George’s free throw on a technical foul against Boston coach Brad Stevens completed seven straight points and the Clippers led 104-99.

Beverley finished the game with 14 points, a career-high 16 rebounds and seven assists.

“He literally single-handedly willed that game with his effort, his rebounding, making plays,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “He was phenomenal.”

LAKERS

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Kyle Kuzma is expected to play for the Lakers against Oklahoma City on Friday despite sustaining an abrasion to his right eye in Tuesday’s win over the Thunder, the Lakers said.

Kuzma sustained the injury when Thunder forward Darius Bazley inadvertently elbowed him in his eye during the second quarter. Kuzma had to leave the court because he was bleeding. He returned after halftime and watched the rest of the game from the bench. Although Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Kuzma was cleared by the medical staff, he didn’t play him the rest of the game.

“I used my better judgement,” Vogel said. “It didn’t look good. I just felt like, [unless] we absolutely needed him, let’s let the other guys handle the rest of this game.”

UCLA FOOTBALL

Chip Kelly, the Bruins coach who likes to say that every game is the Super Bowl, acknowledged that his players treated this Saturday’s game against USC as a bigger game based on their familiarity with so many Trojans from childhood.

“Yeah,” Kelly said Wednesday before his Bruins (4-6 overall, 4-3 Pac-12 Conference) continued their preparations to play the Trojans (7-4, 6-2). “I accept that.”

Those preparations included boarding up the bronze Bruin statue that was vandalized last year as well as the statue of legendary basketball coach John Wooden outside Pauley Pavilion. Across town, a legion of USC students stood guard on a 24-hour basis to protect Tommy Trojan, the statue that had been mummified in protective wrapping.

This game just means more. Kelly got so excited during last year’s game that he jumped into the arms of long snapper Johnny Den Bleyker after a big play, momentarily exposing a flash of his ample belly.

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The coach also narrated a video last year that was shown during a pep rally on campus two days before the game. It showed a bear cub sliding down a snow-covered mountain while trying to join his father at the top, symbolizing the baby Bruins.

“Sometimes he falls back down and he finds himself at the beginning,” Kelly said in the video. “He’s at the bottom. He looks like he’s worse off than he ever was, except he’s not -- not at all. He’s made his mistakes and he’s learned what he’s learned, he knows what he knows.”

Kelly went silent, until the cub reached the top.

“The bear goes over the mountain and sees what he can see,” Kelly continued, “which is going to happen Saturday.”

Indeed it did, allowing the Bruins to take ownership of the Victory Bell for the first time since 2014. They have enjoyed hearing it rung while trying to make third-down stops at the Rose Bowl and have sometimes gazed at it longingly while walking through the lobby of the Wasserman Football Center.

“I usually walk out of the front in the lobby and I always look at it,” senior linebacker Krys Barnes said. “Gotta make sure it stays here this year.”

USC FOOTBALL

The eight years of losing were wearing on Chad Morton. He needed to do something. He couldn’t let UCLA’s winning streak go on any longer.

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“I guarantee this year we are not going to lose,” the USC running back said in an August 1999 edition of Sports Illustrated.

The weight of that promise was lifted as soon as the flood of USC fans hoisted Morton onto their shoulders following the running back’s 143-yard performance in USC’s 17-7 victory in 1999 that ended UCLA’s eight-game winning streak in the rivalry. It’s the longest run of success for either team in the series.

“We needed some kind of motivation,” Morton said of his prediction in a phone interview this week. “Just knowing me, it’s like I’m gonna find a way to get it done.”

In a time before social media, the bold statement mostly lived quietly through the season. Morton didn’t hear about it until game week. And then it caught fire. UCLA coach Bob Toledo wrote the guarantee down on a piece of paper to remind himself to share the slight with his team after practice one day.

“They’ve been saying stuff since before the season,” UCLA cornerback Ryan Roques said during the week leading up to the game. “They’ll talk. They’re always going to talk.”

With two losing teams, the week needed some off-field excitement to spice up the rivalry. It was the fourth time in the history of the series that both teams entered below .500. Neither team had its starting quarterback as UCLA’s Cory Paus and USC’s Carson Palmer both sat out with broken collarbones. There weren’t championships on the line. Only bragging rights.

“At that point, anything goes anyway,” Morton said this week.

The Morton family book-ended the Bruins’ winning streak as older brother Johnnie caught the game-winning touchdown in the 1990 USC win and Chad became USC’s third 1,000-yard rusher of the decade during the 1999 victory.

Only two rivalry wins are still not enough for the family, Chad laments, but 20 years later, when asked about his rivalry moment, his first memory is simple.

“That we won,” the current Seattle Seahawks running backs coach said with a laugh.

DODGERS/ANGELS

Dodgers slugging prospect D.J. Peters, infielder Zach McKinstry and pitcher Mitchell White, and Angels pitcher Hector Yan and second baseman Jahmai Jones were added to their teams’ 40-man rosters Wednesday, protecting them from next month’s Rule 5 draft.

Among notable roster omissions were Dodgers right-hander Jordan Sheffield, a first-round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2016, and Angels infielder Jose Rojas, a 26-year-old career minor leaguer who hit .293 with 31 homers and 107 RBIs at triple-A Salt Lake in 2019.

Sheffield, the older brother of Seattle Mariners pitcher Justus Sheffield, and Rojas, who played at Anaheim High School and Vanguard University, are eligible to be selected in the Dec. 12 Rule 5 draft, which will be held on the last day of the winter meetings in San Diego.

The Rule 5 draft enables players with significant minor league experience to be taken by another team. Players must remain on the major league 25-man roster the entire following season or be returned to their original organizations.

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

Edmonton at Kings, 7:30 p.m., FSW

Ducks at Florida, 4 p.m., PRIME

Hofstra at UCLA (basketball), 8 p.m., Pac-12 Network, AM 570

BORN ON THIS DATE

1920: Baseball player Stan Musial (d. 2013)

1927: Former Rams owner Georgia Frontiere (d. 2008)

1944: Basketball player Earl Monroe

1949: Jockey Barbara Jo Rubin

1950: Runner Alberto Juantorena

1955: Basketball player Cedric Maxwell

1964: Basketball player Olden Polynice

1966: Football player Troy Aikman

1969: Baseball player Ken Griffey Jr.

1971: Football player Michael Strahan

DIED ON THIS DATE

1958: Baseball player Mel Ott, 49

1959: Boxer Max Baer, 50

1988: Baseball player Carl Hubbell, 84

2013: Former Laker Vern Mikkelsen, 85

AND FINALLY

Bob Costas’ eulogy for Stan Musial. Watch it here.

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


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