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The Sports Report: Rams keep playoff hopes alive with win over Seattle

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Cooper Kupp is in the end zone after catching a touchdown pass in the second quarter.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

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

RAMS

Each of the Rams remaining games is essentially an elimination game as they attempt to make a run to a third consecutive postseason berth.

The Rams stayed in the hunt by defeating the Seattle Seahawks, 28-12, before a crowd of 71,501.

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Jared Goff passed for two touchdowns, Malcolm Brown and Todd Gurley rushed for touchdowns and the defense neutralized Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson as the Rams improved their record to 8-5.

The Rams survived interceptions on consecutive series, including one that was returned for a touchdown, and a blocked field-goal attempt thanks to a defense that has surrendered only a touchdown and two field goals in the last two games.

The Rams’ victory does not affect their standing much in the NFC West.

The San Francisco 49ers bounced back from a narrow defeat by the Baltimore Ravens and improved to 11-2 Sunday with a 48-46 last-second victory over the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Seahawks are 10-3.

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But the Rams avoided falling off the pace for a possible NFC wild-card spot. They are chasing the Minnesota Vikings (9-4), a 20-7 winner Sunday over the Detroit Lions.

The Rams play the Dallas Cowboys next Sunday at Dallas, and then play the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium before concluding the season against the Arizona Cardinals at the Coliseum. The Rams probably need to win all of their games — and receive help from Vikings opponents — to secure the wild-card spot. The Vikings finish the season at the Chargers, at home against Green Bay and at home against Chicago.

LAKERS

Anthony Davis ran toward the basket, went left and then completed a superstar rite of passage for the Lakers.

He scored 50 points for the first time this season, joining LeBron James and Kobe Bryant as the only Lakers with 50-point games this decade.

Davis proved nearly unstoppable and led the Lakers to a 142-125 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Lakers are now 21-3 and have the best record in the NBA.

In the game, Davis made 20 of 29 shots, and all 10 of the free throws he attempted. He also added seven rebounds and six assists. James also had a stellar night, scoring 32 points on 12-of-20 shooting while making six of eight three-point attempts against Minnesota (10-12).

The Lakers return to the road next, and will play in Orlando on Wednesday.

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CLIPPERS

After the Clippers had defeated the Washington Wizards 135-119 at Capital One Arena, some of the questions were about whether Kawhi Leonard or Paul George would play Monday night in Indiana against the Pacers.

Before they answered that question, the talk was about how Leonard went to work in producing 34 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. And from listening to Leonard and coach Doc Rivers, it sounded as if the 6-foot-7 forward would sit out against the Pacers.

The conversations were also about Montrezl Harrell’s 20 points and Derrick Walton Jr.’s seven points. And the discussions were about how the Clippers’ 16-point lead in the third quarter was trimmed to four points in the fourth before they built a 21-point lead and coasted to the victory.

“I thought we got stops early, which allowed us to play a little more freely offensively,” said George, who had 27 points and six rebounds and six assists. “And I thought that’s what kind of got everybody into a rhythm early and it just kind of carried us through the game. Even when they made pushes to come back, I thought the way we started really allowed us to play with a confidence and late game we found mismatches and just kind of put the game away.”

CHARGERS

A Chargers offense that has lacked consistent explosion and production this season finally exploded and produced Sunday.

And it wasn’t just consistent. It was constant, led by Austin Ekeler.

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Taking advantage of a Jacksonville Jaguars team spiraling toward the end of the year, the Chargers enjoyed a rare laugher, winning 45-10.

The victory halted a three-game losing streak and improved the Chargers to 5-8. The Jaguars fell to 4-9.

Ekeler had the game of his life — to date. He finished with a career-high 101 rushing yards and 112 receiving yards. Those 213 total yards came on only 12 touches — eight carries and four catches.

He became just the second Charger ever to top 100 yards rushing and receiving in the same game. The other was Lionel James in 1985.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF

Top-ranked LSU (13-0) will return to Atlanta on Dec. 28 to face Jalen Hurts and No. 4 Oklahoma (12-1) at the Peach Bowl semifinal in the College Football Playoff.

In the other semifinal, the Ohio State Buckeyes (13-0) will take on Clemson (13-0) in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz.

The CFP selection committee announced the pairings Sunday, with the only drama surrounding which team would be the top seed: LSU or Ohio State.

The Tigers got the nod after their impressive 37-10 victory over then-No. 4 Georgia in the Southeastern Conference championship game.

With Utah and Georgia going down, Oklahoma moved up to take the final playoff spot after beating Baylor 30-23 in overtime for the Big 12 championship.

This will be the fourth playoff appearance for the Sooners, though they have never advanced past the semifinals. Last season, they lost to Alabama 45-34 in the Orange Bowl.

USC FOOTBALL

After spending the postseason at home a year ago, USC is headed just down the freeway to San Diego for its bowl game on Dec. 27, where it’ll finish out an up-and-down season against No. 16 Iowa in the Holiday Bowl.

The nearby bowl destination is all too familiar for the Trojans, who finished 22nd in the final College Football Playoff rankings.

USC played in the Holiday in 2014 and 2015, the latter of which was Clay Helton’s second game since he was elevated to head coach. Helton and the Trojans lost to Wisconsin in that matchup before going on a run to the Rose Bowl the following season.

This bowl will be Helton’s first time on the sideline since receiving an unexpected vote of confidence from USC’s new leadership. After that decision, the bowl will serve as a litmus test for how a frustrated USC fan base moves forward from here.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL GAME SCHEDULE

College football playoffs

Dec. 28, Peach Bowl, No. 1 LSU vs. No. 4 Oklahoma, 1 p.m., ESPN

Dec. 28, Fiesta Bowl, No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Clemson, 5 p.m., ESPN

Jan. 13, at New Orleans, Title game, 5 p.m., ESPN

Other bowl games

Dec. 20, Bahamas Bowl, Buffalo vs. Charlotte, 11 a.m., ESPN

Dec. 20, Frisco Bowl, Utah State vs. Kent State, 4:30 p.m., ESPN2

Dec. 21, Celebration Bowl, Alcorn St. vs. North Carolina A&T, 9 a.m., ABC

Dec. 21, New Mexico Bowl, Central Michigan vs. San Diego St., 11 a.m., ESPN

Dec. 21, Cure Bowl, Liberty vs. Georgia Southern, 11:30 a.m., CBS Sports Network

Dec. 21, Boca Raton Bowl, SMU vs. Florida Atlantic, 12:30 p.m., ABC

Dec. 21, Camellia Bowl, Florida International vs. Arkansas St., 2:30 p.m., ESPN

Dec. 21, Las Vegas Bowl, Boise St. vs. Washington, 4:30 p.m., ABC

Dec. 21, New Orleans Bowl, Appalachian St. vs. UAB, 6 p.m., ESPN

Dec. 23, Gasparilla Bowl, UCF vs. Marshall, 11:30 a.m., ESPN

Dec. 24, Hawaii Bowl, Hawaii vs. BYU, 5 p.m., ESPN

Dec. 26, Independence Bowl, Louisiana Tech vs. Miami, 1 p.m., ESPN

Dec. 26, Quick Lane Bowl, Pittsburgh vs. Eastern Michigan, 5 p.m., ESPN

Dec. 27, Military Bowl, North Carolina vs. Temple, 9 a.m., ESPN

Dec. 27, Pinstripe Bowl, Michigan St. vs. Wake Forest, 12:15 p.m., ESPN

Dec. 27, Texas Bowl, Oklahoma St. vs. Texas A&M, 3:45 p.m., ESPN

Dec. 27, Holiday Bowl, USC vs. Iowa, 5 p.m., FS1

Dec. 27, Cheez-It Bowl, Air Force vs. Washington St., 7:15 p.m., ESPM

Dec. 28, Camping World Bowl, Notre Dame vs. Iowa State, 9 a.m., ABC

Dec. 28, Cotton Bowl, Penn State vs. Memphis, 9 a.m., ESPN

Dec. 30, First Responder Bowl, Western Kentucky vs. Western Michigan, 9:30 a.m., ESPN

Dec. 30, Music City Bowl, Mississippi St. vs. Louisville, 1 p.m., ESPN

Dec. 30, Redbox Bowl, California vs. Illinois, 1 p.m., Fox

Dec. 30, Orange Bowl, Florida vs. Virginia, 5 p.m., ESPN

Dec. 31, Belk Bowl, Virginia Tech vs. Kentucky, 9 a.m., ESPN

Dec. 31, Sun Bowl, Florida St. vs. Arizona St., 11 a.m., CBS

Dec. 31, Liberty Bowl, Navy vs. Kansas St., 12:45 p.m., ESPN

Dec. 31, Arizona Bowl, Wyoming vs. Georgia St., 1:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network

Dec. 31, Alamo Bowl, Utah vs. Texas, 4:30 p.m. ESPN

Jan. 1, Citrus Bowl, Michigan vs. Alabama, 10 a.m., ABC

Jan. 1, Outback Bowl, Minnesota vs. Auburn, 10 a.m., ESPN

Jan. 1, Rose Bowl, Oregon vs. Wisconsin, 2 p.m., ESPN

Jan. 1, Sugar Bowl, Georgia vs. Baylor, 5:45 p.m., ESPN

Jan. 2, Birmingham Bowl, Boston College vs. Cincinnati, noon, ESPN

Jan. 2, Gator Bowl, Indiana vs. Tennessee, 4 p.m., ESPN

Jan. 3, Potato Bowl, Ohio vs. Nevada, 12:30 p.m., ESPN

Jan. 4, Armed Forces Bowl, Southern Mississippi vs. Tulane, 8:30 a.m., ESPN

Jan. 6, LendingTree Bowl, Louisiana vs. Miami (Ohio), 4:30 p.m., ESPN

UCLA BASKETBALL

Cody Riley was among the biggest reasons for the Bruins’ runaway 81-62 victory over the Denver Pioneers at Pauley Pavilion that gave UCLA a second consecutive blowout of an overmatched opponent.

Riley scored eight of his career-high 21 points over the first 3½ minutes of the second half, using an array of moves that included a spinning layup, short turnaround jumper and two-handed putback dunk.

“He’ll score if you don’t go at him, if you give him space and time,” coach Mick Cronin said of the redshirt sophomore forward who made nine of 13 shots and added 11 rebounds before fouling out with four minutes left in the game. “He’s got to lose the jump shot at times and he’s got to learn to play smarter with his fouling.”

The Bruins (7-3) tied a season low with only nine turnovers while forcing 17. Freshman guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. scored 16 points as part of his continued emergence for UCLA, which made 47.5% of its shots but only 22.7% of its three-pointers.

DUCKS

Nikolaj Ehlers took on Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf in Winnipeg’s 3-2 victory over the Ducks.

The 6-foot, 172-pound Ehlers, known for his quick feet, clashed with Getzlaf, who is 6-3 and 225 pounds. Both threw a couple punches in the brief, second-period bout.

“Out of character? This is my third fight now,” joked Ehlers, who’s in his fifth NHL season. “I’m a fighter. [Getzlaf] gave me a cross-check after I passed it and then, yeah, I think it was kind of a mutual thing. That’s the way it goes sometimes.”

Mark Scheifele scored twice, the second on a power play with 4:22 left for his 400th NHL point. He beat goalie John Gibson over the glove for his 13th of the season.

Jets captain Blake Wheeler called Ehlers a “sick man“ for taking on Getzlaf.

“What a hell of a job by a little guy,“ Wheeler said. “That dude has got some fire in his belly, for sure. That was pretty awesome.“

Jets coach Paul Maurice joked that he sent Ehlers over the boards to take on Getzlaf, then added the Danish player native better keep his gloves on to avoid injury.

“That was foolish, wasn’t it?“ Maurice said. “But God bless him, don’t do it again. Ever.”

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

Clippers at Indiana, 4 p.m., Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570

BORN ON THIS DATE

1853: Baseball player Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourn (d. 1897)

1933: Golfer Orville Moody (d. 2008)

1938: Former Ram Deacon Jones (d. 2013)

1942: Football player Dick Butkus

1949: Golfer Tom Kite

1953: Basketball player World B Free

1960: Former Dodger Juan Samuel

1968: Wrestler Kurt Angle

1971: Hockey player Petr Nedved

DIED ON THIS DATE

1965: Baseball executive Branch Rickey, 83

1998: Boxer Archie Moore, 84

2003: Basketball coach Norm Sloan, 77

AND FINALLY

The 100 greatest players of all time, No. 15: Deacon Jones. 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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