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The Sports Report: Lakers are unstoppable on the road

Lakers Heat Basketball
Jimmy Butler defends LeBron James.
(Associated Press)

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

LAKERS

The Lakers beat the Miami Heat 113-110 on Friday, handing Miami its first home loss of the season. The Lakers (23-3) have now won 13 consecutive road games, the most the franchise has had since the 1971-72 championship season.

After a sloppy first half in which he turned the ball over seven times, LeBron James more than atoned in the second half, scoring 17 and making three three-pointers. He finished with 28 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds.

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Anthony Davis finished with 33 points, 18 of them in the second half, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots. JaVale McGee blocked five shots and grabbed 10 rebounds despite playing only 17 minutes.

The Lakers had a one-point lead after the first quarter, but in the second quarter Miami went on a 12-2 run and eventually led by 14 points. The Lakers cut the Heat’s lead to eight by halftime, giving themselves hope for the second half.

Although the Lakers opened the second half with yet another turnover — their 12th as a team and James’ eighth — they quickly recovered.

James delivered a pair of dunks before pulling up for a three-pointer that tied the score at 65 with 8:21 left in the third quarter.

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The Lakers are 2-0 on their current trip, which will take them to Atlanta, Indiana and Milwaukee.

CLIPPERS

Paul George scored 46 points, Kawhi Leonard had 42 and the Clippers held on to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 124-117 for their fourth consecutive victory.

It was the highest combined scoring output of the season for the Clippers’ new superstar duo. Leonard and George’s previous high came Dec. 1 when they combined for 65 points against Washington. They became the first set of teammates in Clippers’ history to each score 40 points. It was the 21st time in NBA history it has happened.

Karl-Anthony Towns had 39 points and 12 rebounds for Minnesota, which lost its seventh in a row.

Read more

Clippers coach Doc Rivers has a message for the ‘Doris Burkes of the world’

DODGERS

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In his first public comments since the Dodgers were eliminated from the postseason in stunning fashion two months ago, Clayton Kershaw on Friday said he was keeping close tabs on the activity that generated from this week’s winter meetings, he did not recruit Gerrit Cole before the ace chose to sign elsewhere, and he welcomed the possibility of playing with nemesis Madison Bumgarner.

As for the sign-stealing allegations levied against the Houston Astros that have outraged the industry and generated speculation about the Astros cheating during the 2017 World Series against the Dodgers, Kershaw admitted being somewhat stunned.

“A little shocked, honestly,” Kershaw said at the Dodgers’ annual holiday party for more than 300 children experiencing homelessness. “During the ’17 World Series, we all took as many precautions as we could. Just because it’s the playoffs and you want to do your due diligence.

“I guess all I can say is when the team and the players are doing what they can on the field to get the signs, that’s obviously part of the game, you know? But when technology comes into play, if that is really true, it sucks. And unless we get to win the World Series, I don’t really care what the punishment is. But it just, it does suck, no matter what.”

USC FOOTBALL

A week after an interview with Texas led USC to offer offensive coordinator Graham Harrell a sizable raise, the school has yet to announce a new deal for Harrell. But as the Trojans held their first of 11 bowl practices on Friday, with their full staff still intact, all signs continue to point to him sticking around.

The same can’t be said just yet about USC’s other two coordinators, Clancy Pendergast and John Baxter, whose jobs appear to be secure until USC plays in the Holiday Bowl against Iowa on Dec. 27. Questions about their status won’t be answered until Tuesday, when Clay Helton speaks to reporters for the first time since USC announced he’d continue as head coach.

Harrell proved himself worthy of the investment in his debut season with the Trojans. Even after USC lost its starting quarterback two quarters into the season, Harrell still managed to turn the Trojans into the nation’s fifth-ranked passing attack (335.9 yards per game), while helping develop a three-star backup quarterback, Kedon Slovis, into the Pac-12’s offensive freshman of the year.

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RAMS

The dynamic pass-catching ability Rams tight end Tyler Higbee displayed during consecutive 100-yard receiving performances was no surprise to some.

Bob Hudson helped develop it while coaching Higbee in high school in Florida. Jeff Brohm and Tyson Helton used it as coach and offensive coordinator at Western Kentucky.

And Rams star running back Todd Gurley has seen it during three-plus seasons as Higbee’s teammate.

“He’s been doing what he’s been doing at practice,” Gurley said. “He’s just doing it in a game now.”

The 6-foot-6, 255-pound Higbee could play a large role again Sunday when the Rams play the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. It is a must-win game for the Rams, who are 8-5 and chasing the Minnesota Vikings (9-4) for an NFC wild-card spot.

Higbee, 26, helped position the Rams for a possible run to the playoffs by producing career-best performances against the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks.

With tight end Gerald Everett sidelined because of a knee injury, coach and play-caller Sean McVay made Higbee one of quarterback Jared Goff’s primary targets. Higbee caught seven passes for 107 yards and a touchdown in the 34-7 victory over the Cardinals. He had seven receptions for 116 yards in a 28-12 victory over the Seahawks.

“It’s not any different than what we’ve seen in moments in games,” Rams tight ends coach Wes Phillips said. “He’s done that in spurts before but just now, having more opportunities, it’s really come out.”

YOUR FAVORITE SPORTS MOMENT

What is your all-time favorite local sports moment? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com and tell me what it is and why, and it could appear in a future Sports newsletter.

This moment comes from John Thomas of Culver City:

In 1994, I was working for a small firm that had Dodger season tickets. The four tickets would circulate around the office. That same year, Fernando Valenzuela was pitching for the Phillies and were scheduled to play the Dodgers in L.A. The baseball gods lined up the rotations so that Fernando would face Orel Hershiser. It was not my turn for the tickets, but the guy whose turn it was knew how excited I was about the game so he skipped his turn and gave his tickets to me. I went to the game with dreams of bringing home a souvenir. Early in the game, Fernando came to bat and hit a soft line drive foul towards our seat on the loge level. I was able to outreach an 8-year-old kid and snag the ball. We both had gloves.

I couldn’t believe my luck and was on Cloud 9 for the rest of the game. Later in the game, one of the Phillies’ big guns came to bat and lifted a towering foul ball in our direction. I joined a scrum of guys in the aisle between sections, stuck my glove up and felt the ball settle into it. What were the odds! I suspected some divine intervention so there was only one thing to do with this foul ball. The look on the 8-year-old kid’s face when I dropped the ball in his glove was the second best moment of the day.

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

Clippers at Chicago, 5 p.m., Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570

Kings at Pittsburgh, 4 p.m., FSW

NY Rangers at Ducks, 1 p.m., PRIME

UCLA (basketball) at Notre Dame, noon, ABC, AM 570

BORN ON THIS DATE

1901: Tennis player Henri Cochet (d. 1987)

1939: Football player Ernie Davis (d. 1963)

1946: Javelin thrower Ruth Fuchs

1946: Tennis player Stan Smith

1949: Baseball player Bill Buckner (d. 2019)

1953: Tennis player Vijay Amritraj

1954: Race car driver Alan Kulwicki (d. 1993)

1965: Baseball player Craig Biggio

1966: Basketball player Anthony Mason (d. 2015)

1966: Hockey player Bill Ranford

DIED ON THIS DATE

1920: Football player George Gipp, 25

1980: Baseball player Elston Howard, 59

1985: Baseball player Roger Maris, 51

AND FINALLY

Red Barber has the call on Roger Maris’ 61st homer in 1961. 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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