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The Sports Report: Clippers come up short against Kings

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Kobe Bryant’s jerseys hang as Clipper players prepare for their game with the Kings.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

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

The Clippers came onto the court hours before the game Thursday night wearing a KB24 patch on the front of their shooting shirts and either a No. 8 or 24 on the back, the numbers representing the jerseys Kobe Bryant wore during his 20-year career with the Lakers.

They kept Bryant’s retired numbers of 8 and 24 lit up high above on the north wall of Staples Center while the rest of the Lakers’ numbers were covered up as always for Clippers games. Their coaches all wore Kobe Bryant sneakers during the game.

They had a moving and emotional video tribute to honor Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and the other seven victims killed in a helicopter that crashed into a hill in Calabasas on Sunday. Paul George, who viewed Bryant as a mentor and close friend, narrated the video.

Amid all that, amid losing Kawhi Leonard to start the game with tightness in his lower back, the Clippers had to play the first NBA game inside the arena since Bryant died.

It did not turn out well for the Clippers.

They fell into a 20-point hole in the second quarter that led to a 124-103 loss to Sacramento, behind Kings speedy point guard De’Aaron Fox scoring a career-high 34 points.

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Read more NBA/Kobe:

Lakers begin to return to a semblance of normalcy and prepare for Trail Blazers

Helene Elliott: Sorrow overwhelms at Staples Center over death of Kobe Bryant

Luke Walton can’t get away from the memories of Kobe Bryant at Staples Center

NBA All-Star Game to honor Kobe Bryant with 24-point fourth quarter

Bryant family issues statement requesting respect for privacy

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UCLA BASKETBALL

Chris Smith’s career-high 30 points led UCLA to a 72-68 upset of No. 20 Colorado on Thursday at Pauley Pavilion as the Bruins (11-10, 4-4 Pac-12) ended a four-game losing streak in the series.

The victory is UCLA’s first over a ranked opponent since Feb. 8, 2018, when the Bruins knocked off No.13 Arizona. UCLA had lost six straight against ranked teams, but earned a morale-boosting win after getting crushed by No. 8 Oregon last week.

“Tonight was definitely a confidence booster,” Smith said. “It shows us and everyone else that we can hang with some of the best. … We got some young guys that don’t play like they’re young.”

Freshman Jaime Jaquez Jr. had 12 points and seven rebounds with three made free throws late in the game. Smith laughed as he admitted he likely wouldn’t have hit those clutch shots as a freshman. Redshirt senior Prince Ali busted out of a four-game slump with 11 points, making three-of-three three-pointers, and grabbing five rebounds.

USC BASKETBALL

USC mustered the strength down the stretch, managing a narrow 56-52 win over Utah that it should hope to never revisit. It won despite shooting just 37% and dishing out fewer assists (nine) than turnovers (11). It won despite losing the rebounding battle and scoring just four second-chance points to Utah’s 12.

It won despite the emotionally draining week that came before. As the Trojans mounted another second-half comeback, they did so with Kobe Bryant on their minds.

“We were playing for Kobe,” guard Elijah Weaver said. “We were not losing at home.”

So, after stumbling through the first half and part of the second, USC started chipping away, as it had so many other times this season. The Trojans had already closed big deficits against Louisiana State, Texas Christian, Stanford, and Oregon, with only the latter game actually ending in defeat. That experience would come in handy on Thursday.

KINGS

Alex Iafallo scored 24 seconds into overtime, completing a hat trick that lifted the Kings over the Coyotes 3-2 on Thursday night and ended their five-game losing streak.

Iafallo tied the score with 2:54 left in regulation, then won it a few minutes later. Jack Campbell stopped 26 shots and Anze Kopitar assisted on two goals for the Kings, who got their second win of the month.

Christian Dvorak gave the Coyotes a 2-1 lead with 56 seconds left in the second period, and Nick Schmaltz also scored for Arizona. But the Coyotes lost their fourth straight and are 1-5-2 in their last eight games.

DODGERS

At the winter meetings in December, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he expected more roster turnover this offseason than in any of his previous years at the helm. It was a low bar and the Dodgers still have not surpassed it. With two weeks remaining until pitchers and catchers report for spring training, the Dodgers’ offseason has gone quieter than even they anticipated.

The club missed out on the top free agent targets, starting with Gerrit Cole and ending with Josh Donaldson, and have signed to one-year contracts with three pitchers coming off poor seasons or significant injuries: Blake Treinen, Alex Wood and Jimmy Nelson. They are low-risk, high-reward transactions. None are guaranteed to move the needle.

But the Dodgers might not be done. The club remains interested in trading for an All-Star player and have been engaged in trade talks with the Boston Red Sox about acquiring outfielder Mookie Betts, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

Betts isn’t the only option potentially on the market. Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant on Wednesday lost his service-time grievance battle with Major League Baseball and now will be under team control through 2021.

Trade talks for Bryant were in a holding pattern before the decision, which makes the slugger more appealing to teams but also increases the Cubs’ asking price. Bryant will make $18.6 million this season and won’t be a free agent until after the 2021 season.

SUPER BOWL

Derrick Thomas, perhaps the greatest defensive player in Kansas City Chiefs history, entered and left his world the same way.

In the arms of his mother.

“The whole thing is still sometimes a blur,” said Edith Morgan, sitting in a downtown restaurant two miles north of Jackson Memorial Hospital, where her son died at 33. “Sometimes you have those moments when it’s like yesterday.”

Next Saturday — six days after Super Bowl LIV — will be the 20th anniversary of Thomas’ death. The All-Pro linebacker, who had been paralyzed from the chest down as the result of a car accident 16 days earlier, suffered from cardiorespiratory arrest while being transferred from his bed to a wheelchair on his way to a therapy session.

As the Chiefs prepare for their first Super Bowl in 50 years, a showdown Sunday with the San Francisco 49ers at Hard Rock Stadium, Thomas is top of mind for some of his old teammates. He was the heartbeat of those great Kansas City teams that could dominate in the regular season but fall short in the playoffs.

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific.

Portland at Lakers, 7:30 p.m., ESPN, Spectrum Sportsnet, 710 ESPN

Tampa Bay at Ducks, 7 p.m., PRIME

UCLA (women) at Arizona, 5 p.m., Pac-12 Networks

USC (women) at Arizona State, 10 a.m., Pac-12 Networks

BORN ON THIS DATE

1865: Cyclist Henri Desgrange (d. 1940)

1908: Tennis player Simonne Mathieu (d. 1980)

1913: Football player Don Hutson (d. 1997)

1914: Boxer Jersey Joe Walcott (d. 1994)

1916: Tennis player Frank Parker (d. 1997)

1919: Baseball player Jackie Robinson (d. 1972)

1931: Baseball player Ernie Banks (d. 2015)

1947: Baseball player Nolan Ryan

1955: Tennis player Virginia Ruzici

1957: Swimmer Shirley Babashoff

1968: Football coach Doug Pederson

1976: Race car driver Buddy Rice

AND FINALLY

A look at Jackie Robinson‘s legacy. Watch it 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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Go beyond the scoreboard

Get the latest on L.A.'s teams in the daily Sports Report newsletter.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.
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