Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.
All the Lakers looked up, their eyes riveted on the video screen inside Chase Center as the tribute to Kobe Bryant played.
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The Golden State Warriors were the last team in the NBA to play a home game following the death of Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others on Jan. 26 in a helicopter crash into a hillside in Calabasas. And accordingly, they too honored the late Lakers star and the other victims Saturday night.
But the emotion of the moment was not the cause of the Lakers being so sloppy before they pulled out a 125-120 win over the short-handed Warriors.
The Lakers had dealt with the experience before — first at Staples Center, then last Saturday in Sacramento — and they were expecting another one.
“We know probably going into every arena from now to the rest of the season, it’s probably going to be some type of Kobe tribute,” Anthony Davis said after producing 27 points and 10 rebounds. “Coach [Frank Vogel] had a great talk with us about how to handle that and being prepared for it. It’s something that we expect every time that we go on the road and try to use that as motivation for us to get the win.”
The Lakers (39-12) got this win behind LeBron James, who came up two rebounds shy of a triple-double with 22 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. His three-pointer with 16.9 seconds left sealed the game, giving the Lakers a 124-116 lead.
They had built a 21-point lead in the third quarter, but saw it trimmed to 117-112 late in the fourth. They had 24 turnovers, which allowed the Warriors to get back in the game.
Golden State was playing for the first time since trading six players last week, including former Laker D’Angelo Russell, and also missing forward Draymond Green (back tightness).
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The Minnesota Timberwolves (16-35) used a roster with eight new players to thump the Clippers 142-115 and end a 13-game losing streak.
“That was awful effort,” coach Doc Rivers said after watching Minnesota make a franchise-record 26 three-pointers.Leonard led the Clippers (36-16) with 29 points.
Marcus Morris, who watched the game in street clothes, is expected to play Sunday in Cleveland. It’s been a long wait for his Clippers debut.
The team tried trading for him during previous seasons, Frank said, and only wanted him more after their summer conversations.
“There’s a really tough competitive spirit about him,” general manager Michael Winger said. “Even before you get to the basketball piece, that’s attractive.
“We feel like he’s a Clipper. He plays like a Clipper, he’s got an edge to him. We liked him even more after getting to know him than before.”
The two sides never met in person but over the phone, Morris got to know the Clippers, as well.
“I could tell it was the main goal here was trying to win a championship,” he said. “And that’s something I wanted to be a part of. Obviously last summer some things didn’t go the way I thought it would but we here now, $15 million richer, so I’m ready.”
The Clippers also received Washington veteran guard Isaiah Thomas in the trade, but officially waived him Saturday afternoon.
UCLA held on for a most unlikely 65-52 victory over No. 23 Arizona on Saturday, its third consecutive triumph on the home court of its biggest Pac-12 Conference rival.
The Bruins (13-11 overall, 6-5 Pac-12) won with tenacious defense and heady play in their half-court offense, countering every Wildcats surge with a bigger one.
It was UCLA’s 14-0 run starting midway through the second half that transformed a one-point game into a rout. It started with Chris Smith’s turnaround jumper and continued with Jules Bernard making a steal and making two free throws after getting fouled on a breakaway layup. Tyger Campbell then banked in a tough floater and Jalen Hill powered in for a layup off the glass before Hill pulled down the offensive rebound that triggered an emphatic celebration as part of a three-point play.
But the Bruins weren’t done. David Singleton made a three-pointer from the corner, giving his team a 59-44 lead and sending a trickle of fans toward the exits.
Andy Enfield put hands on his head and dropped his gaze to the floor.
The USC coach couldn’t bear to watch the result of his team’s latest giveaway, an ill-advised Quinton Adlesh pass leading to a breakaway Arizona State dunk.
He couldn’t bear to watch the Sun Devil crowd around him, kept so quiet in the first half by his team’s sharp perimeter shooting and stingy interior defense, erupt at the sight of two more seemingly free points.
He couldn’t bear to watch Saturday’s game, one that felt so important for a USC team suddenly staring down its first three-game losing streak of the season, be given away by his team.
After leading by as many as 13 in the first half and eight at halftime, USC came undone down the stretch in Tempe, losing to the Sun Devils 66-64 after guard Remy Martin rattled in a game-winning jumper with 16.2 seconds remaining.
KJ Feagin scored 21 points, hitting five three-pointers, and the San Diego State Aztecs (24-0, 13-0 Mountain West) remained the nation’s lone unbeaten team by beating the Air Force Falcons 89-74 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Jordan Schakel had 18 points, Malachi Flynn 17 and Matt Mitchell 16 for San Diego State. The Aztecs’ season-opening run is the nation’s best since the 2016-17 Gonzaga team began the year 29-0.
The Aztecs’ 13-0 conference opening is also the best start to a season in Mountain West history.
Chris Joyce scored 23 points to lead Air Force, which fell to 4-86 against ranked opponents. The Aztecs tied for the highest ranked opponent to play Air Force at Clune Arena. The Falcons hosted No. 4 ranked Utah there on Jan. 22, 1998.
Lavelle Scottie had 16 points for the Falcons, who lost their sixth straight.
First it was Pavel Zacha. Then Blake Coleman.
During the first period Saturday in Newark, N.J., both New Jersey Devils forwards flew toward the Kings’ net all alone. Both tried going backhand on Kings goalie Cal Petersen, playing his first NHL game this season and only the 12th of his career. Both were denied by the Kings’ potential netminder of the future.
Up until the Kings traded Jack Campbell to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday, Petersen had spent this season with the Reign, the Kings’ American Hockey League affiliate, completing the hockey equivalency of his master’s degree.
The 25-year-old third-season pro was the pupil. Matt Millar, the Reign’s first-year goaltending development coach, was the professor. Together, they strived to perfect the prospect’s promising game.
“He’s at a point where it wasn’t anything major,” Millar said. “Maybe one or two little tweaks to try and push him over the edge.”
Petersen’s not quite there yet. After his pair of first-period breakaway saves Saturday, he allowed three goals during a five-minute stretch in the second period — though he wasn’t solely culpable on any of them — en route to the Kings’ 3-0 loss to the Devils.
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P.J. Walker threw for four touchdowns and 272 yards as the Houston Roughnecks defeated the L.A. Wildcats 37-17 in the XFL season opener for both teams Saturday at TDECU Stadium.
The Roughnecks ran off 25 points after the Wildcats took a 17-12 lead in the second quarter. Walker, a former Temple quarterback, completed 23 of 39 passes and had one pass intercepted in an inaugural game of the rebooted league that initially began in 2001.
“This was our first test,” Wildcats coach Winston Moss told the team’s website. “We failed. I’m going to get on that plane … I’m going to find guys who want to play ball and hate losing as much as I do.”
L.A.’s Charles Kanoff threw for 214 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score. His 11-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Smallwood put the Wildcats ahead 14-6 in the second quarter before Nick Novak made it 17-12 with a 35-yard field goal.
Wildcats receiver Nelson Spruce, a former Rams, Chargers and Chiefs signee, finished with a game-high 11 catches for 103 yards.
For his final act on a day filled with short-game magic, Phil Mickelson hit a full-swing flop shot over a bunker that landed in just the right spot on the 18th green at Pebble Beach that it rolled out to four feet from the cup.
Somehow, it didn’t go in.
For a time Saturday in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, it seemed everything did.
“It seemed like my short game was pretty good today,” Mickelson said after a five-under-par 67, that final birdie leaving him one shot behind Nick Taylor of Canada as Lefty goes for a record sixth title at Pebble.
Taylor had a cold start and a relatively quiet day at Spyglass Hill, away from all the hits and giggles around the celebrity rotation at Pebble Beach. He overcame two early bogeys with a 25-foot eagle putt on his 16th hole for a 69 and his first 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour. Taylor was at 17-under 198.
Jon Jones is generally considered the greatest MMA fighter in history, effectively unbeaten over the course of his career despite facing a who’s who of the sport. After a series of mistakes outside the Octagon, he has gotten back on track recently and has been more regularly competing. Dominick Reyes, his opponent Saturday, was unbeaten in his own right and has good athleticism and knockout power.
Winner: Jon Jones, unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46).
That’s going to be a controversial decision. Jones came on late and won the last two rounds but Reyes was dominant early. Jones again showed vulnerability and he has struggled in recent years in a way he rarely ever did early in his career even as he continues to win. Reyes was impressive and raised his stock regardless of the decision.
Brittany Force, Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Matt Hagan finished qualifying with the top spots Saturday on Day 2 of the NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona.
Force, on her final run of top fuel qualifying, roared to an elapsed time of 3.657 to grab the top spot from Friday’s top qualifier, Shawn Langdon. Austin Prock took second with a time of 3.680, and Leah Pruett was third at 3.687.
Coughlin, a five-time pro stock champion who earlier in the day announced his retirement at season’s end, stayed in the top spot in pro stock to earn his 33rd career No. 1 qualifier. He ran a 6.525 at 210.64 mph. Deric Kramer was second with a 6.549, and Erica Enders finished in the third spot at 6.552. Coughlin will be seeking his 64th pro stock victory Sunday.
In funny car, Hagan ended up in the top spot after briefly losing the lead. Hagan had a 3.867, but defending champion Robert Hight took the lead with a 3.862.
Hagan’s final run resulted in a 3.841 alongside teammate Jack Beckman, who finished second with a 3.856. Hight finished in the third spot.
TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE
All times Pacific.
Clippers at Cleveland, 4:30 p.m., Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570
Kings at NY Rangers, 3 p.m., FSW
Ducks at Buffalo, noon, PRIME, AM 830
UCLA (women) at California, 2 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
USC (women) at Stanford, noon, Pac-12 Networks
BORN ON THIS DATE
1908: Boxer Jackie Fields (d. 1987)
1914: Baseball team owner Bill Veeck (d. 1986)
1952: NFL player Danny White
1952: Baseball player Mookie Wilson
1953: Hockey player Andre Sevard
1958: Golfer Sandy Lyle
1961: Baseball player John Kruk
1968: Former Laker Derek Strong
1969: Former Ram Todd Lyght
1975: Former Angel Vladimir Guerrero
DIED ON THIS DATE
1994: College football coach Bud Wilkinson, 77
2007: Baseball player Hank Bauer, 84
Vladimir Guerrero‘s top five plays as an Angel. Watch it here.