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The Sports Report: Clippers lose game and Paul George

Clippers Celtics Basketball
Kemba Walker drives against Landry Shamet in the first half.
(Associated Press)

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

As someone with experience coaching Boston stars, Clippers coach Doc Rivers was asked Thursday evening for his evaluation of the Celtics’ latest.

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Jayson Tatum, Rivers said, was already tremendous at only 21-years-old.

“Can you imagine five years from now, what he’ll be?” Rivers asked.

Over the course of the next three hours and two overtime periods, he got a preview.

On the eve of his first NBA All-Star game appearance, Tatum scored 39 points with nine rebounds to help Boston outlast the short-handed Clippers 141-133. Tatum made five of his 10 three-pointers and 14 of his 23 shots overall in a performance that ended with a standing ovation from the sold-out TD Garden crowd when he checked out with 12.3 seconds remaining.

The loss ended the Clippers’ final road trip before the All-Star break at 1-3. They are now 37-18.

Lou Williams led the Clippers with 35 points. He scored 20 of them after the third quarter and finished with eight assists and six rebounds.

Kawhi Leonard scored 28 points.

The result was overshadowed by another injury to forward Paul George.

After making two of his seven shots in the first half for four points in 15 minutes, George did not return after straining his left hamstring.

It was not a positive development for George, or the Clippers, as it was the same injury that caused the team’s second-leading scorer to miss nine consecutive games in January. He also missed a 10th game with tightness in the left hamstring. The Clippers were 7-3 in those games.

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GOLF

Matt Kuchar loves Riviera Country Club. Comes back almost every year for the annual PGA Tour stop in Pacific Palisades. But for the most part, the course hasn’t loved him back.

In his 13 previous tries on the 93-year-old George Thomas layout, he’s never finished higher than tied for eighth and hasn’t had another finish in the top 10.

Thursday in the opening round of the Genesis Invitational, Kuchar rode a sizzling putter to a bogey-free, seven-under-par 64 to tie his low score in this event and build a three-shot lead heading into Round 2.

“It’s a place that I absolutely love coming every year,” Kuchar said. “I think it’s one of the few courses that has truly stood the test of time. It was a great test of golf 50 years ago when Ben Hogan was playing; it’s a great test today.”

There is an eclectic collection of players on his heels. Harold Varner III, Russell Henley, Wyndham Clark, Adam Schenk and Kyoung-Hoon Lee were at 67, and they were followed one shot behind by some of the big names that helped make this one of the strongest non-major-tournament fields in years.

World No. 1 Rory McIlroy, former UCLA star Patrick Cantlay, Jason Day, Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau all were in a group of nine at three under and certainly within striking distance of the top spot.

Lurking one stroke behind them after shooting an erratic 69 (31-38) sits Tiger Woods, hoping to make the tournament only 40 miles or so from his childhood home the record 83rd tour victory of his career (to break a tie with Sam Snead).

See the full leaderboard by clicking here.

DAYTONA 500

The Daytona 500 has an unusual system of determining its starting order. The first two spots in the field of 40 are determined by fastest laps on Saturday, the week before the race. The remainder of the field is determined by their finish in two 150-mile races on Thursday night.

It’s as much about allowing the drivers to learn more about their car before the first race of the year and in some cases a new pit crew. It’s also about the manufacturers teaming up to practice, helping each other out. And sometimes, all those angles play out at one time.

Joey Logano won the first duel in a dominating show by Ford, taking the first four positions with four different teams. Aric Almirola was second, followed by Ryan Newman and Brad Keselowski. Racing was delayed more than an hour when a light rain fell at Daytona International Speedway.

William Byron won the second duel, which was a testament to Chevrolet, which took the top three spots. Jimmie Johnson, running in his final season, was second and Kyle Larson was third. Byron and Johnson are teammates with Hendrick Motorsports.

See the Daytona 500 starting grid by clicking here.

UCLA BASKETBALL

Cody Riley scored 11 of his 19 points in overtime to lead UCLA to an 86-83 win over Washington State.

Riley made the biggest shots when the Bruins needed him most. He scored five field goals in overtime, one more than he did in regulation after coming off the bench.

Chris Smith scored 23 points and Tyga Campbell scored 14 points for UCLA (14-11, 7-5), which has won six of its last eight games.

Isaac Bonton scored 23 points for Washington State, and Jeff Pollard added a career-high 20 points.

Bonton suffered what appeared to be a leg injury late as he hobbled off the court with the help of teammates with 1:06 left in the game.

Smith tied the score with a jumper from the baseline with 17 seconds left in regulation and Bonton missed a three-pointer with 2 seconds left as the game went to overtime.

The teams went to overtime on Jan. 4 as well, with the Cougars winning 79-71.

USC BASKETBALL

Nick Rakocevic scored 19 points, Jonah Mathews added 16 and USC ended a three-game losing streak as it rallied for a 62-56 victory over Washington on Thursday night.

The Trojans (18-7, 7-5 Pac-12) trailed 30-25 at halftime and were down 42-35 midway through the second half before going on a 16-4 run to take control. Mathews scored eight points during the run and Rakocevic added four.

USC scored the first seven points during the run and held Washington scoreless for 7:10.

Jaden McDaniels led Washington (12-13, 2-10) with his third double-double of the season, 19 points and 12 rebounds, while Isaiah Stewart had 13 points and 11 rebounds for his 10th double-double. The Huskies have dropped nine of their last 10.

BASEBALL

Baseball demanded a pound of flesh from the Houston Astros, who for months showed little remorse for a sign-stealing scandal that rocked the sport and tainted their 2017 World Series win over the Dodgers.

It finally got one — or, at least, a chunk of one — on a warm, breezy Thursday morning on Florida’s East Coast, but even that took longer than it should have.

Only two players spoke at a news conference televised live by MLB Network, and third baseman Alex Bregman’s 40-second apology and second baseman Jose Altuve’s 30-second apology probably did little to appease players who are furious with the Astros’ cheating and lack of accountability.

And owner Jim Crane’s contention that Houston’s theft of signs “didn’t impact the game” only inflamed the anger of fans and insulted the intelligence of players from teams the Astros vanquished in the 2017 postseason — the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Dodgers.

But when the formal proceedings before about 100 media members and 15 camera crews broke up, a more authentic attempt at contrition began.

Waiting for reporters in the team’s spring training clubhouse were all six remaining position players from that 2017 team — Altuve, Bregman, shortstop Carlos Correa, first baseman Yuli Gurriel and outfielders George Springer and Josh Reddick — as well as ace pitcher Justin Verlander.

Each stood at his locker and answered questions for 30-40 minutes in what amounted to a group mea culpa the Astros hope will start the process of regaining the trust of opposing players and fans.

“I don’t want my kids, I don’t want my brother, I don’t want my family members or people who follow me to think that it was right to cheat to be successful,” Correa said. “What we did in 2017 was terrible. It was straight-up wrong. We all know it and feel really bad about it.”

Read more baseball

Bill Plaschke: Rob Manfred’s inaction is as damaging to baseball as the Astros’ cheating

Dylan Hernandez: Astros owner Jim Crane’s half-hearted apology for sign stealing was laughable

One-time phenom pitcher Dylan Bundy gets a fresh start with the Angels

Dodgers begin spring training with a glut of talent and an eye already on October

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts tries to avoid thinking about Astros’ tepid regrets

DUCKS

Mikael Backlund and Mark Jankowski scored two goals apiece, and Cam Talbot made 44 saves for his 21st career shutout in the Flames’ 6-0 victory over the Ducks.

Talbot was superb in his first shutout of the season and his first victory since Jan. 11, making 18 saves in the second period alone.

Elias Lindholm, Oliver Kylington, Backlund and Jankowski all scored for Calgary during a ne-sided opening period. Lindholm extended his scoring streak to nine games, one shy of his career high, with his 25th goal.

John Gibson stopped 12 shots in Anaheim’s awful first period before Ryan Miller replaced him to start the second. The Ducks’ season-best streak of five straight games with a point ended with just their second regulation loss in eight games.

Read more hockey

Helene Elliott: Forty years later, the ‘Miracle on Ice’ still doesn’t get old for Mike Eruzione and Al Michaels

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific.

Oregon at UCLA (women), 8 p.m, Pac-12 Networks, AM 1150

Oregon State at USC (women), 7 p.m., Pac-12 Networks

BORN ON THIS DATE

1907: Jockey Johnny Longden (d. 2003)

1913: College football coach Woody Hayes (d. 1987)

1913: Sportscaster/"This Week in Baseball” host Mel Allen (d. 1996)

1923: Golfer Jay Hebert (d. 1997)

1931: Hockey player Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion (d. 2006)

1935: Golfer Mickey Wright

1951: Figure skater JoJo Starbuck

1956: Baseball player Dave Dravecky

1960: Football player Jim Kelly

1965: Football player Jessie Tuggle

1966: Hockey player Petr Svoboda

1970: Volleyball player Elaine Youngs

1972: Football player Drew Bledsoe

1973: Football player Steve McNair (d. 2009)

1973: Basketball player Tyus Edney

1978: Basketball player Richard Hamilton

1982: Basketball player Richard Hamilton

DIED ON THIS DATE

2003: Jockey Johnny Longden

AND FINALLY

A random episode of “This Week in Baseball.” 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

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