The Sports Report: Clippers in familiar playoff territory – Los Angeles Times

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

Dan Woike on the Lakers: These franchises, maybe more than any other two in the 30-team NBA, take the court with the ghosts of the pasts surrounding their iconic colors.

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.

It’s why veteran public address announcer Lawrence Tanter stretched out the last syllable of “seventeen” when talking about the championship banners the Lakers were playing under Tuesday night.

That is, after all, the same number of titles won by the hated Celtics – their green uniforms beautifully clashing against the Lakers’ purple and gold.

But since the Lakers assembled their roster full of yesterday’s biggest stars in an attempt to win tomorrow’s championship, the balance between who they were and what they need to be has been impossible to strike.

Like everything, getting James back to doing as much as what he’s used to will be the key. And having this version of Russell Westbrook?

That was always the hope.

“I just like the way we competed tonight on both sides of the floor. A lot of intensity,” James said, calling the 117-102 win over Boston maybe the Lakers’ best performance of the season.

The Lakers got the best versions of James and Westbrook, the veteran Lakers slicing through the Boston defense and bulldozing the Celtics if someone tried to stand his ground.

James set the tone early, keeping the Lakers from falling behind big early, and Westbrook dominated the third, slamming home dunks, dancing after threes and dishing out assists.

James finished with 30 points, four rebounds, five assists and plenty of defensive energy and attention, the kind of game that made him seem like he was still at his peak instead of starting to fall from it.

Westbrook had 24 points and 11 assists, helping the Lakers lead by as many as 20.

“The energy he plays with is always good for your group,” Frank Vogel said.

Enjoying this newsletter? Consider subscribing to the Los Angeles Times

Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a subscriber.

Ryan Kartje on the Trojans: USC receiver Drake London was in the midst of his star turn when an Arizona defender rolled over his right ankle during a game in late October, stopping an extraordinary season in its tracks with four games left to play.

Yet even a broken ankle and a month away wouldn’t keep the Pac-12 from recognizing London as the conference’s offensive player of the year, an honor that never has gone to a player who missed as much of a season as London.

London is the eighth USC player to receive the honor and first since Marqise Lee in 2012.

London was one of two USC players to be selected to the All-Pac-12 first team along with defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu, while UCLA had three players chosen: wideout Kyle Philips, tight end Greg Dulcich and offensive lineman Sean Rhyan.

Five Bruins made the second team: quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, running back Zach Charbonnet, defensive lineman Mitchell Agude and defensive backs Quintin Lake and Qwuantrezz Knight, while Philips also was selected as a return specialist. They were joined on the second team by two Trojans: linebacker Drake Jackson and kicker Parker Lewis.

————

Breaking down the USC roster Lincoln Riley inherits

USC MEN’S BASKETBALL

Steve Galluzzo on the Trojans: Figuring the opponent’s best chance was to bomb away from behind the three-point line, the USC men’s basketball team employed tight perimeter defense and pounded the ball inside at every opportunity for easy layups to build a comfortable halftime lead before settling for a sloppy 80-68 nonconference victory over Eastern Kentucky at Galen Center.

Eastern Kentucky made just three of 17 attempts from beyond the arc (17.6 percent) in the first half while USC outscored the Colonels 22-6 in the paint and won the battle of the boards 26-14 in the first 20 minutes. The Trojans enjoyed a 41-25 at intermission.

Isaiah Mobley led the way with 23 points and 13 rebounds, Drew Peterson added 15, Joshua Morgan had 14 and Max Agbonkpolo had 12 for the Trojans, who prevailed by double-digits despite 18 turnovers.

DUCKS

Trevor Zegras flipped a pass over the net to set up the go-ahead goal, Anthony Stolarz made 25 saves and the Ducks beat the Buffalo Sabres 2-0.

Zegras scooped the puck onto the blade of his stick behind the net and lobbed it over goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen’s head. Sonny Milano was waiting on the right edge of the crease and batted the feed past Luukkonen’s glove for his eighth goal 5:14 into the second period.

“I still can’t believe it worked,” said Zegras, who celebrated the goal with both hands on his head. “It’s pretty funny. I’ve tried it a couple of times and haven’t even come close. For him to whack it out of the air and keep it under the crossbar was pretty incredible.”

Milano was ready for the pass but said he initially wanted Zegras to keep the puck and try for a wrap-around, lacrosse-style goal, like the one Mike Legg famously scored for the University of Michigan in 1996.

WATER POLO

Kevin Baxter on water polo: Adam Krikorian, who has coached the U.S. to an unprecedented three consecutive Olympic gold medals in women’s water polo, will go for a fourth in Paris after USA Water Polo extended his contract through the 2024 Summer Games.

Men’s coach Dejan Udovicic also had his contract extended through Paris. The men finished sixth in Tokyo last summer, equaling their second-best finish in an Olympic tournament in the last 25 years.

“USA Water Polo is excited to announce the return of our two national team head coaches. Stability is important in team building, and keeping the leaders of our programs intact will only help build from the efforts of the last quadrennial,” John Abdou, USA Water Polo’s chief sport performance officer, said in a statement.

THE YEAR IN REVIEW

2021 sports year in review: The year Simone Biles taught us it’s OK to not be OK

Top 2021 sports moments: UCLA’s Final Four run; Dodgers thrive despite Trevor Bauer

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1940 — The Chicago Bears beat the Washington Redskins 73-0 for the most one-sided victory in NFL Championship play.

1942 — Georgia’s Frank Sinkwich wins the Heisman Trophy. Sinkwich ends his career holding the Southeastern Conference record for total offense with 2,399 yards.

1948 — Southern Methodist junior Doak Walker wins the Heisman Trophy. Walker over three years scores 303 points, including 40 touchdowns and 60 points after touchdowns.

1961 — Philadelphia’s Wilt Chamberlain scores 78 points and grabs 43 rebounds in a 151-147 triple overtime loss to the Lakers. Elgin Baylor leads the Lakers with 63 points.

1963 — Cookie Gilchrist of the Buffalo Bills sets an AFL record with 243 yards rushing and ties a league record with five touchdowns in a 45-14 rout of the New York Jets.

1977 — Texas running back Earl Campbell wins the Heisman Trophy.

1987 — Ron Hextall of the Philadelphia Flyers becomes the first NHL goaltender to shoot a puck into the opposing goal in a 5-2 victory over the Boston Bruins.

2000 — Shaquille O’Neal sets an NBA record by going 0-for-11 from the free-throw line as the SuperSonics beat the Lakers 103-95. He broke Wilt Chamberlain’s record, who went 0-for-10 for Philadelphia against Detroit on Nov. 4, 1960. O’Neal had 26 points and 16 rebounds.

2002 — Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon sets an NFL record with his 10th 300-yard game of the season, throwing for 328 yards in the Raider 27-7 win over San Diego and breaking a tie with Dan Marino, Warren Moon and Kurt Warner.

2007 — Florida quarterback Tim Tebow becomes the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. He beats out Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, the first player since 1949 to finish second in consecutive seasons.

2011 — Three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols agrees to a $254 million, 10-year contract with the Angels on the final day of baseball’s winter meetings. Pujols’ contract is the second-highest in baseball history and only the third to break the $200 million barrier, following Alex Rodriguez’s $252 million, 10-year deal with Texas before the 2001 season and A-Rod’s $275 million, 10-year contract with the Yankees before the 2008 season.

2012 — Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel becomes the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, taking college football’s top individual prize after a record-breaking debut. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o finishes a distant second and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein is third in the voting.

2013 — Zach Johnson rallies from four shots behind with eight holes to play and beats Tiger Woods, the No. 1 player in golf, at the World Challenge. Johnson holes out from a drop area for par on the last hole to force a playoff and wins when Woods misses a 5-foot par putt on the first extra hole.

2013 — Lydia Ko, a 16-year-old from New Zealand, rallies to win her first title as a professional. Ko, making her second pro start, wins the Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters, closing with a 4-under 68 for a three-stroke victory over South Korea’s So Yeon Ryu. She won four pro events as an amateur, taking the Canadian Women’s Open the last two years.

Supplied by the Associated Press

And finally

Tim Tebow reflects on winning the Heisman Trophy. Watch and listen 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.