The Sports Report: Clippers defeat LeBron-less Lakers

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

From Dan Woike: Russell Westbrook couldn’t work his right foot into his black Jordans late in the first quarter Tuesday, but the play had to go on.

He dribbled to the left, one sneaker and one sock touching the court, and swished home a three.

In this latest edition of the Lakers and Clippers, even the most ridiculous shots would fall.

The Clippers feasted on Kawhi Leonard mid-range shots, James Harden stepbacks, Paul George drives and, yes, Westbrook threes. The Lakers countered with Anthony Davis’ interior force, D’Angelo Russell’s scoring heater and the other three starters scoring in double figures.

The Clippers, more so than the Lakers, were equipped to win this kind of game, their spread-out firepower leading them to a 127-116 win.

Leonard scored 25 and Harden had 23 to lead six players in double figures for the Clippers. The Lakers got 27 from Russell and 26 points and 12 rebounds from Davis in the loss, the team going ice cold in the fourth quarter.

There was one big defensive play of note, a singular moment in a game full of offensive skill.

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The Clippers’ winning ways began with a change of mindset

Lakers-Clippers box score

NBA scores

NBA standings

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NFL PLAYOFFS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

Conference championship
Sunday
AFC
No. 3 Kansas City at No. 1 Baltimore, noon, CBS, Paramount+

NFC
No. 3 Detroit at No. 1 San Francisco, 3:30 p.m., Fox, Fox Deportes

Note: Super Bowl is Feb. 11 at 3:30 p.m. on CBS and Paramount+

BASEBALL

From Mike DiGiovanna: Adrián Beltré was considered a teenage prodigy when he signed with the Dodgers for $23,000 in 1994, but there was little about his early career, marred by a birth-certificate issue and his slow recovery from a botched appendectomy in the Dominican Republic, which screamed “surefire Hall-of-Famer.”

Beltré was a good-but-not-yet-great player during his first five big-league seasons in Los Angeles, where he hit .262 with a .748 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and averaged just 16 homers and 65 RBIs a season from 1999-2003.

The Dodgers nearly lost Beltré to free agency in 2000 when a Major League Baseball investigation found they had signed him before his 16th birthday, and Beltré missed the first six weeks of 2001 after undergoing surgery to close a wound in his large intestine, the result of an infection from an emergency appendectomy that January.

Beltré suffered another setback in 2004, playing most of the season with bone spurs in his left ankle that were so painful he limped noticeably around the bases on many of the 48 home runs he hit for the Dodgers and needed surgery in October to remove them.

But in the eyes of former Dodgers teammate Shawn Green, that nagging foot injury may have helped spur Beltré’s transformation from promising young third baseman to potential Hall-of-Famer.

“He was kind of a wild horse at that point, where he just wanted to run,” Green said of Beltré. “That injury to his front foot kind of slowed him down, and that’s kind of when he started to figure things out and realize that he could be patient at the plate. He didn’t jump at the ball as much.”

The bone spurs forced Beltré to quiet his lower half, and the contact he generated grew consistently louder, producing a breakout 2004 season in which Beltré hit .348 with a 1.017 OPS, 121 RBIs and 104 runs to go with those 48 homers — all career highs — and finished second in National League most valuable player voting.

Beltré was named on 366 of 385 ballots (95.1%) of Baseball Writers Assn. of America members and will be joined in the July 21 induction ceremony by former Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer, who was also a first-ballot selection, and former Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, who made it on his sixth try on the ballot.

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ANGELS

From Mike DiGiovanna: The Angels have frustrated fans this winter with their inability to make a big splash through free agency or trade, but their signing of veteran right-hander Robert Stephenson to a three-year, $33-million deal on Tuesday should send another positive ripple effect through what in 2023 was an extremely shallow bullpen.

Stephenson, 30, is coming off the best season of his eight-year major league career, having posted a 3.10 ERA over 52 1/3 innings in 60 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays despite starting 2023 on the injured list because of a sore elbow.

He will join newcomers Luis García, a hard-throwing right-hander, and Adam Cimber, a submarine-throwing right-hander, in a revamped bullpen that returns closer Carlos Estévez and expects hard-throwing right-hander Ben Joyce back from an elbow injury.

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ANGEL CITY

From Kevin Baxter: Angel City made it to the playoffs in its second NWSL season last year. But the roster that will take the training field to start the team’s third season Wednesday will be a lot different than the one it used in that postseason loss in Seattle three months ago.

Gone are midfielders Savannah McCaskill and Dani Weatherholt, forwards Simone Charley and Scarlett Camberos and goalkeeper Brittany Isenhour. In are midfielder Meggie Dougherty Howard and teenagers Casey Phair, a forward, and Gisele Thompson, a defender, as well as midfielders Felicia Knox and Jessica Garziano and defender Madison Curry, who the team selected in last week’s NWSL draft.

The latest addition came Tuesday when Angel City added Costa Rica international Raquel “Rocky” Rodríguez from the Portland Thorns in exchange for $275,000 in allocation money. And the team isn’t done, with at least one more player expected to join the roster this week.

“Ultimately, it’s a little bit of how we as a club need to respond because of free agency and things that are a little bit up in the air, just to kind of see which direction players are going. But also trying to keep a group together, a consistent core, while also really looking at what we could do to elevate the needs of the club,” general manager Angela Hucles Mangano said of the roster overhaul.

“It’s always a combination of factors that go into it. There are sometimes positional needs. Salary definitely comes into play. But it’s also about how we want to build this team. Whether that’s diversity culturally, looking at what the player will bring to the club and past experience, it’s always a variety of factors that go into those decisions.”

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DUCKS

Jakob Silfverberg scored two goals, defenseman Olen Zellweger had an assist in his NHL debut and the Ducks ended their three-game skid with a 4-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night.

Sam Carrick scored a power-play goal and John Gibson made 28 saves for the Ducks, who took a 3-0 lead deep into the third period before holding on to win for only the fourth time in 16 games.

Jordan Greenway scored a power-play goal with 5:19 to play and Kyle Okposo added another score with 2:56 left for the Sabres, who struggled in the opener of their three-game California trip.

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Ducks box score

NHL scores

NHL standings

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1939 — Eddie Collins, Wee Willie Keeler and George Sisler are elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

1956 — Bob Pettit of the St. Louis Hawks captures the first of his NBA record four All-Star MVP awards. Pettit leads the West team with 20 points and 24 rebounds in a 108-94 win over the East.

1981 — Mike Bossy of the New York Islanders scores his 50th goal in the 50th game of the season in a 7-3 victory over the Quebec Nordiques.

1982 — Ray Wersching kicks a Super Bowl record-tying four field goals to help the San Francisco 49ers beat the Cincinnati Bengals 26-21.

1986 — Mike Bossy of the New York Islanders scores his 1,000th career point with an assist in a 7-5 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

1998 — The Denver Nuggets end their record-tying, single-season losing streak at 23 games, beating the Clippers 99-81.

1999 — David Duval shoots a 59 to match what is then the best round in PGA Tour history. Duval surges from seven strokes off the pace for a one-stroke victory over Steve Pate in the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.

2010 — Kelly Kulick becomes the first woman to win a PBA Tour title, beating Chris Barnes in the final of the 45th Tournament of Champions. Kulick outscores Barnes 265-195 to take home the $40,000 first prize and a two-year PBA Tour exemption.

2012 — Playing his 1,000th match, four-time Australian Open champion Roger Federer advances to his ninth straight semifinal at Melbourne Park with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 win over Juan Martin del Potro. Federer is the seventh man to reach the 1,000 match milestone.

2014 — Carmelo Anthony scores a career-high and franchise-record 62 points, most at the current Madison Square Garden, and the New York Knicks beat the Charlotte Bobcats 125-96.

2015 — Ashley Wagner wins her third U.S. figure skating title, easily beating defending champ Gracie Gold.

Compiled by the Associated Press

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 [email protected], and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.



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