The Sports Report: Clippers’ seven-game winning streak is over

The Sports Report: Clippers’ seven-game winning streak is over

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

Andrew Greif on the Clippers: The Clippers’ seven-game winning streak is over.

Now, the uncertainty surrounding when their short-handed roster will be able to start another has just begun.

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In a 108-99 loss Tuesday in Atlanta, the Clippers flashed heady perimeter defense at times, running over the top of screens to make the quick-trigger Hawks think twice about firing from deep. There was a double-double by center Ivica Zubac and encouraging offensive performances by reserves-turned-starters Reggie Jackson and Luke Kennard.

There was fight in the first half and fourth quarter and enough focus to largely take away second-chance points, an area in which Atlanta has been second to none this season.

A game that could have been one-sided was instead winnable with 79 seconds left, after a free throw by Jackson cut Atlanta’s lead to just five.

But none of that could change the fact that three starters from the NBA’s best statistical lineup are away from the Clippers indefinitely, or that the team has remained mum on when light at the end of the tunnel might appear, with five games left on this trip. Asked before tipoff whether he expected forwards Kawhi Leonard and Paul George and guard Patrick Beverley to meet the team at some point over the next eight days, coach Tyronn Lue said he was “not sure yet.”

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LAKERS

Chuck Schilken on the Lakers: Vanessa Bryant marked the one-year anniversary of the death of her husband, Kobe, and their daughter Gianna by sharing a beautiful letter on Instagram.

It was written by one of Gigi’s close friends, classmate Aubrey Callaghan. Bryant said she received permission from Callaghan to share the touching note with the world.

“My mind constantly thinks of your beautiful daughter,” Callaghan wrote of Gianna, who was 13 when she, her father and seven others died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020, in Calabasas. “Her smile and attitude push me to be better. You have probably heard this, but if I ever become a mom, I hope my daughter turns out exactly as yours did.”

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In the 12 months since the tragedy, Vanessa Bryant has used Instagram to help her through the grieving process, posting emotional tributes and sharing wonderful memories. The letter from Callaghan is an amazing addition to that collection.

“I hope that in the midst of your intense sadness you catch a glimpse of joy in who the daughter you created and raised was,” Callaghan wrote. “You did it right Mrs. Bryant, and we are all eternally grateful to you. I am so, so blessed I got to have time with your angel of a daughter, and thank you for giving me that chance. I love you and I’m thinking of you as we remember and honor her life.”

Read our complete coverage of the one-year anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s death by clicking here.

RAMS

Gary Klein on the Rams: Five years ago, Rams general manager Les Snead gambled and traded up 14 spots to select quarterback Jared Goff with the No. 1 pick in the draft.

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On Tuesday, Snead did nothing to clarify what has become a cloudy future for a player who led the Rams to the Super Bowl two years ago but has seemingly fallen out of favor with coach Sean McVay.

Asked if there was a scenario in which Goff would not be on the roster next season, Snead was noncommittal.

“What I can say is Jared’s Goff’s a Ram in this moment,” Snead said during a videoconference with reporters. “It’s way too early to speculate the future. That’s a beautiful mystery.”

Snead’s comments tracked with McVay’s, who said after the Rams’ NFC divisional-round loss to the Green Bay Packers that Goff was the Rams quarterback “right now.” The next day McVay doubled down and said there would be competition at every position, including quarterback.

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It marked a sudden fall for Goff, a Pro Bowl selection in 2017 and 2018, when he led the Rams to the wild-card round of the playoffs and the Super Bowl, respectively.

Before the 2019 season, the Rams awarded Goff a $134-million extension — with a then-record $110 million guaranteed.

BASEBALL

Bill Shaikin on Hall of Fame voting: Barry Bonds was rejected for the Hall of Fame for the ninth time. So was Roger Clemens, who won the Cy Young Award a record seven times. So was Curt Schilling. For all three, a 10th and final chance at election awaits next year.

Schilling came the closest this year, getting 71% of the vote when 75% was required.

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Bonds and Clemens each got 62%, up from 61% last year. Unless dozens of writers decide the Hall would be incomplete without Bonds and Clemens, and vote for them on the last try, neither would win election next year.

Schilling promptly announced he was done with the process.

“I will not participate in the final year of voting,” he wrote on Facebook. “I am requesting to be removed from the ballot.”

2021 Hall of Fame voting top 10
Curt Schilling 71.1%
Barry Bonds 61.8%
Roger Clemens 61.6%
Scott Rolen 52.9%
Omar Vizquel 49.1%
Billy Wagner 46.4%
Todd Helton 44.9%
Gary Sheffield 40.6%
Andruw Jones 33.9%
Jeff Kent 32.4%

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HOCKEY

Helene Elliott on Wayne Gretzky, who turned 60 on Tuesday: The NHL couldn’t have invented a better player, ambassador and icon than Wayne Gretzky.

The skinny kid from Brantford, Canada, set 61 league records in a career that led him to spend eight seasons in Los Angeles, where he triggered a hockey boom that outlasted celebrities’ sudden fascination with the game and exists today at the youth and fan levels. The children and grandchildren of people who became fans when he arrived in Los Angeles in 1988 are now fans of the game or play it, a remarkable legacy.

Appealing and approachable, Gretzky became the face of hockey in the United States and was one of the few players able to transcend the sport and become a national celebrity. The existence of the Ducks and other Sunbelt teams can be directly traced to Gretzky and his ability to popularize the game in places it traditionally hadn’t succeeded on a large scale.

Now a grandfather of two and an executive with the Edmonton Oilers, Gretzky turned 60 years old Tuesday. Any day is a good day to celebrate his accomplishments, but it’s especially appropriate to pay tribute on his birthday and acknowledge how much the NHL owes him for his feats on the ice and off.

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Records are made to be broken, and some of the significant standards Gretzky set may someday fall. Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin, with 707 goals at age 35, has a chance to pass Gretzky’s career total of 894, though Gretzky’s record of 2,857 points seems likely to last a long time….

It’s long past time for the NHL to establish an award in his name. Memo to Commissioner Gary Bettman: Do it before Gretzky’s next birthday.

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Carl Grundstrom and Kurtis MacDermid scored, and Calvin Peterson made 32 saves as the Kings held on to beat the Minnesota Wild 2-1 on Tuesday night.

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For the third time in three games between the teams, the Kings squandered a third-period lead. But this time, the Kings bounced back and earned the win after two losses at home to start the season.

Grundstrom skated from the side boards to the middle of the offensive zone and wristed a quick shot past Kaapo Kahkonen’s glove for his second goal in as many games. The Kings have won three of four after starting the season 0-2-1.

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John Gibson stopped 31 shots for his second shutout in four starts, Danton Heinen scored and the Anaheim Ducks beat the Arizona Coyotes 1-0 on Tuesday night.

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Heinen scored his first goal of the season in the opening period and Gibson was sharp all night for his 21st shutout. Gibson stopped 34 shots in a shutout against Minnesota on Jan. 18.

“He’s obviously a very good goaltender,“ Ducks defenseman Ben Hutton said. “He makes some big saves and is very vocal back there.”

HORSE RACING

John Cherwa on horse racing: Santa Anita has canceled Friday’s racing program in anticipation of rain that could compromise the racing surfaces. It also moved two turf stakes races from this weekend to next. Racing is scheduled to resume Saturday and Sunday.

The Grade 2 $200,000 San Marcos Stakes, a 1¼-mile turf race originally scheduled for Saturday, will be run Feb. 6. Sunday’s $75,000 Baffle Stakes, a 6½ furlong turf stakes, will now be run Feb. 5. Other races that were scheduled for Friday will be spread out over next weekend’s cards.

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According to weather.com, there is at least a 70% chance of rain Thursday and Friday, with rain chances diminishing greatly on Saturday and Sunday.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1937 — Tris Speaker and Cy Young are elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

1969 — The Pittsburgh Steelers name Chuck Noll head coach. The 37-year-old Noll is the youngest head coach in NFL history at the time.

1970 — The Pittsburgh Steelers select Louisiana Tech quarterback Terry Bradshaw with first pick of the NFL Draft.

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1973 — UCLA, led by Bill Walton, sets an NCAA record for consecutive victories with its 61st win, an 82-63 victory over Notre Dame. UCLA breaks the record of 60 set by San Francisco in 1956. Walton scores 16 points, grabs 15 rebounds and blocks 10 shots.

1982 — Geoff Houston of the Cleveland Cavaliers hands out 27 assists, two short of the NBA record and scores 24 points in a 110-106 victory over the Golden State Warriors.

1991 — The New York Giants survive the closest Super Bowl ever when Scott Norwood’s 47-yard field goal attempt with eight seconds left in the game goes wide. The Giants win their second Super Bowl in five years, 20-19 over the Buffalo Bills.

1993 — American Chad Rowan is awarded the highest rank in sumo wrestling, the ancient Japanese sport, making him the first foreign “yokozuna.” The 6-foot-8, 455-pounder from Honolulu, becomes the 64th person to hold the top rank in the sport’s history.

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1996 — The U.S. Golf Assn. elects Judy Bell as the first female president in its 101-year history.

2003 — Hermann Maier wins a World Cup super giant slalom in Kitzbuehel, Austria, a victory he ranks among his finest triumphs. The win comes 18 months after he almost loses his leg in a motorcycle crash.

2007 — Serena Williams wins her third Australian Open singles title, routing Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-2. Unseeded and ranked 81st, Williams wins her eighth and most improbable Grand Slam. She is the second unseeded woman to win the Australian title in the Open era.

2008 — Novak Djokovic fends off unseeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (2) in the Australian Open final, earning his first Grand Slam title.

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2008 — Eric Staal wins the most valuable player award in the NHL All-Star game, registering two goals and an assist in the East’s 8-7 win over the Western Conference. Staal helps set up Marc Savard’s winning goal with 20.9 seconds left.

2011 — Roger Federer, the 16-time Grand Slam winner, is knocked out of the Australian Open by Novak Djokovic in a semifinal match, 7-6 (3), 7-5, 6-4. Federer’s loss marks the first time since 2003 that he wouldn’t hold any of the four major titles.

2013 — Novak Djokovic beats Andy Murray 6-7 (2), 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-2 to become the first man in the Open era to win three consecutive Australian Open titles.

2013 — The NFC blew past the AFC 62-35 in the Pro Bowl. Minnesota tight end Kyle Rudolph is voted the game’s MVP with five catches for 122 yards and a touchdown.

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2018 — Gun Runner, ridden by Florent Geroux, ends his career by taking the Pegasus World Cup, the richest thoroughbred race in the world. Gun Runner, named Horse of the Year two days earlier, easily beats West Coast by 2 1/2 lengths to win the $16 million race at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida.

2018 — Caroline Wozniacki captures her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, rebounding in the third set to beat top-seeded Simona Halep 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-4.

And finally

An NHL video tribute to Wayne Gretzky. 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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