The Sports Report: Clippers win after biggest comeback in team history

The Sports Report: Clippers win after biggest comeback in team history

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

Andrew Greif on the Clippers: First, Serge Ibaka danced the robot, arms and feet jutting in sharp, mechanical bursts. Shuffling into the team’s pregame huddle in front of fellow Clippers center Ivica Zubac, in a tunnel just off Capital One Arena’s court, he switched to a Michael Jackson impression that made Zubac laugh hard enough to turn away.

The end of Ibaka’s routine beget another from forward Justise Winslow. The forward hopped on two feet, stretched out his arms and flexed them like a rolling wave before offering handshakes. The Clippers could not contain their laughter, again.

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Midway through their eight-game trip, the Clippers’ sense of humor remains intact.

So has their resilience.

In a two-week span that had seen them win after trailing by 25 points, against Denver, and 24 points, against Philadelphia, the Clippers pulled off a franchise-record 35-point comeback to beat Washington, 116-115, eclipsing the 31-point comeback from the 2019 postseason.

The Clippers led for just 1.9 seconds, after Luke Kennard made a three-pointer and was fouled with that much time remaining in a chaotic fourth quarter. He made the free throw and Washington, without a timeout, threw a long inbounds pass that tipped off the fingers of Montrezl Harrell — the former Clipper who was part of the 2019 comeback — out of bounds.

The buzzer sounded and coach Tyronn Lue stalked off the court, his brow furrowed as he slapped hands, his words not discernible underneath his mask but his emotion apparent for all to see. The Clippers danced like they had before tipoff, celebrating the most improbable win in their history.

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LAKERS

Dan Woike on the Lakers: Anthony Davis spread his arms wide, his brow focused directly on James Harden as the Nets guard bounced from left to right.

Without overreacting to Harden’s fakes, Davis stayed engaged, extending an arm to force Harden into a miss. Russell Westbrook skied for the rebound, pounding it off the Barclays Center court as he accelerated up the floor.

With a single motion, Westbrook whipped a one-handed bounce pass to LeBron James, who glided through the paint against the helpless Brooklyn defense for two points.

This was the plan all along. And the Lakers, for the first time in more than a month, finally got to see it executed in somewhere other than their hopeful imaginations.

Davis returned to action against the Nets after missing the previous 17 games, the Lakers getting back one of their most important players in a 106-96 win against the short-handed Nets.

RAMS

Gary Klein on the Rams: Dramatic endings to the first two NFL divisional-round playoff games last weekend did not escape the attention of Rams kicker Matt Gay.

The day before the Rams played the defending Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Tennessee Titans with a last-second field goal. The San Francisco 49ers defeated the Green Bay Packers the same way.

“You’re thinking, ‘There’s no way that another one happens,’” Gay said, “but you kind of want it to happen again.”

It happened.

Gay’s 30-yard field goal as time expired sent the Rams into the NFC championship game against the 49ers on Sunday at SoFi Stadium.

Gay’s field goal was the most important special teams play of the year for the Rams, who appear to have solved special teams issues that plagued them during much of the season.

And the timing could not be better.

————

NFL roundtable: Rams prove they could fumble Super Bowl chances

Former San Diego city attorneys sue Chargers, NFL over team’s move to L.A.

NFL PLAYOFFS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

Conference championships

Sunday

Cincinnati at Kansas City, Noon, CBS, Chiefs favored by 7
San Francisco at Rams, 3:30 p.m., Fox, Rams by 3 1/2

Note: Super Bowl is Sunday, Feb. 13 at 3:30 p.m. on NBC.

UCLA GYMNASTICS

Thuc Nhi Nguyen on the Bruins: The black T-shirts read “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” but the message meant to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. during UCLA’s season-opening meet rang hollow for several Bruins gymnasts.

Wearing matching T-shirts did little to cloak wounds from months of internal strife within the UCLA program. After two gymnasts told The Times a teammate used a racial slur, which prompted a university response that some gymnasts of color found to be insufficient, the Bruins produced their worst team score in seven years. Senior Margzetta Frazier, along with a teammate who spoke with The Times on condition of anonymity because she feared repercussions, described a negative atmosphere and cracks within the famously joyful facade of one of the nation’s most visible and successful programs.

The rift deepened to the point that Frazier and fellow senior Norah Flatley tweeted at UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond for help on Jan. 20.

The second-year athletic director met with gymnasts Tuesday, two days after they finished second in a tri-meet against Oregon State and UC Davis.

Frazier left the meeting feeling hopeful, she said in a Tuesday afternoon interview with The Times. Jarmond admitted in the meeting — which didn’t include coaches — that the administration handled the situation poorly and didn’t do enough. Representatives from the school’s counseling and psychological services who were in attendance agreed, and hearing that confirmation momentarily put Frazier at ease.

Jarmond released a statement Tuesday after the meeting with the gymnasts, saying “the health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes is always our priority.” He added that the program “proactively engaged the support of campus and external experts on equity, diversity and inclusion, incidents of bias, mental-health and communication.”

Any goodwill the meeting generated, Frazier said, was eroded by Jarmond’s statement, which she described as “discouraging.” What the senior remembers from three months of meetings were abstract conversations that didn’t specifically address racism on the team. Her requests for help, she says, “were neglected and brushed under the rug.”

Read more by clicking here.

UCLA BASKETBALL

Ben Bolch on the Bruins: For the briefest of moments, Peyton Watson was beaten.

Arizona’s Justin Kier saw the opening and drove toward the basket for what looked like a sure layup. The Wildcats guard released the ball only for it to meet an unexpected fate, the shot swatted from behind by an outstretched hand of UCLA’s impossibly long-armed freshman.

Kier tumbled to the court along the baseline in disbelief. Watson hovered over his counterpart for a few menacing beats, his lingering presence saying it all.

The Bruins were tougher. The Bruins were savvier. The Bruins were better.

UCLA fans savored it all Tuesday night, roaring and waving tubular balloons behind one basket during what turned into a lengthy celebration in their return to Pauley Pavilion after being locked out of their home arena for nearly two months.

The seventh-ranked Bruins rewarded their faithful with a dazzling display during a 75-59 victory over third-ranked Arizona, providing one highlight play after another while allowing fans to crank up the decibel level anew.

BASEBALL

Bill Shaikin on the Hall of Fame: Neither his name nor his greatest accomplishment are hidden. On the official website of Major League Baseball, he is immortalized as owner of the sport’s most cherished record, atop the all-time home run list: Barry Bonds, 762.

There is no asterisk by his name, even though steroids enhanced his performance enough for him to squeak past the revered Hank Aaron, who hit 755 home runs.

The Miami Marlins employed Bonds as a hitting coach. The San Francisco Giants retired his number. He is not banished from the sport in any way.

So the baseball writers kept Bonds out of the Hall of Fame. Boo hoo.

On talent alone, Bonds would have been a near-unanimous pick in his first time on the ballot. Instead, on his 10th and final Baseball Writers Assn. of America ballot, Bonds got 66% of the vote, with 75% required for election. The only player elected Tuesday: David Ortiz, the Boston Red Sox icon.

The perception will be that a minority of baseball writers decided to sacrifice Bonds, depriving him of a plaque in Cooperstown, N.Y., so they could thump their chests and make a splashy statement about the steroid era.

The reality is more complex, as it always is. Accountability is an increasingly fleeting concept in this country. For this one day, baseball experienced accountability.

————

Hall of Fame snubs Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens in final try, elects David Ortiz

Beginning Monday and ending Feb. 14, a special bonus edition of the Sports Report will be delivered to your inbox every morning at 6 a.m., focusing on the Super Bowl, which will be played at SoFi Stadium on Sunday, Feb. 13. In the meantime, please send me in your favorite football player of all time, and why. Answers will be printed in the special Super Bowl newsletter each day right up until Super Bowl Sunday. Is your favorite player of all time a former Ram? Walter Payton? Jim Brown? Joe Namath? Whoever it is, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com and let me know. Include a couple of sentences explaining why that player is your favorite. It’s your chance to be read by the tens of thousands of people who subscribe.

Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com with your choice.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1913 — Jim Thorpe gives up his track medals from the 1912 Olympic games as a result of his having been a professional. He had been paid $25 for playing in a semipro baseball game.

1951 — Jimmie Foxx and Mel Ott are elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

1955 — Joe DiMaggio is elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

1960 — Pete Rozelle is chosen the new commissioner of the NFL.

1985 — Edmonton’s Wayne Gretzky scores his 50th goal in the 49th game of the season, a 6-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

1986 — The Chicago Bears win their first NFL championship since 1963 by setting a Super Bowl-record for points scored in defeating the New England Patriots 46-10.

1991 — Houston guard Vernon Maxwell joins Wilt Chamberlain, David Thompson and George Gervin as the only players in NBA history to score 30 points or more in a quarter. Maxwell scores 30 of his career-high 51 points in the fourth period to help Houston beat Cleveland 103-97.

1992 — The Washington Redskins win their third Super Bowl in 10 years, beating the Buffalo Bills 37-24, putting the game away with 24 straight points after a scoreless first quarter.

1996 — Three years after she won her last Grand Slam title on the same Center Court, Monica Seles wins her fourth Australian Open crown. Seles beats Germany’s Anke Huber 6-4, 6-1 to claim her ninth major championship.

1997 — The Green Bay Packers, behind big plays, beat the New England Patriots 35-21 in the Super Bowl. Brett Favre finds Andre Rison for a 54-yard touchdown on the Packers’ second offensive play, then throws an 81-yard TD pass to Antonio Freeman in the second quarter. Desmond Howard, the first special teams MVP, scores on a 99-yard kickoff return to put away the Patriots.

2002 — Jennifer Capriati produces the greatest comeback in a Grand Slam final to overcome Martina Hingis and defend her Australian Open title. Capriati saved four match points before clinching a 4-6, 7-6 (7), 6-2 victory over Hingis.

2007 — Mark Recchi scores two goals, including the 500th of his career, in Pittsburgh’s 4-3 shootout win over Dallas.

2008 — Mirai Nagasu becomes the second-youngest woman to win the title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. The 4-foot-11 14-year-old falls on her opening jump, a double axel, but lands six triple jumps, three in combination, in her program.

2013 — Victoria Azarenka wins her second consecutive Australian Open title, beating Li Na 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. Mike and Bob Bryan become the most decorated doubles team in Grand Slam history by winning their 13th major title, beating Robin Haase and Igor Sijsling 6-3, 6-4 in 53 minutes.

2013 — Ashley Wagner became the first woman since Michelle Kwan in 2005 to win back-to-back titles in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

2013 — San Jose’s Patrick Marleau becomes the second player in NHL history to open a season with four straight multigoal games, striking twice on the power play in the first period of a 4-0 win over Colorado.

2014 — Stan Wawrinka holds off an injured Rafael Nadal to win his first Grand Slam title with a 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory in the Australian Open final.

2014 — DeMarco Murray catches a 20-yard pass for a touchdown and Mike Tolbert plunges into the end zone for a 2-point conversion with less than 1 minute to give Jerry Rice team a 22-21 win over Deion Sanders team in the first schoolyard-style Pro Bowl.

Supplied by the Associated Press

And finally

The Bears defeat the Patriots to win Super Bowl XX. 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.

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