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HomeSportsThe Sports Report: Clippers end skid by regaining defensive mojo

The Sports Report: Clippers end skid by regaining defensive mojo

Clippers guard Russell Westbrook reacts after making a three-pointer against the Charlotte Hornets Tuesday at Crypto.com Arena.
Howdy, I’m your host, Iliana Limón Romero, filling in for Houston Mitchell, who is probably getting ready to watch Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s first news conference as a Dodger. Let’s get right to the news.
From Andrew Grief: Clippers star Kawhi Leonard was absent again Tuesday, though coach Tyronn Lue said his “day-to-day” recovery from a hip contusion had made progress.
Yet the Clippers are looking for progress in something else that has been missing for the last three games too — their defense.
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Some things seem to rarely change: The Clippers’ 113-104 victory against Charlotte at Crypto.com Arena was their 14th consecutive against the Hornets at home, dating to 2009. It improved Los Angeles to 18-12, and 1-2 when playing without Leonard.
Other things have shifted much more recently. In recent weeks, as the Clippers’ defense crept into the NBA’s upper ranks while keeping the team afloat during a rocky November, multiple veterans noted that the foundation of a strong defense is not anchored by one defender even the caliber of Leonard, whom Lue has compared to a shutdown cornerback, but rather focus on the game plan and effort executing it from five interconnected teammates — which was why sustaining a strong defense could prove so difficult over 82 games.
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Clippers vs. Hornets summary
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LAKERS
Lakers forward Anthony Davis spins to the basket against the Celtics during the fourth quarter at Crypto.com Arena on Monday. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
From Broderick Turner: His mind raced back to the things he could have done better even after he had played with force for the Lakers against the NBA’s best team in the Boston Celtics.
“You always think about shots you could’ve made,” Anthony Davis said. “Defensive plays you could’ve made. Rebounds you could have had. Free throws I could’ve made. Things like that that could’ve changed the game.”
Davis’ 40 points, 13 rebounds and four assists in 38 minutes and 50 seconds were dominant, but his performance wasn’t nearly enough to stop the Lakers from falling 126-115 to the Celtics at Crypto.com Arena on Christmas Day.
He was 15-for-26 shooting from the field. He was eight of 10 on free throws.
But Davis lamented one missed free throw in the third quarter that was a big point moment in the game for the Lakers.
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RAMS
Rams coach Sean McVay walks the sidelines in thought as the Rams beat the Saints 30-22 on Thursday at SoFi Stadium. (Allen J. Schaben Los Angeles Times)
From Gary Klein: With his team enjoying something of a mini-bye, Sean McVay was not unlike millions who spent much of the holiday weekend watching NFL football.
Though the Rams coach is focused on preparing his players for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants, McVay kept a close eye on the NFC playoff picture as games unfolded.
“I pay a lot of attention to it,” he said Tuesday during a videoconference with reporters, “and I tell myself not to get emotionally invested in these games, and then you get invested and you’re saying, ‘Why the hell did I do that?’”
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HORSE RACING
Jockey Flavien Prat rides Speed Boat Beach to a win in the Grade I, $300,000 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita Tuesday. (Uncredited / Associated Press)
From John Cherwa: Is there a record at Santa Anita for 3-year-old colts running on the dirt that trainer Bob Baffert doesn’t hold?
Maybe, but winning the Grade 1 $300,000 Malibu Stakes isn’t one of them as he won the seven-furlong race for a record-tying sixth time on Tuesday’s opening day when Speed Boat Beach rolled to an easy 1 1/2-length win over his stablemate Hejazi.
If you haven’t heard of Speed Boat Beach, don’t be thinking Triple Crown, because the bargain $200,000 purchase will turn 4 on Jan. 1, just like every other racing thoroughbred. Hejazi was a $3.55 million purchase.
For Speed Boat Beach, ridden by Flavien Prat, it was his fourth win in seven lifetime starts. His last finish was a fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, also at Santa Anita. He was the favorite Tuesday and paid $5.20 to win.
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SOCCER
PSG’s Kylian Mbappe controls the ball during the French League One soccer match against Metz at the Parc des Princes in Paris on Dec. 20. (Michel Euler / Associated Press)
From Kevin Baxter: For more than a decade Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have been at the center of a fierce and largely unsettled debate over who is the greatest player in soccer history.
A decade from now, they might still be part of that debate. Only the question then may be more like “who were those two guys who came before Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland?”
That might sound like a bit of a stretch, but consider the evidence.
Ronaldo, 38, and Messi, 36, rewrote the record books, redefined greatness and took the sport to new plateaus. Soccer is more popular, more profitable and better-played than at any point in its history, and Ronaldo and Messi, who defined an era if not an entire sport, are big reasons why.
Playing much of their careers against one another in Spain’s La Liga — Messi for Barcelona and Ronaldo for Real Madrid — they pushed one another, combining for 19 league championships, four Champions League titles and 13 Ballon d’Or awards, achieving levels of greatness together neither could have reached alone.
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HIGH SCHOOLS
Junior guard Anto Balian of Pilibos (left) scored 38 points. Sophomore guard Timmy Anderson of Blair scored 37 points. Pilibos won 96-78. (Craig Weston)
From Eric Sondheimer: From an entertainment perspective, Tuesday’s opening basketball game in the St. Francis tournament featuring junior guard Anto Balian of Pilibos against sophomore guard Timmy Anderson of Blair gave fans all they wanted to see.
Balian scored 38 points and Anderson contributed 37 points. Pilibos won 96-78.
Anderson came in averaging 34 points a game and Balian was at 30 points. Balian had a 16-point second quarter to give Pilibos (9-3) a 52-35 halftime lead.
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BOWL SCHEDULE
Kansas wide receiver Lawrence Arnold (2) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against UNLV during the Guaranteed Rate Bowl Tuesday in Phoenix. Kansas won 49-36. (Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)
All times Pacific
Tuesday’s results
Quick Lane Bowl
Minnesota 30, Bowling Green 24
First Responder Bowl
Texas State 45, Rice 21
Guaranteed Rate Bowl
Kansas 49, UNLV 36
Today’s games
Military Bowl
11 a.m., ESPN
Tulane vs. Virginia Tech
Duke’s Mayo Bowl
2:30 p.m., ESPN
North Carolina vs. West Virginia
Holiday Bowl
5 p.m., Fox
No. 15 Louisville vs. USC
Texas Bowl
6 p.m., ESPN
No. 20 Oklahoma State vs. Texas A&M
Thursday
Fenway Bowl
8 a.m., ESPN
No. 24 SMU vs. Boston College
Pinstripe Bowl
11:15 a.m., ESPN
Miami vs. Rutgers
Pop-Tarts Bowl
2:45 p.m., ESPN
NC State vs. Kansas State
Alamo Bowl
6:15 p.m., ESPN
No. 12 Oklahoma vs. No. 14 Arizona
Friday
Gator Bowl
9 a.m., ESPN
No. 22 Clemson vs. Kentucky
Sun Bowl
11 a.m., CBS
No. 19 Oregon State vs. No. 16 Notre Dame
Liberty Bowl
12:30 p.m., ESPN
Iowa State vs. Memphis
Cotton Bowl
5 p.m., ESPN
No. 7 Ohio State vs. No. 9 Missouri
Saturday
Peach Bowl
9 a.m., ESPN
No. 10 Penn State vs. No. 11 Ole Miss
Music City Bowl
11 a.m., ABC
Auburn vs. Maryland
Orange Bowl
1 p.m., ESPN
No. 5 Florida State vs. No. 6 Georgia
Arizona Bowl
1:30 p.m., The CW
Toledo vs. Wyoming
Monday
ReliaQuest Bowl
9 a.m., ESPN2
No. 13 LSU vs. Wisconsin
Citrus Bowl
9 a.m., ABC
No. 17 Iowa vs. No. 21 Tennessee
Fiesta Bowl
9 a.m., ESPN
No. 8 Oregon vs. No. 23 Liberty
Rose Bowl
2 p.m., ESPN
No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 4 Alabama
Sugar Bowl
5:45 p.m., ESPN
No. 2 Washington vs. No. 3 Texas
Monday, Jan. 8
1:30 p.m., ESPN
College Football Playoff National Championship Game
All previous bowl scores
1953 — The Detroit Lions edge the Cleveland Browns 17-16 for the NFL championship. Doak Walker’s extra point, following a 33-yard scoring pass, is the difference.
1959 — The Baltimore Colts beat the New York Giants 31-16 in the NFL championship. Three field goals by Pat Summerall give the Giants a 9-7 lead after three periods, but Baltimore’s defensive backfield makes three interceptions that result in scores.
1964 — The Cleveland Browns break out after a scoreless first half with 17 points in the third quarter and go on to beat the Baltimore Colts 27-0 for the NFL title.
1974 — Ohio State junior running back Archie Griffin wins the Heisman Trophy.
1981 — Edmonton Oiler Wayne Gretzky becomes fastest NHLer to get 100 point in a season (his 38th game), with 4 goals and an assist in 10-3 win over visiting Los Angeles Kings.
1987 — Steve Largent of the Seattle Seahawks becomes the NFL’s all-time reception leader in the Seahawks’ 41-20 loss to Kansas City. Largent’s six catches gives him 752, surpassing the 750 by San Diego’s Charlie Joiner. Gayle Sierens announcing the game for NBC becomes the first female play-by-play announcer in NFL history.
1999 — Joe Sakic scores his 1,000th career point on a second-period assist, helping the Colorado Avalanche to a 5-1 win over the St. Louis Blues.
2000 — Mario Lemieux makes a remarkable comeback after 3½ years of retirement, scoring a goal and assisting on two others — one on his first pass on his first shift, no less — as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-0.
2005 — Rudy Carpenter passes for 467 yards and four touchdowns as Arizona State holds off Rutgers for a wild 45-40 victory in the Insight Bowl. The teams combine for 1,210 yards, a record for any bowl game.
2008 — Pat White, the most prolific running quarterback in college football history, has the best passing game of his career to lead West Virginia to a 31-30 victory over North Carolina in the Meineke Bowl. The senior is voted MVP of a bowl for the third straight year and finishes 4-0 in postseason games, the first quarterback to do so.
2010 — Niklas Kronwall scores the game-winner with 1:18 remaining in overtime and Chris Osgood stops a season-high 46 shots in the Detroit Red Wings’ 4-3 victory over the Colorado Avalanche to become the 10th goalie in NHL history to reach 400 wins.
2015 — Carolina’s bid for an undefeated season ends when Julio Jones’ dramatic 70-yard touchdown reception powered the Atlanta Falcons to a 20-13 victory over Cam Newton and the 14-1 Panthers.
2015 — Kansas City beat Cleveland 17-13 for its ninth consecutive victory and clinches a playoff spot when Pittsburgh loses to Baltimore. The Chiefs and 1986 Jets are the only teams in NFL history with a nine-game win streak and five-game losing streak in the same season.
2017 — Raheem Sterling scores to give Manchester City 1-0 win over Newcastle United at St. James’ Park; EPL record 18th consecutive win; streak ends with 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace 31/12.
2022 — Luka Doncic becomes the first player to register a 60-21-10 triple-double in NBA history as the Dallas Mavericks beat the NY Knicks, 126-121; first 60-point game in Mavs franchise history.
Compiled by the Associated Press
And finally
Look back at The Times sports staff’s favorite stories from 2023.

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