The Sports Report: Clippers in familiar playoff territory

The Sports Report: Clippers in familiar playoff territory

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

LeBron James on the Lakers: LeBron James did not play Thursday night against Oklahoma City in a 107-104 loss to the Thunder because of an abdominal strain that could keep him out at least a week, according to people with knowledge of the situation who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter and requested anonymity.

James and the Lakers are taking a “cautionary” approach with the 19-year veteran, knowing that the forward “could be out longer or could return sooner.”

The Lakers announced James has a strained rectus abdominis muscle and would be out for Thursday night’s game at Staples Center.

James, who will turn 37 next month, missed two games last week because of right ankle soreness. He is second on the Lakers in scoring average (24.8 points per game) and assists (7.0) and first in minutes per game (37.0) and steals (2.3).

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NBA to investigate Phoenix Suns owner for alleged racist and misogynistic remarks

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RAMS

Gary Klein on the Rams: The Rams traded for outside linebacker Von Miller three days before, but star defensive lineman Aaron Donald obviously was still feeling the initial effects Thursday.

“I ain’t stopped smiling yet,” he said, grinning broadly and chuckling, after practice.

Donald is a three-time NFL defensive player of the year. The six-time All-Pro has done just fine in his seven-plus NFL seasons, amassing 90½ sacks, including five this season.

But no Rams player might benefit more from the arrival of Miller, an eight-time Pro Bowl player who has 110½ sacks.

As with Donald, Miller has been subject to double- and triple-team blocking schemes from opponents since the Denver Broncos selected him with the second pick in the 2011 NFL draft.

Now, with Donald, Miller and edge rusher Leonard Floyd threatening quarterbacks, assigning multiple blockers to more than one will create advantageous opportunity for the others.

“I’ve been getting triple teamed for the last 10 years,” Miller said. “That’s six people right there. And we still got Leonard Floyd and all the other guys. So, it’s going to be fun.“

Donald agreed.

“It’s going to be hard for teams to try and focus on one person because you have so many good players,” he said. “It should be fun.”

CHARGERS

Andrew Greif on the Clippers: Coach Brandon Staley tempered any concerns about Keenan Allen, the normally reliable Chargers wide receiver who entered Week 9 tied for second in the NFL with six drops.

Staley, a former high school basketball standout in Ohio, likened Allen’s performance to a shooting slump an NBA player such as Steph Curry might experience.

“It’s just a tough stretch because he’s such a fantastic player who has fantastic hands,” Staley said. “So I see it more as an aberration.”

Later, he added, “Keenan Allen is going to be just fine.”

In losing back-to-back games, the Chargers’ offense has repeatedly sputtered. The group has generated more three and outs (six) than touchdowns (four) while falling to Baltimore and New England.

The production of quarterback Justin Herbert has fallen amid regular pressure, an abundance of defensive disguises and far too many drops.

Along with Allen, wide receiver Mike Williams has dropped five passes and tight end Jared Cook three, according to Pro Football Focus.

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NFL Week 9 picks: Chiefs edge Packers; Rams, Raiders win

BREEDERS’ CUP

John Cherwa on the Breeders’ Cup: George Leonard III is not your typical horse trainer at the Breeders’ Cup.

He picks up a hose and washes down his horse, mucks his own stall, spreads fresh bedding, while the rest of his team, his wife, walks their 2-year-old filly around the shedrow.

The Breeders’ Cup is about big rollers, high-priced horses and big breeding rights, but every once in a while comes along a magical set of circumstances from which movies are made. A lifelong trainer of cheap claimers buys a horse for $5,500, wins his first graded stakes race at 18-1 and gets an all-expenses paid trip to racing’s biggest stage.

And Leonard is more than one of a kind in another way. He’s the first American-born Black trainer to enter a horse in the Breeders’ Cup in the 37-year history of the event.

“I’m not a trailblazer,” the 55-year-old Leonard said. “I’d rather be a role model … and be known more for my hard work than my nationality. It shows that anybody, through hard work, can get lucky and make it.”

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Two horses die in separate incidents ahead of Breeders’ Cup

How to watch the Breeders’ Cup: Start times and TV channel

SOCCER

Kevin Baxter on soccer: Christian Pulisic is returning to the U.S. national team for next week’s World Cup qualifier with Mexico after missing last month’s three qualifiers with an ankle injury.

Pulisic proved his fitness in Tuesday’s Champions League match, going 16 minutes in Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Malmö.

“It’s about progressing him in a safe way,” coach Gregg Berhalter said of his captain, who has played in just two of the Americans’ first six qualifiers. “We know he’s valuable to the team. We know we want him on the field. But we’re also not willing to risk anything. It’s about how he feels and depending on that will dictate what role he plays in these two games.”

Among those missing from the 25-man roster are defenders John Brooks and Sergiño Dest and attackers Gio Reyna and Gyasi Zardes. Brooks, who is healthy, did not play well in the September qualifiers, then withdrew from the October games with a back problem. Dest, who was a late scratch from Barcelona’s Champions League game this week, is out indefinitely with a back issue, the club said.

USMNT roster

Goalkeeper: Sean Johnson (New York City), Zack Steffen (Manchester City), Matt Turner (New England Revolution)

Defenders: Reggie Cannon (Boavista), Mark McKenzie (Genk), Chris Richards (Hoffenheim), Antonee Robinson (Fulham), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Sam Vines (Royal Antwerp), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Gianluca Busio (Venezia), Sebastian Lletget (Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders)

Forwards: Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG), Tim Weah (Lille).

UCLA MEN’S BASKETBALL

Ben Bolch on the Bruins: UCLA spaced the floor for its new phenom in the final seconds of the first half, letting him dribble above the three-point line. The freshman approached his defender and unleashed a wicked crossover move, freeing a path to the basket. He accelerated for a monstrous two-handed dunk.

Say hello to Peyton Watson, everybody.

On a night Bruins fans became reacquainted with several veteran players and greeted a handful of new ones after 20 months away from Pauley Pavilion, there was no question who generated the most excitement Thursday.

Watson, a 6-foot-8 guard from Long Beach Poly, followed his dunk by flexing underneath the basket and releasing his own roar. He earned a chest bump from teammate Johnny Juzang on their way toward the locker room at halftime of an exhibition against Chico State that the No. 2 Bruins won in a 100-61 runaway.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1927 — Walter Hagen beats Joe Turnesa 1-up to capture the PGA Championship for the fourth consecutive year and fifth overall.

1955 — Montreal’s Jean Beliveau scores the second fastest hat trick in NHL history in a 4-2 win over Boston. Beliveau, who scores all four Canadien goals, gets three in 44 seconds against Bruins goaltender Terry Sawchuk on the same power play.

1961 — Bill Stacy of the St. Louis Cardinals returns two interceptions for touchdowns in a 31-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

1966 — Virgil Carter of Brigham Young passes for 513 yards and rushes for 86 to set an NCAA record for total yards with 599 in a 53-33 victory over Texas Western.

1977 — BYU sophomore Marc Wilson sets an NCAA record with 571 passing yards in a 38-8 rout of Utah.

1978 — Oakland coach John Madden becomes the 13th head coach to win 100 games in the NFL as the Raiders beat the Kansas City Chiefs 20-10.

1988 — Alysheba becomes the richest racehorse when he beats Seeking the Gold by a half-length in the $3 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.

1994 — George Foreman regains part of the heavyweight title he lost to Muhammad Ali in 1974, stopping Michael Moorer with a two-punch combination at 2:03 of the 10th round. Foreman, 45, captures the IBF and WBA championships to become the oldest champion in any weight class.

1999 — Carolina’s Ron Francis becomes the sixth NHL player to reach 1,500 career points when he assisted on Sami Kapanen’s first-period goal for the Hurricanes in 3-2 loss at Detroit.

2008 — Tony Parker scores a career-high 55 points, including a 20-footer at the buzzer to force a second overtime in San Antonio’s 129-125 victory over Minnesota.

2010 — Calvin Borel and Javier Castellano tussle at Churchill Downs just moments after tangling during the $500,000 Breeders’ Cup Marathon in an ugly, chaotic scene. Castellano’s horse Prince Will I Am runs into the path of Romp and Martin Garcia. Garcia is able to stay on top of his horse but also impedes Borel and A.U. Miner. After the race, an enraged Borel is restrained by security personnel and his older brother Cecil.

2010 — Mexico beats the United States in one of the biggest upsets in the history of women’s soccer. The Mexicans, on goals by Maribel Dominguez and Veronica Perez, post 2-1 victory and qualify for the 2011 World Cup.

2011 — Drew Alleman kicks a 25-yard field goal in overtime to give top-ranked LSU a 9-6 win over No. 2 Alabama.

2016 — Arrogate catches 4-5 favorite California Chrome in the final 100 yards to win the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.

2017 — Shalane Flanagan dethrones three-time winner Mary Keitany to become the first American woman to win the New York City Marathon since 1977.

2017 — Eli Manning of the Giants became the seventh NFL quarterback to reach the 50,000-mark with his completion to Sterling Shepard in the fourth quarter against the Rams.

Supplied by the Associated Press

And finally

George Foreman wins a heavyweight title at 45. 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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