<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - Sports - [LA FEATURE] SoCal Sports 4 You]]>Copyright 2018http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/sportsen-usTue, 16 Jan 2018 11:56:20 -0800Tue, 16 Jan 2018 11:56:20 -0800NBC Local Integrated Media<![CDATA[Rockets Players Try to Enter Clippers Locker Room After Loss]]>Tue, 16 Jan 2018 08:50:51 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*124/GettyImages-905441738.jpg

So much for a friendly homecoming.

Tensions were high on the court and off the court on Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Staples Center, as the Los Angeles Clippers defeated former teammate Chris Paul, and the Houston Rockets, 113-102, on Monday night.

After the game, an altercation broke out just outside the Clippers' locker room as Trevor Ariza, James Harden, Chris Paul and Gerald Green all tried to enter the Clippers' locker room after the loss. 

For those unfamiliar with the bowels of Staples Center, the Clippers locker room is adjacent to the visitor's locker room. Only a hallway separates the two rooms, and their is access to each locker room through the hallway. 

On many occasions, players from both the Clippers and the visiting team catch up in these hallways or exchange pleasantries away from the press or the public. 

However, there were no pleasantries exchanged on this night. 

According to a source with the Rockets organization, Ariza led the charge into the Clippers locker room looking to confront either Blake Griffin or injured guard Austin Rivers. 

Griffin and Ariza had both been ejected from the game with just over a minute lest in the fourth quarter, and Ariza could be seen exchanging words with Rivers before he left the court. 

According to the source, Rivers saw Ariza near the entrance of the locker room and told security, "Let his b---- a--- come in." 

The comment infuriated Ariza who was backed up by Harden, Paul, and Green. 

It was also reported that at the same time as the four players were trying to enter the locker room from the side, Rockets' center Clint Capela was at the front door of the Clippers' locker room, and knocked on the door. 

According to a Clippers staff member who opened the door, Capela stood in front looking to get inside before the door was shut on his face. 

"I saw it in our locker room," said Clippers' head coach Doc Rivers when asked what went down between the two teams. "Let's put it like this. Our whole team was in our locker room. Their [The Rockets] entire team was not in their locker room. I'll let you figure it out from there."

NBC LA sports reporter Michael J. Duarte was outside the locker room when the altercation broke out, and saw security push the Rockets players back into the hallway that divides the two locker rooms.

LAPD was called to the scene, as was extra security. Nothing ever got physical between the two teams as it was broken up and dispersed before anything could happen.

Police and security would not let members of the Clippers players head towards the Rockets locker room where friends and family usually congregate outside the "Chairman's Lounge."

"I don't know nothing about that," said Clippers' guard Lou Williams after the game. "You won't get a quote from me about that."

Harden and an entourage of friends also tried to go after Rivers in the locker room.

Eventually, Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Wesley Johnson all left through that area, but Austin Rivers did not.

The altercation first began on the court where Rivers, dressed in a suit, was on the sidelines during the game as he recovers from an Achilles injury. Rivers could be seen throughout the game trash talking players on the Rockets, and exchanged words with Ariza in the fourth quarter just before Ariza and Griffin were ejected with just over a minute left in the game.

After the game, Griffin would jokingly say that Ariza had asked him if he was still coming to his birthday party, but that Griffin was still not sure if he was going to attend. 

Things were chippy throughout the game, but they reached another level late in the fourth quarter when Griffin scored a basket with just over three minutes remaining in the game after he was fouled by Paul under the basket.

Paul immediately protested the call with the refs and Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni appeared to exchange expletives with Griffin.

After the game, D'Antoni said that Griffin "hit him with an elbow," and that's why they exchanged language. Referees issued both Griffin and D'Antoni for double technicals and then Griffin was ejected two minutes later after getting into it with Ariza.

Hours after the game, players from both teams sent out some hilarious tweets, memes and GIFs, subtlety, or sometimes not so subtlety, addressing the incident.



Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Still Winless Without Lonzo Ball, Lose on MLK Day]]>Mon, 15 Jan 2018 17:30:16 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-lose-on-MLK-Day.jpg

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Los Angeles Lakers had the honor of playing in a nationally televised game in the city of Memphis, where King was assassinated in April of 1968. While the day and moment was not lost on the Lakers, who visited the National Civil Rights Museum ahead of Monday's contest against the Grizzlies, the game was lost, rather predictably.

The Grizzlies took full advantage of the short-handed Lakers, who were without Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram--arguably the team's two best players. Ball was a late scratch with a sore knee, while Ingram was an even later scratch with a sprained ankle. Considering how close to gametime the two 20-year-olds were ruled out, neither expects to be sidelined for too long.

Monday was the seventh time the Lakers have played without Ball and the seventh time the team has suffered defeat under those conditions. It is also the third time Ingram has missed a game, and the Lakers lost all three of those games. MLK Day was the second time both Ingram and Ball missed a game together, and obviously, the Lakers are winless without their two young stars sitting out in tandem.

The defeat in Memphis snapped a four-game winning streak for the Lakers and proved to be a major step back defensively for a team that had regained focus on that end of the court during its recent run. This game, though, is tough to analyze due to the injuries, which led to Lakers coach Luke Walton digging deep into his bench with two-way players Alex Caruso and Gary Payton II getting playing time.

Payton only joined the team earlier in the same day, so the 25-year-old point guard did not even have a chance to go through a practice before being tossed into the deep end by Walton. But Payton did not sink. He played an instrumental role in helping the Lakers make a late rally that cut a 20-point fourth quarter deficit to only eight points before the Lakers' comeback stalled out.

Eventually, the Lakers lost 123-114, meaning that the team has lost by an average of 16 points over the seven games Ball has missed.

The standout performer for the Lakers on Monday was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who finished with a game-high 27 points and seven rebounds in the loss. Over the past five games, Caldwell-Pope is averaging 16.8 points and 2.2 steals on 51 percent shooting from the field and 48 percent shooting from three-point land.

Kyle Kuzma contributed 18 points off the bench. Rookie Josh Hart added 16 points starting in place of Ingram, while Larry Nance Jr. added 15 points and 11 rebounds off the pine to round out the Lakers to hit double figures in the points department.

Whereas the Lakers only had four scorers in double figures, the Grizzlies played a far more balanced game with eight different players scoring between 10 and 20 points on the night. Dillon Brooks led the way with 19 points on 6-8 shooting, while Tyreke Evans finished with 15 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds in the victory. Evans has a habit of killing the Lakers and came within one rebound of a triple-double on this occasion.

Next, the Lakers wrap up their road trip in Oklahoma City on Wednesday night.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lonzo Ball Has Sore Knee, Lakers Sign Gary Payton II]]>Mon, 15 Jan 2018 09:16:07 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Gary-Payton-II-Lakers-contract.jpg

The Los Angeles Lakers are into the second half of their season, and it appears that rookie point guard Lonzo Ball is dealing with a sore left knee that may keep him out of the MLK Day game in Memphis.

Officially, Ball is listed as questionable for Monday's game.

With Ball's availability in question, the Lakers did not waste any time in recalling point guard Alex Caruso from the South Bay Lakers, the team's minor league team. In addition, the team announced that it had signed Gary Payton II, the son of former Seattle Supersonics and Lakers point guard Gary Payton, to a two-way contract.

Payton went undrafted in 2016 and joined the Houston Rockets before being released and joining the Rockets' D-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Vipers for the 2016-17 season.

Payton joined the Milwaukee Bucks in April of 2017 and even started six games for the Bucks in the 2017-18 season while on a two-way contract. Payton was waived in December after averaging 2.5 points, 1.4 rebounds and 0.8 assists in 8.8 minutes with the Bucks and 18.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists with the Wisconsin Herd.

The Lakers signed Payton on a two-way contract with hopes that the 25-year-old can help provide more options at the point guard position, which has been heavily reliant on Ball and backup Tyler Ennis. Ball recently missed six games with a shoulder sprain, and the team went winless over that stretch, so the move to get Payton may fill a short-term need should the rookie miss time with his sore knee but also potentially provide a longer-term solution for Ball's backup.

The team recently released Vander Blue from his two-way contract to open the roster spot Payton now occupies. Payton should expect to play with the South Bay Lakers a fair amount if Ball is able to maintain his health for the remainder of the season.

With the team currently 6.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference and on a four-game winning streak, a postseason berth is still a possibility but not likely. Payton is likely a player the team has scouted and views as a potential piece to help both the G-League and NBA club in the future.

With the signing announced on Monday, one would expect that Payton will be available to assist the team in Memphis.

The Lakers' MLK Day game against Memphis has a tip-off time of 2:30 p.m. Pacific Time.

Notes: Several Lakers visited the National Civil Right Museum in Memphis on Sunday, evidenced by photos appearing on social media. Lakers owner Jeanie Buss joined NBA commissioner Adam Silver in touring the museum, though ESPN's Ramona Shelburne reporter that Buss did not have dinner with Lakers coach Luke Walton, as the coach has been ill. However, both Buss and Lakers president of basketball operations Eavin "Magic" Johnson took to social media to support their coach on Saturday after the coach's job became a national NBA story line in recent days.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Clippers Showing Resolve in Season Filled with Injuries]]>Mon, 15 Jan 2018 07:33:54 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-vs-Clippers-12-29-17.jpg

Blake Griffin is used to not knowing who's in the Los Angeles Clippers' lineup these days.

Injuries have sidelined him and the other four opening-night starters at one point or another, making this the most challenging season of Doc Rivers' coaching career.

"I've never seen anything like this, with the amount of injuries. It just seems like all your facilitators, your key guys," Rivers said. "I never go in the training room. I guess now I should go in there because I could see some of my players."

Yet the Clippers are hanging in, sitting at .500 for the first time since Nov. 7 — certainly not their goal but far better than what it could have been. They're a half-game out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference and 1½ games out of fifth place.

They take a four-game winning streak into Monday night's reunion with Chris Paul, who visits Staples Center for the first time since his blockbuster trade to the Rockets last summer.

Much of the credit for the team's resiliency goes to the "Goon Squad," the players' nickname for the bench. Its chemistry has been disrupted as reserves have joined the lineup to sub for Griffin, DeAndre Jordan (left ankle), Austin Rivers (right ankle), Patrick Beverly (knee surgery) and Danilo Gallinari (glute).

But Griffin sees positive in the situation.

"These guys are getting a lot of time and experience," he said, "and it will help us down the road."

Lou Williams, the 13-year pro who came over from Houston in the Paul deal, has emerged as a star and fan favorite. He scored a career-high 50 points last week in a win against defending NBA champion Golden State, the team's first in over three years. He's averaging 34 points over the last 11 games, and has started 10 games so far.

"He's got it down to a science right now, getting to spots, getting his shot, getting guys in the air, drawing contact," Sacramento coach Dave Joeger said. "It's fun to watch, except when you're the visiting team coach."

The rest of the Clippers' bench has followed Williams' example.

Making his first start of the season, Willie Reed notched a double-double in place of Jordan on Saturday in a 126-105 win over the Kings. Sam Dekker had a season-high 13 points.

Montrezl Harrell has scored in double figures in three straight games, averaging 18.7 points. Fresh from the G League, Tyrone Wallace is averaging 13.2 points and 3.4 rebounds in his first five NBA games.

"We got some big pieces out," Williams said. "Now you understand what you have to back those guys up."

More importantly, when Griffin and Milos Teodosic (foot) returned, they blended seamlessly with the reserves-turned-starters and trusted them.

"They are giving the other guys room to still play the way they have been playing when they were out," Rivers said. "Every single guy has bought into it."

That mindset will need to prevail because the injury situation doesn't look to improve soon.

Beverley had season-ending knee surgery in November, although he recently got off crutches and has rejoined the team to travel and cheer from the bench. Jordan is closer to returning than Austin Rivers, while Teodosic continues to be monitored because of plantar fasciitis.

The Clippers won't benefit from the schedule either. They are home for just 10 games in February and March, when they play a combined 16 on the road, including seven in a row from Feb. 9-27. That season-long trip includes games against East-leading Boston and West-leading Golden State.

Still, Griffin says he's "had a blast" this season, even with all the injuries and being sidelined because of a sprained knee and concussion himself.

"This team really bonds with each other, really vibes well with each other," he said. "Guys are injured, guys are out; we just play hard. We're all the Goon Squad at this point."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chick Hearn and Bob Miller Immortalized Side-By-Side]]>Mon, 15 Jan 2018 08:20:47 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/205*120/Bob+MIller+Statue.png

Two legendary broadcasters, side by side forever. 

Over the course of the 21st century, Staples Center has become a museum for the illustrious history of the Los Angeles Lakers and L.A. Kings.

Gold statues of the gilded gods of Southern California hockey and basketball such as Wayne Gretzky, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West, Shaquille O'Neal, and Luc Robitaille are scattered around the area outside of Staples Center known as "Star Plaza."

However, amongst the gods of athletic achievements, stand two mere mortals. Two men, forever linked by friendship and fate. Two men who will never be known for their stats or championships, but for their voices and stories. 

Those men are broadcasters Chick Hearn and Bob Miller. 

Hearn was the first broadcaster to ever be enshrined in bronze back in April of 2010, when the legendary Lakers' play-by-play announcer was given a posthumous statue in Star Plaza. 

Hearn called 3,338 consecutive Laker games between 1965 and 2001, and will forever be known for his catch phrases: "slam dunk," "the mustard came off the hot dog," and the "Jell-o is jiggling!"

Hearn died in 2002, and Miller, one of his closest and dearest friends was at the funeral. Little did he know, that nearly 16 years later, he too would have a statue in Star Plaza alongside his friend and fellow broadcaster. 

Miller retired at the end of the 2016-2017 season for the L.A. Kings, and the franchise paid tribute to their longstanding play-by-play announcer by erecting a statue in his honor less than a year later. 

On Saturday, just before the crosstown rival Anaheim Ducks took the ice against the Kings, the team immortalized the legacy of Miller with a statue next to Hearn in Star Plaza, followed by a a banner that was raised to the rafters, joining the likes of other retired stars, Gretzyky, Robitaille, Rob Blake, Rogie Vachon, Marcel Dionne, and Dave Taylor. 

Miller, 79, received the ceremonial honor in humble fashion, saying that, "Nobody starts their career saying, 'I'll have a statue outside of Staple Center,'" and mentioned that what makes it special is that the statue and banner "are permanent."

What makes this extra special for Miller, in an almost poetic sort of way, is that if it wasn't for Hearn, he would have not been hired to be the Kings' broadcaster in the first place. 

"That means a lot to me because Chick, as I said, recommended me for the job 44 years ago and I always told people, I'm just sad that he's not here to see (the statue)."

Miller's career as a hockey announcer began in 1968 at the University of Wisconsin. At the time, the Badgers were only good at hockey and were only able to draw constant standing-room-only crowds in that sport, so the program director at the radio station that Miller worked in Madison made him the voice of that team. 

When the Kings's original announcer, Jiggs McDonald, left for the expansion Atlanta Flames in 1972, Miller sought the job and was backed by Hearn's recommendation. Kings owner Jack Kent Cooke hired California Golden Seals announcer Roy Storey instead. 

While Miller got to call his Badgers winning the 1972-73 NCAA championship, Storey was fired after one year on the job. Cooke then headed Hearn's advice, 39 years later, Miller was on hand to call the Kings winning their first Stanley Cup in 2012 and their second in 2014. 

"I think he'd be very proud of the guy that he picked was here for 44 years," Miller said on Hearn.

Miller's accolades include the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, given to members of the television and radio industries for outstanding contributions to their profession and hockey, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and membership in the halls of fame of the Kings and Southern California Sports Broadcasters Association.

When asked what Cooke would say if he was still around to see the ceremony, Miller responded with his best imitation, "Dear boy, what did you ever do to deserve a statue." 



Photo Credit: AP Photo/Alex Gallardo]]>
<![CDATA[Former Kings Announcer Bob Miller Gets Staples Center Statue]]>Sun, 14 Jan 2018 11:04:30 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/192*120/AP_18014167922981.jpg

The Los Angeles Kings memorialized the career of retired longtime broadcaster Bob Miller on Saturday, unveiling a statue of him outside Staples Center and hanging a banner in his honor from the arena's rafters.

Miller's statue in Star Plaza is surrounded by those of other local sports luminaries such as Wayne Gretzky, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West and Luc Robitaille. The statue was the second honoring a broadcaster, joining that of the late Laker broadcaster Chick Hearn.

Miller became the first non-player to be honored by the Kings with a banner inside the arena. He join a roster of Kings luminaries already so honored -- Robitaille, Gretzky, Rob Blake, Dave Taylor, Marcel Dionne and Rogie Vachon.

The unveilings were done prior to the Kings game against the Anaheim Ducks. All fans attending the game received a Bob Miller bobblehead.

Miller, 79, announced his retirement March 2, 2017. In April, he called the 3,353rd and final game of his 44-season career with the Kings.

"Due to four separate health incidents the last year, quadruple bypass heart surgery, a transient ischemic attack, a mild stroke and a stent placed in my left carotid artery, and with doctor's advice to slow down, it's time for me to retire," Miller said when he announced his retirement.

Miller became a hockey announcer in 1968, when the program director at his radio station in Madison, Wisconsin, told him he would be announcing a University of Wisconsin game the following Friday because it was the school's only team to win consistently and draw standing-room-only crowds.

Miller first sought to be hired by the Kings in 1972, when the team's original announcer, Jiggs McDonald, left for the expansion Atlanta Flames.

Hearn recommended Miller for the job, but team owner Jack Kent Cooke hired California Golden Seals announcer Roy Storey.

When Storey was fired after one season, Hearn again recommended Miller, and Cooke took his advice the second time.

There was a benefit to the one-season delay in joining the Kings. Staying at Wisconsin, he broadcast the Badgers during their 1972-73 NCAA championship season.

Miller had to wait 39 years to broadcast another title-winning team, when the Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2012. They won again in 2014.

Miller's accolades include the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, given to members of the television and radio industries for outstanding contributions to their profession and hockey, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and membership in the halls of fame of the Kings and Southern California Sports Broadcasters Association.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Magic Johnson Publicly Shows Support for Lakers Coach]]>Sun, 14 Jan 2018 19:18:01 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Coach-Luke-Walton-1.jpg

After the father of Lonzo Ball, the Lakers' rookie superstar point guard, suggested to ESPN that the coach had lost the locker room, no one in the Lakers' organization came to the coach's defense.

Initially, not giving the outspoken parent attention seemed like a reasonable move.

However, Ball was asked about his father's comments and asked, pointedly, if he liked playing for Lakers coach Luke Walton. The 20-year-old responded, "I'll play for anybody."

If his father's comments were sticks of wood and matches, Ball's response to the question about his coach ignited the fire that followed. Walton referred to the situation as "not ideal" but contended that it did not affect his coaching or what he was trying to do.

Still, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and Lakers president of basketball operations Earvin "Magic" Johnson had not publicly come out in support of their coach, who was riding a nine-game losing streak when Ball's father made his comments.

That same day, the Lakers won. Asked about taking Ball out early, Walton said with a straight expression, "His dad was talking s***, so I took him out early."

Walton quickly said he was joking, and the coach's ability to make light of the awkward situation was admirable. The fact that he had to seemingly handle the public response on his own seemed far less ideal than even the original comments that sparked the media frenzy.

Eventually, Walton got sick of the questions and stated that he wouldn't be speaking about the matter any further and would instead talk about what he was paid to do, i.e. coaching.

But then, ESPN NBA reporter Brian Windhorst went on a radio show and turned the small backyard fire into a potential wildfire when he said that the Lakers organization's muted response had led to front offices around the league thinking Walton's days were numbered and that former Memphis Grizzlies coach David Fizdale was a prime candidate should Johnson, Pelinka and the Lakers make a move on the bench.

"Whatever you want to say about LaVar Ball, he has smoked out the fact that the Lakers do not support Luke Walton," Windhorst said on Rich Eisen's radio show.

Sure, the Lakers had been riding a winning streak and responded to Ball's father's comments with their play on the court, but the radio silence from the organization was sending its own messages about the future of the coach.


That all changed on Saturday.

Ahead of Saturday's game in Dallas, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss tweeted out a picture of her, Walton and Pelinka and included the hashtag "#InLukeWeTrust". The owner has been supportive of the coach and used the same hashtag prior to the comments from Ball's father and the media frenzy that followed, but this was the first public support displayed by the Lakers' organization's decision-makers since Walton's future on the bench had become a national story line.

The Buss family, though, has a publicized principal of doing research to find the best candidate for a job and then allowing that person to, well, do his or her job. As much as Buss' tweet of support meant in that it came from the owner of the Lakers, she hired Johnson to make basketball decisions. Walton's job was a basketball decision, so the opinion that carried the greatest weight was that of Johnson's, who remained silent.

After the Lakers won their fourth game in a row in Dallas, however, Johnson finally took to Twitter and displayed public support for the job Walton was doing. 

"So proud of my @Lakers players and Coach Walton for winning their 4th game in a row against the Mavericks," Johnson tweeted after the victory.

The Lakers' executive followed up with a second tweet, "Coach Luke Walton has the @Lakers playing some of their best basketball of the season right now."

And so, with two tweets, Johnson finally killed the radio silence and supported his coach. Was that so hard? Both tweets made sure to mention Walton, which was no accident. Combined with the support from Buss earlier in the day, one would imagine the Lakers finally dropped water on a fire that desperately needed to be extinguished sooner rather than later.

Note: According to images that appeared on social media, Johnson was in Hawaii on Saturday when a false alert for an incoming missile went out. The Lakers' executive was pictured in a makeshift bomb shelter.



Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed ]]>
<![CDATA[LiAngelo, LaMelo Ball Go Scoreless in Pro Debut in Lithuania]]>Sat, 13 Jan 2018 15:02:33 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/189*120/AP_18013672553421.jpg

LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball went scoreless in their pro basketball debut, finishing a combined 0 for 7.

The younger brothers of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball played in the Lithuanian league for BC Prienai on Saturday. Their team lost 95-86 to Lietkabelis Panevezys.

LiAngelo went 0 for 3 from the field in just over 9 minutes. His 16-year-old brother, LaMelo, played 5:16, going 0 for 4.

The brothers signed with the Lithuanian team last month after LiAngelo withdrew from UCLA. He was suspended indefinitely following his arrest for shoplifting during a recent tour of China.

That sparked a Twitter spat between father LaVar Ball and President Donald Trump.

LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball combined for 29 points in an exhibition against the reserve team of Zalgiris on Tuesday. It was the first of five planned exhibitions designed to showcase the Ball brothers. Another is scheduled for Monday.

In basketball-crazy Lithuania, the game is often dubbed the "second religion" and attracts huge crowds to arenas even in small towns. There have been several Lithuania players in NBA teams, including Portland Trail Blazers center Arvydas Sabonis and Zydrunas "Big Z" Ilgauskas of the Cleveland Cavaliers.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Win Fourth Straight After OT Victory in Dallas]]>Sat, 13 Jan 2018 15:44:01 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-beat-Mavs-Julius-Randle.jpg

After losing nine games in a row, the Los Angeles Lakers responded by winning their fourth straight game in a 107-101 overtime victory in Dallas on Saturday.

Julius Randle put in a monstrous performance with 23 points and 15 rebounds, though the active forward also tabbed seven turnovers. Lonzo Ball, the Lakers' rookie point guard, finished the day with nine points, seven assists and seven rebounds but zero turnovers in a positive performance.

Unfortunately, the Lakers lost forward Brandon Ingram to a mild ankle sprain in the second quarter after the 20-year-old had started brightly and led the Lakers to an early 11-point advantage after the first 12 minutes of the game. Ingram did not return to the game.

Predictably, the Mavericks, at home, made their push back into the game via Wes Matthews, Dennis Smith Jr. and Harrison Barnes. Smith finished the game with 23 points to share game-high honors with Randle, while Barnes and Matthews both contributed 17 points in the Saturday matinee.

With a minute remaining in regulation, the Lakers led by five points and looked set to celebrate victory. Then, Barnes led a late game charge, which was aided by a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed free throw, to bring Dallas level with 5.9 seconds remaining in the game.

Rather than go to the hot hand of Jordan Clarkson, who hit a couple big shots in the final three minutes of the game, LA gave the ball to Randle. The forward proceeded to use the majority of the clock before the ball squirted loose and looked like a turnover before Ball picked up the rock and attempted a desperation game-winner. The shot never had a chance and fell well short, and the game required five extra minutes to decide a winner.

In the extra period, Clarkson continued his hot shooting by hitting a three-pointer to begin the overtime session. The Lakers' sixth man made one more bucket in the overtime to give the Lakers a five-point lead with two minutes remaining in the game. Clarkson finished with 19 points and four assists on the afternoon.

The Mavericks, however, continued to fight back and cut the difference to three points with 42 seconds remaining in overtime. Then, Ball drove to the basket and didn't draw iron on his shot attempt, but Dallas-native Randle grabbed the offensive rebound and made the put-back to restore a five-point cushion for the Lakers with 18 seconds remaining.

The game was in the refrigerator, finally, and the Lakers claimed their fourth win in a row, with a winnable game in Memphis on Martin Luther King Jr. Day next on the schedule.

Notes: Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma recorded a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, as the 22-year-old made 8-13 field goals on the day. The Lakers outscored the Mavericks 54-30 in points in the paint.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kobe's Coming Back to Your TV Screen]]>Sat, 13 Jan 2018 15:05:13 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-5210663121.jpg

Retired Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant will host, write and produce "Detail," a basketball analysis show on ESPN aimed at young athletes, current NBA players and coaches looking for deeper analysis of an athlete's in-game execution, the network announced Friday.

According to ESPN, "viewers will experience unparalleled game observations from Bryant as if he were one of the players featured in an ESPN game played the day before. Bryant will provide a perspective aimed at helping young athletes, players and coaches see the game in a different way."

"Detail" will premiere in March and run through the NBA Finals. ESPN has ordered 15 episodes.

"Studying game film is how the best get better," Bryant said. "It's the university for a master's degree in basketball. I learned how to study film from the best coaches of all time -- Phil Jackson and Tex Winter. 'Detail' provides an opportunity to teach that skill to the next generation on large platform with ESPN."

"Detail" is the third project from Bryant's Granity Studios for ESPN. He provided content for ESPN's "NBA Countdown" show during the 2016-17 season and has provided short packages to the network this season titled "MuseCage Basketball Network."

The announcement was made in connection with ESPN's portion of the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour, which is being held in Pasadena.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Beat Spurs, Win Third Straight]]>Fri, 12 Jan 2018 03:09:24 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Larry-Nance-Jr-Lakers-vs-Spurs.jpg

On Thursday night, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the San Antonio Spurs 93-81 to claim their third straight victory, and for the second game in a row, everyone in the arena got tacos.

The Lakers' previous two wins had been against teams near the bottom of the NBA, but the San Antonio Spurs are perennial contenders, and LA stepped up its defense to compete.

After the first quarter, the Spurs only had 15 points on the board. In fact, the Spurs did not manage to score 25 points in a single quarter on Thursday night, and the Lakers won three of the four quarters en route to victory.

Brandon Ingram led all scorers with 25 points, while Lonzo Ball flirted with yet another triple-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. However, the subtle star of the night was backup center Larry Nance Jr.

Nance finished the night with 14 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block in 30 active minutes.

"Larry might have been our most valuable player today," Lakers coach Luke Walton said after the game. "I thought Brandon, obviously, was huge down the stretch, [and Ball] was great throughout. Different guys at different times made really big play for us, but I thought Larry's play, from the first time he checked in, to leaving him in for the entire rest of the second half, he was putting out fires on defense, he was guarding bigger players, just all over the place."

Walton added, "In my opinion, that's his third straight great game with this win streak."

Along with Nance's ability to guard bigger players like Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge, the forward also threw down the best highlight dunk of the night. Nance stole the ball and gave a pass to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to launch a two-on-one fast break. Caldwell-Pope made the correct play and found Nance on an alley-oop, but the pass was behind the forward. The 25-year-old adjusted after take-off, managed to dunk the ball and brought Staples Center to life.

Aldridge finished with 20 points on the night, while Gasol scored nine points, grabbed 12 rebounds and handed out five assists on the court where he celebrated the Lakers' most recent title. 

"We didn't play well for the majority of the game," the Spaniard said after the game. "We didn't play smart, and we let them, at times, out-hustle us and play more physical than us. They got into us, they forced us to turn the ball over way too many times."

Gasol added, "They got 34 points out of our turnovers."

As much as the Spurs committing 21 turnovers is irregular, the Lakers' increased activity caused a great deal of those errors. LA recorded 15 steals on the night, with Ball and Caldwell-Pope combining for nine of those swipes.

Next, the Lakers take their winning streak on the road for a three-game road trip to Dallas, Memphis and Oklahoma City.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Julius Randle Settling into Starting Role]]>Thu, 11 Jan 2018 05:14:34 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Julius-Randle-Lakers-starter.jpg

In many ways, Julius Randle launched the Los Angeles Lakers' rebuild.

Randle was the team's first lottery pick since Andrew Bynum in 2005. Before that, LA had not picked in the top 14 of the NBA Draft since Jerry West plucked out Eddie Jones with the no. 10 pick in the 1994 NBA Draft.

Since Randle arrived in 2014, the Lakers have drafted in the lottery for three straight years as the team struggles to gain solid footing and sits in a three-way tie for last place in the Western Conference 40 games into the 2017-18 NBA season.

D'Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball have been the Lakers' three lottery picks since Randle, with Russell packaged up and traded to Brooklyn over the summer to make space for Ball. Undoubtedly, the poisonous Timofey Mozgov contract helped Russell pack his bags.

Randle is due to be a restricted free agent over the upcoming summer, and his long-term future with the team is confusing, at best. Given the front office's public declaration that the Lakers will look to attact two marquee free agents, re-signing Randle is not a priority. Trade rumors are as much a part of the 23-year-old's life as double-doubles on the court. Randle is averaging 17.8 points and 10.3 rebounds per game as a starter.

However, Lakers coach Luke Walton took 33 games before he finally thrust the 6-foot 9-inch, 250-pound versatile big man into the Lakers starting lineup, though that was where most outsiders expected the forward to begin the season. Instead, Walton utilized Randle's energy and athleticism as the anchor of the second unit and a late game small ball center.

While the role was far from inconsequential, Randle often seemed frustrated with his minutes. Often, Randle would argue with his coach late in games when being pulled out or visibly sulk on the bench when Walton went with other alternatives like standout rookie Kyle Kuzma, veteran center Brook Lopez or defensive-minded Larry Nance Jr.

When on the court, though, Randle continued to play hard and made the most of his 22.0 minutes per game in the reserve role. Averaging 12.5 points, 6.3 assists and 1.8 assists on 55 percent shooting from the field, Randle had a habit of taking over games and carrying the Lakers' bench to head-turning heights. At one stage, the Lakers led the NBA in bench scoring, with Randle playing a major role in that unit.

A couple of times, Walton seemingly dropped Randle's minutes drastically to send a message. In Houston on Dec. 20, Randle only played eight minutes. One week later, Walton only called on Randle for 11 minutes. The coach would eventually explain that the random drops in minutes had to do with the player's play and a standard the coach expected, i.e. there was nothing random about the minute fluctuations.

Fans watching at home raged at Randle's inconsistent minutes and called Walton a hypocrite for not taking the same stance with other players. In stride, the coach openly admitted that he holds this particular player to a different standard because of how "great" he can be.

In the 34th game of the season, Walton finally rewarded Randle with his first start of the season. However, Lopez was out injured, so the power forward would need to start at center against the 7-foot moster that is LA Clippers center DeAndre Jordan.

Randle collected 18 points, seven rebounds and two assists in the defeat and actually managed to hold his own against Jordan. Conspiracy theorist could argue that Walton set Randle up for failure in that game with the hopes that he would return to the bench after the experiment failed.

In the next game, Randle scored 29 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and six assists against Houston, as he again played center with Lopez still sidelined. On that occasion, Randle simply attacked the Houston Rockets and could not be stopped. In those first four starts at center, Randle scored 17.8 points, grabbed 9.8 rebounds, handed off 2.5 assists and shot 59 percent from the field. Defensively, however, the Lakers looked like a complete mess and lost all four games because rim protection was almost non-existent. Three of those first four starts were ugly, non-competitive affairs.

The defense was also hurt by the fact that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope could not travel outside of California with the team, Lopez was still recovering from a sprained ankle and rookie Lonzo Ball was out with a shoulder injury. Assembling a new starting lineup with the majority of the pieces not available is a tough task to accomplish.

When Lopez and Ball both finally returned to the starting lineup on the same day, Walton stuck with Randle and finally moved the former University of Kentucky Wildcat to his natural power forward position. The first game with the new unit was far from smooth. Randle collected a double-double, but the team failed to show the right spark in that first trial run. That would be the team's ninth straight loss, with the injury pile-up and an unholy schedule to end 2017 playing their parts in the losing streak.

Against Atlanta on Sunday, the second attempt at the same starting lineup displayed improvement. Randle only played 23 minutes and grabbed 15 points, nine rebounds and four assists in the win over the Hawks. Randle would have likely played more minutes if the Lakers had not held a comfortable lead late in the game.

On Tuesday, finally, Randle, Lopez and Ball all looked settled, as the Lakers beat the Sacramento Kings comfortably. In 30 minutes, no. 30 scored 22 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and handed off six assists in a near triple-double performance.

Again, the Lakers won.

One reason why Randle and Lopez work so well together is that the starting center enjoys hanging out by the three-point line and shooting from distance. Against Sacramento, Lopez hit five of his eight three-point attempts. The two players complement each other, as Randle's outside shot is not his strong suit. So, the center vacating the painted area allows the bruising power forward more of an opportunity to drive into the lane and charge the basket with his unique combination of strength and speed.

With Nance and Kuzma on the second unit, the spacing is reversed with Nance playing as the center working under the basket and Kuzma on the perimeter shooting three-pointers.

When the game heads down the stretch, Walton will likely continue to push Randle into the center role in a smaller lineup, but the Lakers' ability to play with Lopez and Randle leading the front line appears to be a combination that is here to stay.

With Randle in the starting lineup, the Lakers may no longer be vying for the title of best bench in the NBA, but the potential improvement to the starting lineup appears to offer a far greater reward than the alternative. In any case, Walton already tried the alternative approach for 33 games, and the Lakers lost 22 of those games.

In Tuesday's win over Sacramento, Randle and the Lakers' starters outscored their Kings' counterparts 76-43. Meanwhile, the Kings' second unit outscored the Lakers' reserves 43-23. Randle's 22 points moving from the bench to the starting lineup help explain those differences.

While Randle's future with the franchise may not be guaranteed, as long as he's with the Lakers, Randle should continue to start--at least for the remainder of the season. On Thursday, Randle and the Lakers look for their third straight scalp when the San Antonio Spurs come to town.



Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed ]]>
<![CDATA[Kings Honoring Bob Miller With Staples Center Statue]]>Wed, 10 Jan 2018 15:01:57 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/202*120/Bob+Miller+Farewell.png

The Los Angeles Kings will honor the career of retired longtime broadcaster Bob Miller on Saturday, unveiling a statute of him outside Staples Center and hanging a banner in his honor from the arena's rafters.

Miller's statue in Star Plaza will join those of other local sports luminaries such as Wayne Gretzky, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Luc Robitaille. The statue will be the second honoring a broadcaster, joining that of famed Laker broadcaster Chick Hearn.

Miller will become the first non-player to be honored by the Kings with a banner inside the arena. He will join a roster of Kings luminaries already so honored -- Robitaille, Gretzky, Rob Blake, Dave Taylor, Marcel Dionne and Rogie Vachon.

The unveilings will be done prior to the Kings game against the Anaheim Ducks. All fans attending the game will receive a Bob Miller bobblehead.

Miller, 79, announced his retirement March 2, 2017, and in April, he called the 3,353rd and final game of his 44-season career with the Kings.

"Due to four separate health incidents the last year, quadruple bypass heart surgery, a transient ischemic attack, a mild stroke and a stent placed in my left carotid artery, and with doctor's advice to slow down, it's time for me to retire,'' Miller said when he announced his retirement.

Miller became a hockey announcer in 1968, when the program director at his radio station in Madison, Wisconsin, told him he would be announcing a University of Wisconsin game the following Friday because it was the school's only team to win consistently and draw standing-room-only crowds.

Miller first sought to be hired by the Kings in 1972, when the team's original announcer, Jiggs McDonald, left for the expansion Atlanta Flames.

Hearn recommended Miller for the job, but team owner Jack Kent Cooke hired California Golden Seals announcer Roy Storey.

When Storey was fired after one season, Hearn again recommended Miller, with Cooke going along that second time.

There was a benefit to the one-season delay in joining the Kings.

Staying at Wisconsin, he broadcast the Badgers during their 1972-73 NCAA championship season.

Miller waited 39 years to broadcast another title-winning team, when the Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2012, which they won again in 2014.

Miller's honors include the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, given to members of the television and radio industries for outstanding contributions to their profession and hockey, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and membership in the halls of fame of the Kings and Southern California Sports Broadcasters Association.



Photo Credit: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill]]>
<![CDATA[Julius Randle: Starter vs Bench Role]]>Wed, 10 Jan 2018 01:13:30 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/EW5_1958_1_1200x675_1133606467667.jpg

Lakers coach Luke Walton speaks about forward Julius Randle's role as a starter fitting into defensive schemes versus his role as a bench player, where he generally switches on all defensive assignments. Recorded at Staples Center on Jan. 9, 2017 (Shahan Ahmed)]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Conquer Kings 99-86]]>Wed, 10 Jan 2018 02:55:25 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-vs-kings-Lonzo-Ball.jpg

On Tuesday night at Staples Center, Lonzo Ball and Julius Randle led the Los Angeles Lakers to their second straight victory, 99-86, over the Sacramento Kings, and helped shake off the sour memories of a nine-game losing streak that preceded the two most recent wins.

Both Randle and Ball finished with double-doubles and played active games, as the rookie point guard finished the night with 11 assists, 11 rebounds, five points, five steals and a block. Meanwhile, Randle tabbed 22 points, 14 rebounds and six assists on the night.

"[Ball] creates our pace for us," Lakers coach Luke Walton said after the game. "He makes winning plays for us. He gets other people easy shots. So, he impacted the game on both ends of the floor, and he's a big part of why we won tonight. Eleven assists and only one turnover is awesome."

Lakers coach Luke Walton stuck with Randle in the starting lineup, in large part to get a closer look at how the forward fit into the starting unit with Ball back playing point guard. Randle started at power forward, with Brook Lopez taking the center spot.

"He's been great for us, and he's continuing to improve," Walton said about Randle's adjustment into his new starting role after the game.

With the Lakers recording 30 assists on 37 field goals, four of the five starters scored in double figures on the night, with Ball the only exception because he was too busy handing out helpers to everyone else.

Lopez hit five of his eight three-point attempts and went home with 18 points and a smoking hot hand. The big man is shooting 44.4 percent from three-point land since returning from an ankle injury.

Brandon Ingram tabbed 15 points, five rebounds and three assists on the night, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 16 points to round out the starters.

With Randle no longer part of the Lakers' bench, the Kings' backups outscored the Lakers' reserves 43-23. Of course, the former Kentucky Wildcat's athletic and efficient play led the starters in outscoring their Kings' counterparts 76-43. Finally, the Lakers were also able to run effectively and beat the Kings 35-8 on fast break points on the night, and Ball's play on the floor had a great deal to do with that.

Kings rookie point guard De'Aaron Fox, who has history with Ball from his college days, scored 15 points and handed out three assists and a rebound on the night. Undoubtedly, Ball played the more complete game on this night and got the win, even if Fox outscored the former UCLA Bruin.

Teams that both ended the night with identical 13-27 records did not promise a crisp, clean game of basketball, but the Lakers' sloppiness had Walton irked after the game ended.

Even in victory, Walton appeared to be upset with how his team had lost discipline throughout the night. Though brilliant at times, Randle committed six turnovers on the night. Ingram led the game with seven errors in only 24 minutes. Ingram hit six of his nine shots, grabbed five rebounds and handed off three assists in those limited minutes, so he didn't exactly have an awful night, but he contributed to 25 team turnovers and his coach's frustrations.

Walton said, "I told [the team] afterwards, 'C'mon! That's why it's not always about winning and losing. We're trying to play a certain way and have a certain standard. And we have 26 turnovers. We shoot 61 percent from the free throw line. That's B.S. to me. We had a chance to put that game away.'"



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[National Championship Memes: Alabama Stuns Georgia]]>Mon, 08 Jan 2018 21:40:57 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-902785174.jpg

What an amazing National Championship game. 

The Alabama Crimson Tide came from behind to stun the Georgia Bulldogs, 26-23, in the National Championship Game in Atlanta on Monday night. 

Freshman quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, entered the game at halftime, and brought the Tide back from a 13-0 deficit, capping off the comeback with a 41-yard TD pass in overtime to lift Alabama to its fifth national title in nine seasons.

Head coach Nick Saban earns his sixth National Championship, tying him with former Alabama coach Bear Bryant for the most title in NCAA history. 

Here are the best memes and jokes from the game: 

Atlanta based rap group, Migos, rocking on the sideline of the National Championship Game: 

Nick Chubb and Sony Michel went missing in the first half: 

UCF scored the same amount of points as Alabama in the first half: 

Lane Kiffin was needed in the first half for Alabama: 

Nick Saban at halftime:

First half highlights of Georgia Kicker "Hot Rod": 

The Alabama offense in first half:

Alabama had a secret weapon in the second half: 

Alabama missed a game-winning field goal: 

A team from Georgia blew a 20-7 lead in Atlanta:

What's a meme article without the Michael Jordan cry face:




Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Not a 'Big Baller': Big Baller Brand Gets 'F' Rating]]>Tue, 09 Jan 2018 05:09:23 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/big+baller+brand+ball+family.jpg

LaVar Ball often gets heat for the things he says, but now he's getting dinged for his business dealings.

The Better Business Bureau has given an "F" rating to Big Baller Brand, the athletic apparel company founded by the brash LaVar on the prominence of his sons, Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball and his brothers LiAngelo and LaMelo, who currently play professional basketball in Lithuania.

LiAngelo quit UCLA after he was suspended for shoplifting during his team's team's trip to China. LaVar Ball and President Donald Trump feuded for days over the president's demand for credit in winning the release of LiAngelo and two other UCLA basketball players.

The Better Business Bureau reports that customers have complained about shipments being delayed for weeks or even months, getting the wrong items or sometimes not getting their items at all.

Customers also say Big Baller Brand has poor customer service, the bureau reports, with the company not providing a phone number where customers can reach them and sending out generic responses or no responses at all when customers email them.

One Better Business Bureau verified reviewer wrote, "Sure....they'll take your money, but once they have it, they don't make it easy for you to communicate with them." Others wrote that their credit cards were charged for items they had yet to receive.

Big Baller Brand did not return emailed requests for comment. Neither LaVar Ball nor representatives responded to phone calls seeking comment.



Photo Credit: Getty Images for Crosswalk Productions]]>
<![CDATA[See How LAFC's Stadium is Coming Along Ahead of Home Opener]]>Sun, 14 Jan 2018 10:48:11 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/banc+of+california+stadium+thumbnail.jpgThe Los Angeles Football Club, which will become the 23rd team in Major League Soccer when it makes its debut in 2018, has been advancing construction on the Banc of California Stadium, which will be located in Exposition Park, since the project first broke ground in 2016.

Photo Credit: Los Angeles Football Club]]>
<![CDATA[Kyle Kuzma Casually Calls Himself Superman]]>Mon, 08 Jan 2018 13:46:10 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Kuzma-Lakers-1-7-17.jpg

On Monday, the Los Angeles Lakers met for practice following a victory the night before, a feel good 132-113 win over the last place Atlanta Hawks that ended a nine-game skid. Understandably, the mood was lighter and more positive come Monday morning.

"You could feel it in the energy in here," Lakers coach Luke Walton, who was a bit under the weather, said following the Monday session. "People are in better moods when you win."

With Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Rob Pelinka, the duo that leads the team's front office, watching from above, the Lakers went through a practice that consisted of a long film session and some basic fundamentals drills. Walton said the schedule doesn't afford the opportunity to go too hard in practice with games coming every other day.

Walton also shared that he planned to speak to Johnson, who is the Lakers President of Basketball Operations, after practice, as the Lakers' organization has been mum on supporting its coach while he's been taking heat from the outspoken parent of his rookie point guard. Lonzo Ball's father recently made news by hypothesizing to ESPN that Walton had lost the locker room and that his player were no longer playing for the coach.

Asked if he liked playing for Walton on Sunday, Ball provided the flimsiest of endorsements by stating, "I'll play for anybody."

On Monday, Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma offered his support for Walton in far more clear and certain terms.

"Luke is my guy," Kuzma said. "I love playing for him. I'm sure most of us love playing for him, too."

The rookie forward said that he took issue with the idea that the team quit on Walton and confidently added, "We stand by Luke. I know the front office does."

Thus far, thought, the front office has not publicly come out to support its under fire coach, and the Lakers are currently last in the Western Conference and have lost 12 of their last 14 games. Pelinka and Johnson did not appear to be in any hurry to speak to the reporters gathered at the facility on Monday.

With the Lakers constantly drawing attention and making headlines for all the right and wrong reasons, the 22-year-old forward out of Michigan also gave his unique view on the state of sports news coverage as a whole and the environment a rookie enters in the modern NBA. 

"It's kind of hard in our society. Social media is so big in our lives," Kuzma said. "It's all over the place. ESPN puts out anything for clicks now, it kind of seems like. It's all over the place. You can't really hide from it. It's just a thing that you have to deal with it and just move past it. No other generation of NBA players have had to deal with what we have to deal with in our era. It's a little different, but you just have to try to block it out as much as you can."

Kuzma also provided the quote of the day when asked why his production had fallen off in recent games. The forward out of Utah had failed to score in double figures in two of his previous four games after averaging 19.5 points per game for the month of December and hitting the double figures mark in 12 of 14 games to close out 2017.

Kuzma said in a nonchalant, brilliant manner, "You can't be Superman all year, so..."

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Finally Back Home

Stemming from a DUI while he was a member of the Detroit Pistons, Lakers guard  Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had been ordered to stay in the state of California for 25 days to complete a program that forced the guard to stay overnight at a detention facility, away from his family over the holidays.

On Monday morning, "KCP" was finally back home with his loved ones after completing the court ordered program. He is also now available to travel with the team outside of California and should not miss any more games due to the issue. The forward said he had paid he debt and did not have any lingering requirement related to the case.

"I'm just happy to be home," Caldwell-Pope said on Monday.



Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Snap Streak, Walton Cracks Joke About LaVar Ball]]>Mon, 08 Jan 2018 01:33:33 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-beat-Hawks-1-7-17.jpg

When the Los Angeles Lakers started Sunday's game against the Atlanta Hawks trailing 10-2, the script seemed all too familiar for a team that had lost nine games in a row and had struggled to compete in the last couple outings.

This time, however, the team did not fold and managed to lead by two points at the end of the first quarter. By halftime, that advantage had popped up to 18 points, as the Lakers outscored the worst team in the NBA 37-21 in the second period. From there, it was smooth sailing to victory for a team that has been dealing with stormy waters all winter long.

For the first time since Nov. 21 against the Chicago Bulls, the Lakers collected a home win, 132-113. It was also the Lakers' first win of 2018 and only the team's second win in its last 14 games.

"It feels good, obviously," Lakers coach Luke Walton said about the win after the game. "They scored 113 (points), but I was still happy with the defense that w played. I think it triggered everything for us tonight."

LA was inspired by strong play from center Brook Lopez, whose defensive intensity helped LA erase the early deficit and turn around the narrative of the game. Lopez finished the night with eight points, four steals, two blocks, three rebounds and two assists in 19 active minutes on the court.

Brandon Ingram continued his strong play from a couple nights earlier and tabbed 20 points and seven assists against the Hawks. Julius Randle held his starting spot and finished the night with 15 points, nine rebounds and four assists in 23 minutes.

"It was different," Ingram said about the locker room's mood following the win. "I don't think anyone likes losing, especially with some of the talent we have in this room and how hard we work in practice. I think today we had a little bit more energy, a little more rhythm to our game, and it looked like we were confident in everything we did."

For the Hawks, Dennis Schroder finished the night with 27 points to lead all scorers, and the German guard also passed off five assists and grabbed three rebounds. Former Laker Kent Bazemore scored 15 points for a Hawks team that seemed over-matched on the night.

Lonzo Ball, who had been the center of controversy earlier in the day due to comments made by his father and his response to those comments, played his best game since returning from a shoulder sprain that kept the rookie point guard out for six games. Ball finished the night with 13 points, 10 rebounds and six assists and had a couple crowd-energizing slam dunks.

However, Walton shared that Ball was a bit fatigued and asked for early substitutions. When asked about the rotations and Ball's early exit in the first quarter, the coach took the opportunity to crack a joke about the rookie's outspoken father.

"His dad was talking [expletive], so I took him out early," Walton said with a straight face. He added, "I'm just kidding."

Seemingly, a win was exactly what the doctor ordered for the purple and gold, and snapping the streak even led to the coach making a public joke about the touchiest of subjects around the team: LaVar Ball.

Next, the Lakers host the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lonzo Ball, Luke Walton Respond to LaVar Ball's Comments]]>Sun, 07 Jan 2018 13:50:18 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lonzo-Ball-coach_Luke-Walton-locker-room-comments.jpg

Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball doesn't think that Lakers coach Luke Walton has "lost the locker room," as his outspoken father hypothesized in an ESPN video that surfaced on Sunday morning.

"You can see they're not play for Luke no more," Ball's father told ESPN. "Luke doesn't have control of the team no more. They don't want to play for him."

Ball did little to put out the fire heating up Walton's seat by refusing to outwardly endorse his coach with his father's comments freshly floating about and with the Lakers on a nine-game losing streak and struggling to compete on a nightly basis.

"I don't think so," Ball responded following Sunday morning shootaround when asked point blank if he thought Walton had lost the locker room. "He's our head coach. We're going to play for him."

Had the interview ended at that point, Ball's father would have seemed like a disconnected parent. The rookie's father has a habit of providing outrageous quotes to get attention, and the team also had a meeting with the parent earlier in the season about toning down criticism centered on the coach and the team.

Only, the interview continued, and at one point, Ball was asked plainly if he likes Walton as a coach.

"I'll play for anybody," Ball responded to the yes or no question with half a smile, followed by a head nod in self approval at his response.

The response was far from a ringing endorsement of Walton and could be perceived to be the opposite. Provided a second opportunity to clarify his comments regarding his coach, Ball was asked about the "Play for anybody" response and to expand on preferences, with relation to liking or disliking his coach.

Again, Ball refused to endorse his coach: "My job is to play basketball. I don't decide who the coach is."

With those two responses, Ball called into question his support of the Lakers' Head Coach.

Walton, who had spoken prior to Ball, contended that the comments from the parent did not bother him, though he did say the noise coming from Ball's father was "Not ideal."

"It doesn't bother me," Walton said standing just off the court at Staples Center. "My only concern with any of it is Zo (Lonzo Ball). As long as Zo is fine with it and Zo can come in and play and it doesn't affect mine and his relationship, then it doesn't bother me at all."

Had he lost the locker room?

"I don't see that our players aren't playing hard," Walton responded to Ball's father's comments. "I think our players are playing very hard. We've been through a hard stretch. They're giving us what they have and we're going to keep working and we'll be fine."

The rough stretch Walton is referring to was a nightmarish end to December featuring games against the best teams in the NBA without break. The Lakers still have not recovered from that brutal stretch, as the team has lost 11 of its last 12 games and has fallen from being an outside contender for the playoffs to the worst record in the Western Conference.

Walton contended that he had not seen any frustrations with Ball in response to his coaching style and said he hoped comments coming from the player's father did not have an impact on the fan narrative or the organization's decision making.

"It doesn't influence what we're doing," Walton said. "I've said all along, 'there're always parents and parents are going to get mad at things. That's what they do.' And it's our job as coaches and an organization to do what's best for our team and our players."

Walton added, "I feel very secure in my job status right now. We [ownership, front office] talk all the time, and there're 100 percent behind in supporting what we're doing here."

Asked if he disagrees with the idea that he's lost the locker room, Walton responded, "I would disagree with that, yes."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[LA Rams Need to Learn From Their Playoff Loss]]>Sun, 07 Jan 2018 00:29:23 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-902016126.jpg

His eyes were red, fresh from the sting of recent tears. As he stood in front of his locker in front of a melee of reporters, Rams returner Pharoh Cooper did his best to avoid direct eye contact with any of the hands that were extended in front of his face with microphones in tow.

"I'm going to be thinking about this all offseason," Cooper said. "You always have to protect the ball. It's always about the ball, and I didn't do a good job protecting the ball tonight. I already told my team this is my fault. I can't let that happen."

His words came just minutes after the Los Angeles Rams remarkable bounce back season came to a sudden and crashing end at the hands of the reigning NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons.

Yes, Matt Ryan played like the reigning NFL MVP. 

Yes, Julio Jones played like the unstoppable wide receiver we've always known he was.

Yes, the running back duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined for over 100 yards.

But it was Pharoh Cooper's fumbles—or responsibility for those fumbles—that fans will always remember, and it's in those moments of silent reflection at your locker, that the agony of defeat stings the most.

"It's humbling," Cooper continued. "I promise it's not going to happen again, especially in a big situation like this. I'm going to learn from it."

Sometimes in those moments, proclamations such as that seem hollow, but for some reason coming from the Pro Bowl special teams player, playing in just his second season in the NFL, it felt real.

The 2017 Los Angeles Rams are a captivating story. One year removed from arguably one of the worst seasons in franchise history, one that saw Jeff Fisher get fired in the middle of it, the Rams revived a stale and static offense with one of the best seasons in the last 15 years.

They won the NFC West for the first time since 2003. They hosted a playoff game in Los Angeles for the fist time since 1986, and for the first time at the Coliseum since 1979.

Yet they failed to reach their goal of playing in a Super Bowl, or even winning a single postseason game. For all the accolades, for all the milestones, for all the records they broke, at the end of the night on Saturday, it was all for naught.

"It sucks we fell short," said Robert Woods who led the team in receptions. "We had big goals and aspirations for this team. It's unfortunate it came to an end like this. We'll just have to pick it up next year."l

The Rams are one of the youngest teams in the NFL, and they definitely were one of the biggest surprises of the 2017 NFL season. However, just because you had success with a collection of talent in one season, does not guarantee success in the seasons to come.

Just ask the Oakland Raiders who went from 12-4 in 2016, to 6-10 in 2017. Just because you ascend the mountaintop, does not mean that you'll continue to climb back up it.

The Rams have not won back-to-back NFC West Division titles since the 1978and 1979 seasons. Nor has any NFL team repeated as Super Bowl champions since the New England Patriots did it in 2004 and 2005. Even Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will tell you just how difficult it is to build a dynasty.

There's a lot of work to be done in the offseason for the Rams, a lot of players that need to be re-signed in order to get back to reaching their goal of hoisting a Lombardi Trophy. Saturday was a great first step, but it does not guarantee the same success in 2018. 

Many of the faces will be the same for the Rams next season, including that of their 31-year-old head coach Sean McVay, but with more time and tape to study on the young offensive-minded coach, teams will only develop similar strategies on how to stop him.

The Rams now must go through the difficult task of forgiving themselves for this heartbreaking loss, and never forgetting the valuable lessons they learned from it.

Put in extra work in the offseason and return more motivated than ever before. For if there's any team in the NFL who knows this the most, it was the Rams opponent the Atlanta Falcons.

Less than a year removed from the biggest collapse in Super Bowl history, the Falcons could have remained in a melancholy fog all season long. Instead, they rallied around each other in a shared goal of redemption, and they took their first step to getting back to the top of the mountain with their win over the Rams. 

Not only can the Rams learn from this loss, but they can learn from the Falcons overall. Nothing is guaranteed. Nothing is promised. Nothing should be taken for granted. Work hard for everything you want, and you will reap the rewards. 

For as every fan of 31 NFL teams says at some point in the year: "There's always next year."



Photo Credit: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[LA Rams Playoff Postgame Comments]]>Sat, 06 Jan 2018 23:21:19 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Rams_Playoff_Postgame_1200x675_1131156035898.jpgLos Angeles Rams players Pharoh Cooper, Andrew Whitworth, Tavon Austin, Robert Woods and Todd Gurley discuss the season and their heartbreaking loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Wild Card Game on Saturday, January 6, 2018.]]><![CDATA[Finally On Court in Lithuania, Ball Brothers Eager to Play]]>Sat, 06 Jan 2018 21:08:33 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP_18005537652489.jpg

Flying into a frenzy of camera flashes, cheering fans and funk music, the Ball family discovered in an instant just how much Lithuania has been anticipating its arrival.

The star treatment continued for more than 90 minutes on the road from Vilnius airport as a party bus took the younger brothers and father of Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball to the small town of Prienai on the banks of the Nemunas River.

From the coffee shop, where "Prienai Got Balls" flashes on a red neon sign, to the pizza parlor adorned with American flags, this town with a population of around 10,000 provided the Californians with a welcome to savor on Wednesday.

After the fanfare, 19-year-old LiAngelo Ball and 16-year-old brother LaMelo on Friday finally started shooting hoops in the small basketball arena where they will soon have to start living up to their star billing playing for BC Prienu Vytautas.

"It was really good practice," LiAngelo said after being presented with the No. 3 jersey. "I've decided to come over here and use this opportunity. This is the place to be. People love basketball here, the country has great culture. I am ready to play."

That could come on Tuesday in the 1,200-capacity arena, with LaMelo wearing the No. 1 jersey. Most tickets have already been snapped up, without the fans knowing if the American recruits will make their debuts in the Baltic league game against Tsmoki-Minsk.

The improbable one-year deals were struck in December by father LaVar Ball, who also created the Big Baller Brand of clothing and sneakers.

"The hospitality is superb," he told reporters. "You are talking very good English to my boys and we appreciate that. It's a great experience to all of us."

But the teenagers will now be ineligible for college basketball. LiAngelo left UCLA where he was suspended after his shoplifting arrest during the team's season-opening trip to China. LaMelo was removed from Chino Hills High in California to make this foray into the unknown.

Just how will his sons cope in the tough domestic championship?

"We are not afraid to get hurt," LaVar said. "We are just too fast."

Then, while signing a Lakers cap, a local fan asked when all three Ball brothers would be playing in Los Angeles. "2020," their father predicted.

This is the only team in the Lithuanian league without foreign players and finished sixth at LKL championship last year.

"This is great opportunity not only for this club or Prienai town, but for entire Lithuania which will be known better to people abroad who probably never heard of our country before," coach Virginijus Seskus said after a ceremony at the Vytautas arena where a large traditional tree cake was presented to LaVar.

The coach has the seal of approval from the boys' father.

"He has energy," LaVar said. "You don't have to speak English if you have energy. He is not one of those rocket scientists who just keep on talking all the time."

Despite the festivities and accompanying television crews, this foray into Lithuania is being taken very seriously by the family. La Var instructed staff of the spa resort they are staying to replace all alcohol with milk and mineral water in their rooms.

The town is putting a lot of faith in the Ball brothers to lead BC Prienai to glory.

"Our team budget is modest," Prienai district mayor Alvydas Vaicekauskas, "but now with these new players we may compete for cups."

In basketball-crazy Lithuania, basketball is often dubbed the "second religion" and attracts huge crowds to arenas even at small towns. There have been several Lithuania players in NBA teams, including Portland Trail Blazers center Arvydas Sabonis and Zydrunas "Big Z" Ilgauskas at Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Balls won't be the first Americans to play for the club. Brad Tinsley, a former Vanderbilt guard, played here between August and October.

With the Ball brothers planning a longer stay, the locals are ensuring they feel at home.

"We are considering launching a couple of new burgers branded LiAngelo and LaMelo," said Dovile Malisauskiene, owner of Tango pizza parlor, which was decorated with American and Lithuanian flags to honor the new members of his beloved basketball team. "I think those will be popular."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California



Photo Credit: AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis]]>
<![CDATA[Falcons Prove Experience Matters in 26-13 Victory Over Rams ]]>Sat, 06 Jan 2018 23:51:14 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/175*120/GettyImages-902006820.jpg

Experience matters. 

The Atlanta Falcons proved that experience matters as Matt Ryan and the Falcons upset the Los Angeles Rams, 26-13, in the NFC Wild Card Game at the Coliseum on Saturday night. 

Atlanta committed no turnovers compared to the Rams two fumbles on special teams, and the Falcons dominated the time of possession, proving that the best way to beat the best scoring offense in the NFL this season is to keep them off the field. 

Here's the breakdown of the game:

First Quarter: 

Jared Goff looked like a deer in the headlights for much of the first quarter.

The Rams defense, affectionately known as the "Mob Squad," looked rested and spry on defense as they put constant pressure on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.

Disaster struck early in the first quarter when a punt by Matt Bosher bounced off the foot of Rams cornerback Blake Countess and was recovered by the Falcons on the L.A. 17-yard-line.

Matt Bryant converted the field goal three plays later and the Falcons jumped out to an early 3-0 lead. 

Bryant converted a 51-yard field goal on the Falcons next possession as Atlanta took a 6-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. 

On the ensuing kickoff, Pro-Bowl returner Pharoh Cooper fumbled the ball, giving the Falcons the ball on the Rams 31-yard line.

Second Quarter: 

The Falcons wasted no time capitalizing on the turnover as Devonta Freeman punched the ball in from 3-yards out and Atlanta took a 13-0 lead.

The Rams offense finally got rolling at the end of the second quarter as head coach and play caller, Sean McVay started to feed the ball to MVP candidate Todd Gurley. 

Gurley busted one down the sidelines for a 26-yard gain, and Goff found rookie receiver, Cooper Kupp, a few plays later for the Rams first score of the game.

The Rams defense stepped up on the Falcons final possession of the first half, as they recorded back-to-back sacks on Ryan, handing the ball back to the offense for one final drive for the Rams. 

Goff found Robert Woods for a 38-yard gain, and Sam Ficken made a 35-yard field goal just before the half to cut the Falcons lead to 13-10 at the break.

10 of the 13 points scored by the Falcons were off turnovers. 

Halftime: 

Snoop Dogg performed. 

3rd Quarter: 

The Falcons started the second half with a long, clock grinding drive that took 8:15 off the game clock. However, the Rams defense kept Atlanta to a 25-yard field goal by Bryant as the Falcons took a 16-10 lead. 

After forcing the Rams to punt on their next possession, the Falcons once again marched down the field with a long drive, and Bryant nailed a 54-yard field goal to give Atlanta a commanding 19-10 lead. 

4th Quarter: 

The Rams started the final quarter of the game with a nice drive, but were unable to find the end zone, settling for a 32-yard field goal by rookie Sam Ficken. 

The reigning NFC Champion Falcons put the final nail in the Rams playoff dreams after Ryan found Mohamed Sanu for a 53-yard catch and run, and then capped the drive off with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones.

The Rams thought they had a touchdown with just over two minutes remaining in the game, but after a review, tight end Tyler Higbee did not maintain posession in the endzone and the Rams turned the ball over on downs. 

Final: 26-13 Falcons

Please refresh this page for more stats, updates and player reactions…



Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Lakers Put Andrew Bogut on Waivers, Open Roster Spot]]>Sat, 06 Jan 2018 12:45:21 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Andrew-Bogut-Lakers-waive.jpg

On Saturday morning, the Los Angeles Lakers announced that the team had waived veteran center Andrew Bogut after the Aussie played 25 games and mostly took on a mentoring role in the locker room.

The move allows the Lakers to open up a roster spot and be more flexible, while also allowing Bogut to pursue a position with a playoff team that needs a center capable of defending at the rim.

With the Lakers sitting on an 11-27 record, the overt move to playing younger players in favor of veterans like Bogut is only a matter of time. In fact, Bogut had not appeared in the Lakers' previous two games after Brook Lopez returned from injury. With young prospects like Thomas Bryant and Ivica Zubac also fighting for scraps and a coach that prefers to play with smaller lineups, the move to release Bogut is probably the best move for both parties.

The Aussie recovered from injury, proved he can still play and now can go find a team that has a chance to play in the postseason.

Back in December, Bogut spoke to the frustrations of the young players in the locker room and described the Lakers' environment like so: "You come into a situation like this sometimes where kind of guys don't know if they're coming or going."

Less than two weeks after uttering those words, it appears Bogut has gone.

The open roster spot allows the Lakers to try out free agents on 10-day contracts and possibly bring in a shooter. The Lakers currently rank last in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage. In addition, the extra roster spot offers flexibility to take on an extra player if the team executes a trade before the deadline in February.




Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rams Make Playoff Return Tonight]]>Sat, 06 Jan 2018 15:56:55 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/163*120/GettyImages-630314022.jpg

40 years is a long time to wait.

The NFL playoffs are back in Los Angeles, and the L.A. Memorial Coliseum will play host for the first time since January 7, 1979, a span of nearly 40 years.

The young upstart Rams, fresh off one of the greatest single season turnarounds in sports history, will play the reigning NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons, in an NFC Wild Card matchup on Saturday night.

The Rams are led by the youngest head coach in NFL history to take his team to the playoffs in 31-year-old Sean McVay, and will be guided by a 23-year-old sophomore quarterback in Jared Goff.

So to say that the Rams are inexperienced is an understatement to say the least.

"I don't think it is a concern," McVay said at practice during the week. "When I say that, I have a whole lot of respect for experience and what that does and the value that it provides. But I do think that we've got a confident group, a mature group for a young football team." 

On the other side of the ball is the experienced and veteran-laden Falcons. One year removed from arguably the greatest collapse in Super Bowl history.

Atlanta has had their share of ups and downs in 2018. After losing their offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to the San Francisco 49ers, and their quarterbacks coach, Matt LaFleur to the Rams, the Falcons had to replace a lot of coaches on the staff this season.

One of those coaches is new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian who fans in Hollywood know well from his troubled days as the head coach of the USC Trojans before he was fired for showing up to a practice drunk and disorderly.

Sarkisian struggled early in the season and the Falcons offense suffered. However, Atlanta has won four of their last six games, including victories over the Saints and Panthers, to playoff teams out of the NFC South.

The Falcons are led by reigning NFL MVP Matt Ryan, who is more than ready to shed the demons from a 28-3 disintegration that occurred in front of the world on national television.

"I love the resiliency and the toughness of this team," Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said. "When you've been through some of the fire together, you come out the other side stronger as a brotherhood."

The first step in the Falcons journey of a redemption trip back to the Super Bowl begins in Los Angeles, where the Rams franchise will be playing in it's first prime-time game of the season, and their first playoff game in Southern California since 1986 when they shutout the Dallas Cowboys, 20-0 at Anaheim Stadium.

The Rams expect a packed house within the friendly confines of the Coliseum as they reportedly have sold over 70,000 tickets for the game (the Coliseum's capacity is over 90,000, but they lowered the capacity in order to improve the overall fan experience).

"It's definitely a cool thing," Goff said. "After football has been gone here for so long and we came back year two and being able to bring a playoff game to the Coliseum is very cool." 

Celebrities across Tinseltown are expected to come out to the game, which should feature a star-studded atmosphere as the Rams look to advance to the second round of the NFC Playoffs in a rematch from earlier in the season with the Minnesota Vikings. 

One of those stars is running back Todd Gurley, who has become the face of the Rams since the team relocated from St. Louis before the 2016 season.

Gurley led the NFL in total yards, touchdowns, and rushing touchdowns this season, and is many experts favorite to win the 2018 NFL MVP Award. First however, he and his teammates must go through the reigning MVP in order to accomplish their goals. 

The Rams come into the game well rested after 20 of the team's 22 starters did not play in the team's Week 17 loss to the 49ers.

Meanwhile, the Falcons enter the contest bruised and battered, and on short rest, after dispatching the rival Carolina Panthers in Week 17 to punch their ticket to the playoffs.

In order to secure the victory, and advance deep into the playoffs, the Rams will need to strike early and often, allowing their Top 10 defense, led by Pro Bowl tackle Aaron Donald, to pin their ears back and go after the quarterback.

If the Rams come out struggling, and the game remains close, the absence of Pro Bowl kicker Greg Zuerlein could loom large for Los Angeles, who does not have the postseason experience that Atlanta does.

In the end, we expect the Rams to come out rolling after the extra week of rest, and control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Enabling Goff and Gurley to operate with space on offense, and putting pressure on Ryan on defense.

Prediction: 30-24 Rams

Betting Odds (Courtesy of Bovada):

Atlanta Falcons: +6 (-115)
Los Angeles Rams: -6 (-105)
Over/Under: 48.5

The game will kickoff at 5:15PM PST from the L.A. Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles and will air live on NBC. The game can be livestreamed here.



Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Stung By Hornets, Losing Streak At Nine]]>Fri, 05 Jan 2018 23:57:58 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Hornets-Lonzo-Ball.jpg

On Friday night, the Los Angeles Lakers hit a new a low when they lost in blowout fashion, 108-94, to the Charlotte Hornets, a team that entered the night with a 4-13 road record and a 14-23 record overall.

The Lakers got a pregame boost when rookie point guard Lonzo Ball returned after six games out due to a sprained shoulder, but Ball could not spark the team back to winning ways, or even being competitive on this night. Still, his time on the court provided a positive view into the future of the season and beyond.

"It was really nice having Zo [Lonzo Ball] back, and even though, obviously, we didn't win the game, just what he brings to the group."

Ball finished the night with 11 points, five assists, four rebounds and two steals in 27 minutes on the court.

Friday night's game, though, was not competitive. LA trailed by as many as 25 points on the night and eventually lost by 14. Kemba Walker led the way for the visitors with 19 points, seven assists and two rebounds. Six different Hornets scored in double figures in the comfortable victory for Charlotte.

Brandon Ingram provided the Lakers a sliver of silver lining, as the forward had been struggling to make an impact in recent games. Against the Hornets, Ingram played an active game and finished the night with 22 points, 14 rebounds and four assists in 37 minutes, making 10 of his 18 field goal attempts.

Matching Ingram's double-double, Julius Randle finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, as Walton tried a new starting lineup. On this night, Randle shifted to power forward in a new-look starting lineup that returned Brook Lopez to center, with Ingram at small forward, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at shooting guard and Ball at point guard. Lopez only managed 19 minutes on the court and scored 11 points and tabbed four assists in those minutes, but Caldwell-Pope struggled with zero points in only 20 minutes on the court.

After the game, Walton said he subbed out Caldwell-Pope for rookie Josh Hart because the veteran shooting guard seemed to be lacking the defensive intensity required. Walton continued to harp on the defensive deficiencies after the game.

"I think the biggest difference in right now and the past week or so has been defense," Walton said after the game, repeatedly harping on the team's sudden drop-off on that end of the court.

Walton added, "We're going to get back to being a good defensive team no matter what it takes."

The Lakers fell ot 11-26 on the season and will next play on Sunday night against the Atlanta Hawks at Staples Center.



Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Lonzo Ball 'Probable' for Friday Night, Walton Secure in Job]]>Fri, 05 Jan 2018 17:53:46 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/212*120/Lonzo-Ball-probable-vs-Charlotte.JPG

On Friday morning, the Los Angeles Lakers upgraded Lonzo Ball's status from "questionable" to "probable," a decision that was announced as Ball energetically shot up three-pointers and joyfully played a friendly game with teammates and coaches.

"[Ball] said he feels good," Lakers coach Luke Walton said on Friday morning. "If we stay on schedule, he should play tonight."

Asked about whether Ball was 100 percent, Walton added, "He's definitely going to play without being 100 percent. I think that's true with everyone that comes back from injury. I think that's true for everyone that plays and doesn't have injuries. There's not a single guy on our team that's at 100 percent this far into the season."

"It's a little sore," Ball admitted but added that he was "happy to be back."

Asked if he felt any pressure to help the Lakers turn around their current funk of eight straight losses and 10 defeats in their last 11 games, Ball responded sharply, "Pressure's been on me since I've been here."

Walton Not Worried About Job

Losing eight straight and 11 of the past 12 games overall is not easy and can call into question a coach's job, regardless of the circumstances. Walton, though, isn't interested in hearing noise.

Asked about whether the current losing run had him possibly thinking about his job being in jeopardy, Walton said, "No, I don't. I coach as if it's not. As I preach to my players, 'control what you can control in life.' That's got to be my philosophy as a coach, as well."

Walton regularly speaks with Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and Earvin "Magic" Johnson, the two men who ultimately decide on whether he is the man to coach the team. Numerous times, Walton has lauded the open communication he shares with both men.

"They’ve been great," Walton said about the Lakers' front office. "They’ve been supportive. They obviously understand where we’re at as a team and what we’re trying to do and what our big picture is. When you’ve got a young team that’s battling, fighting and playing well and gets some injuries and you get into the dog days of the NBA season. They’re both fully aware of what that’s like."

Adding to Walton's confidence in his job security, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss even recently took to social media to give her team's coach a vote of confidence via Twitter. On the platform, Buss wrote, "Luke Walton: 'We will get through this and we will be stronger when we do.' #Lakers Family #InLukeWeTrust."

"She’s been incredible," Walton said of Buss' public and private support. "I’ve talked with her a lot during the season. I like to give her updates. She’s been around this game a long time, so she knows when to be supportive. She’s been really great to work with."



Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[GM Tom Telesco Reflects on Chargers' Season, 'Hard Knocks']]>Thu, 04 Jan 2018 17:27:03 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Tom-Telesco-0422.jpg

On Thursday afternoon Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco addressed several needs for the offseason including the draft, signing a kicker and his team's potential appearance on HBO's Hard Knocks series.

Telesco immediately admitted to failing first year head coach Anthony Lynn in the kicking game, yet remains optimistic about the future of Chargers. Telesco spoke with an extreme confidence when he mentioned Lynn and assessed his first year and his coaching style.

"I really saw a high level of grit and determination that I didn't see last year (2016)," Telesco said.

He went on to mention what his off-season plans would be especially concerning Antonio Gates, and Tre Boston, as both players' contracts are up with the Bolts.

"We'll probably let some time go a little bit now after the season's over, and then sit down with Antonio and just kind of talk with him, see what his thoughts are and what he's thinking, see what our thoughts are and what we're thinking."

Being in Los Angeles can change a perspective when it comes to elevating your brand, and in the case of the Chargers moving from San Diego, Telesco seemed a lot more open at the idea of the team being featured on 'Hard Knocks' series.


"We have a really good relationship with NFL Films and Ross Ketover and his staff, they do really excellent work," Telesco said. "And that show is really good because they give great access."

Telesco did show a small amount of reserve when it came to cameras and microphones following the players and coaches arounds for several weeks.

However, if given the opportunity this would be a huge move to making Los Angeles know more about the Chargers and their players.

Other teams who are in contention for 'Hard Knocks' are the San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens and Washington.

Jason Verrett missed 15 games of the 2017 season due to a knee injury that required surgery, Telesco seemed pleased about the recovery of Verrett.

Based on his chronic knee problems over the past years, it's highly likely that Verrett will move to safety. Telesco was amazed on how much production his team received for all three cornerbacks.

Of course with a 36-year-old Philip Rivers come off another excellent season, however the question remained will the Bolts look for Rivers successor in the draft this year?

"It's been a priority every year to have the next guy," Telesco said. "Kellen [Clemens] is the backup, and he's older as well, so you have to have a future plan. And you just never know when that opportunity is going to be there. So you just can't sit back and wait and then decide when you're going into one year and say, 'You know what, this year we're going draft a quarterback,' because it may not line up for you. You don't go into a draft saying we're going draft a QB, a RB and a WR. You never know how it's going to play out. So we'll be prepared whatever year it is. If the right guy is there at the right spot, then we'll do it. Because as well as Philip is playing, we know he's not going be here for 10 more years."

With the Senior Bowl, NFL Combine, and Free Agency period coming up along with the NFL Draft, there is truly no off season for Telesco and his staff. He informed us on his itinerary for the future as they continue to build a contender in Los Angeles.

"Still assessing our current team, getting together with the coaches... and some of them, we've got to take a little bit of time off," Telesco said. "Not time off, but step away and not do some evaluations right away, right after the season is over, because I know for the coaches, it's a long year. It's a grind. We're all upset we didn't make the playoffs. In this month, we also have some college All-Star games (where we'll) do some college draft work. Scouts will be at different All-Star games. I'm trying to get to a couple as well. So January is a pretty big planning month except for the college work, that's a little more scouting. And then February is really a lot of the same thing, starting again in March."



Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego
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<![CDATA[Dodgers Complete Three-Team Trade]]>Thu, 04 Jan 2018 16:31:37 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/163*120/GettyImages-852622774.jpg

It's a New Year, but it's the same old Los Angeles Dodgers.

The 2017 World Series runner-ups continued their active offseason as the Dodgers completed a three-team trade with the Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Royals on Thursday afternoon.

In the trade, the Dodgers received left-handed relief pitcher Scott Alexander (from the Royals), and minor league infielder Jake Peter (from the White Sox). The White Sox received left-handed relief pitcher Luis Avilan (from the Dodgers) and right-handed relief pitcher Joakim Soria (from the Royals). The Royals received infielder Erick Mejia and right-handed pitcher Trevor Oaks (from the Dodgers).

Alexander was the centerpiece of the trade as the left-hander is expected to fill the high-leverage void left by Tony Watson. Alexander, 28, appeared in 58 games with the Royals in 2017, and was 5-4 with four saves and a 2.48 ERA.

Alexander is a sinker ball pitcher who had the second highest ground ball percentage among Major League relievers (73.3 percent) in 2017.

Avilan, 28, had been with the Dodgers for the last three seasons, and appeared in 61 games for the Boys in Blue in 2017, going 2-3 with a 2.93 ERA.  

Oaks, a talented minor league prospect was 4-3 with a 3.83 ERA in 19 games with Triple-A Oklahoma City last season. He was selected by the Dodgers in the seventh round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft out of California Baptist University.

Fans might remember Oaks for famously playing the piano for his teammates in spring training last season. 



Photo Credit: David Banks/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rams Revealed: Samson Ebukam]]>Thu, 04 Jan 2018 04:11:10 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Samson_Ebukam_RR__1200x675_1128914499856.jpg

NBC LA Sports Reporter Michael J. Duarte interviews Los Angeles Rams linebacker Samson Ebukam about growing up in Nigeria, playing video games when he got the call he was drafted, and which teammate would help him take down the cartel.]]>
<![CDATA[Paul George, Thunder Send Lakers Crashing]]>Wed, 03 Jan 2018 23:39:17 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Paul-George-Lakers-Thunder.jpg

On Wednesday night at Staples Center, the Los Angeles Lakers continued their downward spiral and lost their eighth straight game as the Oklahoma City Thunder routed the Lakers, 133-96.

Paul George scored 24 points in 27 minutes, while Carmelo Anthony scored 21 points and grabbed six rebounds without touching the court for the fourth quarter. Likewise, Russell Westbrook scored 20 points, passed off 12 assists and grabbed six rebounds without playing any of the final 12 minutes.

The less said about the Lakers' performance, the better.

"Our fans deserve better than that and our organization deserves better than that," Lakers coach Luke Walton said after the crushing defeat.

Walton added, "To lose like that, that's not who we are."

The Lakers coach continued, "This one felt different. This doesn't sit well, but I think it's more of an outlier. I don't expect this to become the norm for us when we struggle."

As the score suggested, the Lakers were not competitive on this evening. The Thunder completely overran the Lakers and led by as many as 39 points, and the game turned uglier with every passing second.

After the game, Lakers forward Brandon Ingram somberly stated, "Our defensive presence was not there after the first quarter."

The Lakers actually scored the first 10 points of the game, so if that opening run was excluded, the difference between the two teams was closer to 50 points than 40. Along with losing eight straight, the Lakers have also lost 11 of their last 12 games.

"We just flat out gave up," Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma said with a hint of anger. "You could see, they got basket after basket. We had no resistance on them on the defensive end. On the offensive end, when things got tough, we tried to do it individually, and you can't do that in this league."

When asked about how to fix the issue, Kuzma added, "It's all about effort."

The mood in the locker room was one of anger, frustration and fatigue. Losing 11 of 12 games takes its toll and losing by 37 points had clearly rattled the young ball club. With the defeat the Lakers fell to 11-26 on the season and a far cry from the goal of potentially squeezing into a playoff spot.

Kuzma spoke emphatically about his frustrated point of view: "Today was five steps back in my opinion, so something that we need to address, I don't know, pray, something needs to change for sure."

Paul George Homecoming

Paul George, who grew up in Riverside and has been heavily linked with a potential move to Los Angeles in the summer of 2018, had his family sitting courtside and even gave his parents a hug after a made shot. After the game, George spoke about the experience of being cheered in Los Angeles, even though he was a visiting player and also having his family and friends in the stands.

"It was awesome, for one," George said, "Just being home, being in front of friends, family. And the respect, the love, the recruitment (smiles). It was awesome to get that love and energy."

Asked about his impressions of the Lakers, George said he couldn't have any expectations or impressions because Lonzo Ball was not playing and the rookie's role is vital for the Lakers' style of play.

"It's what you expect in a young team," George said when asked about the Lakers after the game. "They're going to have their bruises. They're going to have their wounds. The best thing is [the Lakers] have young guys that are potentially going to be big names in this league. They've just got to continue to keep working, fine tuning themselves."

George concluded, "They've got good young talent."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rams OC Matt LaFleur is Secret Weapon Against Falcons]]>Wed, 03 Jan 2018 20:31:06 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/170731_RamsCamp_HU_027.jpg

The Los Angeles Rams have an ace up their sleeve for their NFC Wild Card Playoff matchup with the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday, and it's not MVP Todd Gurley.

It's offensive coordinator, Matt LaFleur, and he could be the secret weapon the team needs to take down the reigning NFC Champion Falcons.

LaFleur is in his first year with the Rams as offensive coordinator, but he spent last season as quarterbacks coach for the Falcons when he guided Matt Ryan to an MVP season.

For fans that don't know his backstory, LaFleur was a former college quarterback at Saginaw Valley State and briefly played in the National Indoor Football League with the Omaha Beef before turning to coaching in 2003.

He began his coaching career where it all began at Saginaw Valley State, but quickly bounced around the college ranks, coaching quarterbacks at Central Michigan and Northern Michigan, respectively.

In 2008, he jumped to the NFL where he was an Offensive Quality Control coach with the Houston Texans before joining Mike Shanahan's staff in 2010 with the Washington Redskins as their quarterbacks coach.

It was in Washington, that LaFleur met a young assistant named Sean McVay, a man that would not only become his friend, but one day his boss.


McVay was the assistant tight ends coach at the time, but he quickly rose up the Redskins' ranks, becoming the team's offensive coordinator from 2014 to 2016.

LaFleur left in 2016 to the Falcons, but when McVay was offered the Rams head coaching position following the 2016 season, his old friend Matt was the first person he called.

"You look at Matt LaFleur and where he's been. It seems like successful quarterback play follows him," said McVay during his press conference with the media on Wednesday. "Matt LaFleur's a great coach. We're fortunate that he's here and I think he's done a great job with our guys and certainly his time in Atlanta—they had a lot of success as well." 

LaFleur worked his quarterback magic on Jared Goff, who threw for over 3,800 yards and 28 touchdowns in just 15 games during his sophomore season in 2017.

Goff threw for more touchdowns than Ryan this season, and the two quarterbacks had nearly identical yards per game numbers at 255 and 253, respectively. Goff also had just seven interceptions this season to Ryan's 12.

The most glaring difference between the two quarterbacks was Goff led the Rams high potent offense, which led the league in scoring at 29.9 points per game this season.

It was the Falcons who led the league in scoring at 34.1 points per game in 2016, but averaged just 22 points this season without LaFleur and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who left to take over as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.


Throughout the week, LaFleur has been helping McVay, and the Rams defense led by veteran defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips, as they plan and scheme for the Falcons vaulted offensive attack. 

"Some of the nuances in what they're doing are similar, and he's been able to help with that," said Phillips on Wednesday. "The guy [Ryan] was a great player last year and he's continued that. He's [LaFleur] has helped us overall with a concept, but it doesn't influence how we play in certain coverages. It's how well we cover."

As mentioned, LaFleur will be able to provide his coaches with insight and information on Matt Ryan, and the subtle nuances that could be the difference from the Rams going home, or advancing to the next round of the NFC Playoffs against the Vikings.

"I think it is helpful," McVay said about having LaFleur provide him with insight on the Falcons for their NFC Wild Card matchup. "The experience that he had is very helpful. Matt's got a great way of being able to kind of give information in those small bite-sized increments where they can utilize it to their advantage this week."

The Rams host the Atlanta Falcons at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum on Saturday at 5:15PM PST. 



Photo Credit: LA Rams]]>
<![CDATA[UCLA QB Josh Rosen Declares for NFL Draft]]>Wed, 03 Jan 2018 18:52:01 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-856111424.jpg

UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen is skipping his senior season to enter the NFL draft.

Rosen made the expected announcement Wednesday with a post on Twitter. He is expected to be a high first-round pick in April.

Rosen has been the Bruins' starting quarterback for the past three seasons, playing in 30 total games after missing half of his sophomore year with injuries. He passed for 9,301 yards with 59 touchdown passes and 26 interceptions.

He was close to fired UCLA coach Jim Mora, but discussed his decision with new Bruins coach Chip Kelly.

In his statement, Rosen says that attending UCLA was "the best decision of my life." He also promises his mother that he'll return to Westwood to finish his degree.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Here's How the Rams' and Chargers' Future Home is Shaping Up]]>Wed, 03 Jan 2018 19:37:40 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Stadium+Bowl.jpgThe Rams and the Chargers won't move into their new Inglewood home for some time, but construction is already progressing on their new digs.

Photo Credit: Los Angeles Stadium]]>
<![CDATA[USC QB Sam Darnold Declares for NFL Draft]]>Wed, 03 Jan 2018 17:07:07 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-899648036.jpg

Sam Darnold is taking his talent to the NFL.

On Wednesday, the heralded University of Souther California quarterback announced via his Instagram account, that he was going to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft.

"After talking to my immediate family, very close friends, and various important people throughout my life, I have made the decision to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft," Darnold said in a taped statement. "I have been blessed that my life has been full of memorable moments and wonderful people."

Darnold was 20-4 as the starting quarterback for the Trojans in a season and a half worth of work. The redshirt sophomore was considered a Heisman trophy favorite entering the 2017 season, but he struggled with turnovers in his second year as starting quarterback, leading the FCS in turnovers.

However, despite the mistakes, Darnold still threw for 4,143 yards and 26 touchdowns during the season, and is considered to be a top-5 pick in the NFL Draft.

Many experts, including myself, believed that Darnold should have stayed for one more season for the Trojans, with an opportunity to gain more experience in a pro-style offense.

Darnold's deficiencies were on full display in USC's 24-7 loss to Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl, when he threw a pick-six interception, and lost two fumbles.

Overall, Darnold had 13 interceptions and eight fumbles in his sophomore season.

Whether or not Darnold is NFL ready has yet to be determined, but one thing for certain is that the 6'4", 220 pound quarterback, is still one of the most talented prospects in the Draft and can be a potential game-changing player for any franchise.

Darnold has a strong, accurate arm, and an innate ability to create plays with his feet outside the pocket. His size makes him difficult for any defensive player to bring to the ground, and his ability to break tackles and keep plays alive will make him a valuable asset at the NFL level.

Darnold has been compared to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and has the potential to be taken by the Cleveland Browns with the first overall pick in the Draft.

Before the Cotton Bowl, Darnold said he had no problem playing for the Browns if they wanted to pick him at No. 1 overall.

One player who did have a problem with getting picked by the Browns was crosstown rival quarterback, Josh Rosen of UCLA. Rosen also declared for the 2018 NFL Draft with a tweet posted on his Twitter account early on Wednesday.

USC will be depleted on offense in 2018, as they lose one of the best quarterbacks in school history as well as one of their top running backs in Ronald Jones II.



Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Cody Bellinger Named 2017 Sportsman of the Year]]>Wed, 03 Jan 2018 12:19:19 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/178*120/GettyImages-867632992.jpg

Dodgers first baseman and National League Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger was named Wednesday the 2017 Sportsman of the Year by the Los Angeles Sports Council.

Bellinger batted .267 during his rookie campaign, bashing 39 home runs and collecting 97 RBIs.

He is the second Dodger to win the award, joining two-time recipient Clayton Kershaw.

Bellinger will be honored during the 13th annual L.A. Sports Awards on Feb. 6 at the Beverly Hilton.

National champion USC beach volleyball duo Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes were previously named the 2017 Sportswomen of the Year.



Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[NFL Playoffs Return to LA: See What Else Happened in 1994]]>Wed, 03 Jan 2018 08:25:36 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/222*120/1-3-2017-rams-nfl-playoffs-kerrigan-bronco.jpgWhen the Los Angeles Rams host the Atlanta Falcons Saturday, it will mark the first time the LA Memorial Coliseum has hosted a playoff game since 1994 -- the same year that the team's quarterback was born. See what else happened that year.

Photo Credit: Getty/KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Paul George Coming to LA: Thunder at Lakers]]>Wed, 03 Jan 2018 14:48:04 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Thunder-Paul-George.jpg

Paul George is coming to Los Angeles! It's true.

George, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and the Oklahoma City Thunder are in LA for a Wednesday night shootout with the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center.

It's no secret. The Lakers want George to join.

"The conduct at issue involved communications by Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka with the agent representing Paul George that constituted a prohibited expression of interest in the player while he was under contract," the NBA's statement over the summer read, as it levied a $500,000 fine on the Lakers for tampering.

The fine was "the largest of its kind" according to the Washington Post and came after Lakers president of basketball operations Earvin "Magic" Johnson went on Jimmy Kimmel Live and winked in a joke that made it evident that he wanted George on the Lakers.

The player informed the Indiana Pacers that he would not re-sign with the team and shared his desire to be traded to the Lakers. The Pacers, instead, traded George to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis and asked the league to investigate the Lakers' conduct. 

LA's new front office got publicly shamed in a press release, along with the historic fine, while Oladipo looks like the favorite for the NBA's Most Improved Player award and the 21-year-old Sabonis is averaging 11.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 24.1 productive minutes per game.

Maybe the Pacers didn't get fleeced, after all.

Meanwhile, George is playing for a quickly constructed super team that is now up to fifth place in the Western Conference. If George and the Thunder make a deep playoff run, Westbrook and Oklahoma City may be able to keep the California State University at Fresno product.

Back to the point with regards to Wednesday's game, the Lakers' interest in George is documented. The player appears to be open about sharing his interest in the Lakers, too. Asked about whether he regrets that his request to go to the Lakers became public, George said he had "no regrets" about being linked with the purple and gold.

"I just stated somewhere I wanted to go play," George said in a practice video that surfaced on the eve of Wednesday's game at Staples Center. "You ask 80, 70 percent of the guys in the league if they would love to go back home and play for their city, play for their home, that's all I stated. I would love to go back home and play for my city, so no regrets at all."

Diplotmatically, George added, "I thought this trade that went down was a win-win for both sides."

George, who turns 28 in May, is entering the prime of his basketball career. If the Lakers land the Palmdale native over the summer, the Lakers would quickly jump into contention for a playoff spot, at the least. Of course, the hope would be that George's willingness to come to LA will attract another top level free agent to reconstruct the Lakers into a mix of established stars and elite young talents. Whether that vision can blossom into a championship contender remains to be seen.

Certainly, adding LeBron James wouldn't hurt the Lakers turn into contenders overnight.

Injury Updates

Lonzo Ball and Brook Lopez have both been medically cleared to practice, and both are listed as "Questionable" for Wednesday's game. In terms of the team's style of play, Ball's absence hurt more than Lopez's time off, but the big man's return can only help a team that's suddenly struggling on the defensive end after a strong start to the season on that side of the court.

Due partly to Lopez's injury, Walton committed to small ball a couple games ago by starting Julius Randle at center. Randle has played well offensively and on the glass, but the Lakers have struggled to stop opponents from scoring. Likely, Walton will go back to starting Lopez at center and Ball at point guard if both are healthy, but will the coach stick with rookie Kyle Kuzma in the starting lineup or revert to Larry Nance Jr. with the starting unit?

Overnight, the Lakers seemingly have too many healthy bodies, which are the types of problems any coach would welcome. Of course, either or both of Ball and Lopez could end up sitting out Wednesday's game because the team technically does not practice until Thursday. Still, the fact remains that both are on the verge of returning to the rotation, and both could be back starting as early as Wednesday.

Considering the Lakers have lost 10 of their last 11 games and seven straight, having Ball and Lopez back can't hurt the team's play. If nothing else, Ball's return should create a buzz at Staples Center. George only plays on the Lakers' court twice before the summer, and Wednesday night's significance on the forward's move to Southern California in the summer of 2018 may be impossible to prove, but that won't stop every eyeball from fixating on no. 13's every move.

Game time is 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time. Tip-off is 7:40 p.m. Pacific Time.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Pharoh Cooper Proving Valuable Component in LA Rams Success]]>Tue, 02 Jan 2018 16:11:31 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/201*120/08-29-2016-pharoh-cooper-rams-1.gif

When anyone mentions the Los Angeles Rams, many think of Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, Aaron Donald, Alec Ogletree, Sammy Watkins or head coach Sean McVay. However, another important name to remember is Pharoh Cooper, who had a solid season and made the 2018 Pro Bowl for the first time in his career.

Cooper caught eleven receptions for 84 yards this season.

"He's been tremendous all year for us and has done a great job in the return game," Goff told reporters of Cooper after a dominant Seahawks win. "He's found a little niche for himself."

The second-year receiver out of South Carolina entered the year without a defined role. But thanks to the meticulous efforts of McVay and the coaching staff, they - along with Cooper - realized his talents would best be served as a kickoff returner. He made the confession before the season that he wanted to be the best at his position and by Week 6, punt-return duties were a part of his assignment.

Cooper, who also plays receiver, averaged 26 yards per kickoff return and 13.4 yards per punt return. He led the NFL in total kickoff-return yardage (845) and is second in punt-return yardage (390). The transformation from last season to the 2017 season has been phenomenal for Cooper. Throughout the hard work and dedication he has, he continues to excel by leaps and bounds on this team.

"After the season last year, I found out a lot about myself," Cooper said. "I was hurt last year, then went through the injury, but I never lost faith, and I had confidence in myself. As the season kept growing, we started to break out some kick returns and my confidence got even higher."

His hard worked paid off. Not only did his team achieve their first winning record since 2003, but he was also awarded with Pro Bowl honors along with teammates Todd Gurley, Aaron Donald, Johnny Hekker, and Greg Zuerlein.

"It's really exciting and a dream come true," Cooper said about making the Pro Bowl. "When you're a little kid watching the NFL, and seeing all of the top guys making it. I give a lot of credit to the guys who were blocking for me as well as the coaching staff."

With all the right pieces in place, the Rams have a great chance of standing alone at the mountaintop.

If they win on Saturday night against the Atlanta Falcons at the LA Coliseum, this tight-knit bunch of players will have to band together on the road and have that 2Pac "Me Against The World" mentality in order to make it to Minnesota in February.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers: Lonzo Ball, Brook Lopez Medically Cleared]]>Tue, 02 Jan 2018 15:30:50 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lonzo-Ball-Brook-Lopez-Lakers-injury-update.jpg

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Lakers received a giant injury boost when the team announced that starting point guard Lonzo Ball and starting center Brook Lopez had both been cleared to return to practice with both sharing a "questionable" status for Wednesday night's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Ball sat out five games due to a shoulder sprain suffered during the Lakers' 95-93 defeat to the Portland Trail Blazers on Dec. 23, 2017. The Lakers went on to lose all five games without the point guard. Ball's absence was felt on both ends of the court, as the 20-year-old has been far better than advertised on the defensive side of the ball.

Lopez, meanwhile, suffered a "moderate" ankle sprain back on Dec. 18, 2017. The team has tried different options in place of Lopez, specifically Julius Randle and Andrew Bogut, with up and down success. The team's record in Lopez's absence is seven defeats and one victory. That lone victory came with Bogut starting at center and Randle only featuring for a season-low eight minutes.

While both Lopez and Ball have been cleared to practice, the Lakers are not practicing on Tuesday, which is customary following a back-to-back. On Wednesday, the team will go through shootaround, but that activity is more about game planning and getting shots up, rather than testing strength and endurance.

Based on conversations the medical staff and the coaching staff have on Wednesday, both players may sit out Wednesday's high profile game against Paul George, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder in favor of practicing on Thursday and returning on Friday night at Staples Center against the Charlotte Hornets.

Ultimately, Lakers coach Luke Walton will make the final call on Wednesday, and the coach has a habit of not sharing player status until the final possible moment. Both Lopez and Ball expect to be game-time decisions if Walton stays true to form.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn Is Building A Contender]]>Tue, 02 Jan 2018 11:55:30 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-898087276.jpg

On Monday afternoon, head coach Anthony Lynn entered the room, approached the podium and described how he was encouraged by the disappointment that the Los Angeles Chargers were eliminated from the playoffs.

The Chargers destroyed the Oakland Raiders on Sunday 30-10 at Stub Hub Center, yet it was not enough to continue on. On a bright note it was the first time the Chargers finished with a winning record (9-7) since 2014. 

"You come into the next day of work and the whole organization is a little down," Lynn explained. "That’s kind of encouraging because that just tells me that everyone’s standards and expectations are much higher. We do this for one reason, and that’s to get in the tournament and try to win the prize. So I feel really good about our future here with the Chargers and our ownership with Dean, and A.G. and John, and how committed they are to winning a championship. And the management team I’ve worked with, with Tom Telesco and Ed McGuire. I feel really encouraged about this organization and the things we can accomplish in the future."

Lynn had an outstanding impact on the players from the moment he disseminated his philosophy for the season.  

Many players including Philip Rivers, Tre Boston, Tyrell Williams, Melvin Ingram, and Denzel Perryman all embraced Lynn's teaching and coaching, yet remain optimistic for the future.

 

Lynn also made sure he praised not only the players but the coaching staff who did a good job this season. With reports that defensive coordinator Gus Bradley could be headed out of Los Angeles in pursuit of other head coaching offers, Lynn was asked how much he would like to keep everyone on the coaching staff together.

"We’d like to keep this together if we can. I know with some guys, the contracts are up," Lynn said. "We’re working on that right now. We’re trying to keep this staff together, this nucleus together, because I think we got better as a coaching staff as the season went on. We hit some bumps there early, and midway through the season, but things are a lot smoother right now. I think we understand each other."

One thing that's a sense of urgency for the Bolts is landing a permanent kicker next season.

"It’s to find that young kicker — not a Band-Aid — but a young kicker that can be with this organization for a long time", Lynn said. "Get him in here, get him in this building around these guys every day."

This off-season should be very interesting as the ream looks to address many needs including a successor to Rivers in the near future. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Georgia Stuns Oklahoma in Another Epic Rose Bowl Game]]>Mon, 01 Jan 2018 20:24:48 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-900368180.jpg

After ending the first Rose Bowl game ever to go into overtime, one of the greatest Granddaddies of Them All, Sony Michel was swarmed by Georgia teammates as he broke down in tears.

The senior tailback had gone from goat to hero and sent the Bulldogs to the national championship game.

Michel burst through the line for a 27-yard touchdown run to give No. 3 Georgia a 54-48 victory Monday night against No. 2 Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff semifinal.

Michel, who had a fumble in the fourth quarter returned for a go-ahead Oklahoma touchdown, ran for 181 yards and three scores for the Bulldogs (13-1), but none bigger than the last one in the second overtime.

"I made plays. I gave up plays. My team just had faith in me," said Michel, who did all that damage on just 11 carries. "That's what this team is all about. They showed true character today."

In the final game of his great career, Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield threw for 287 yards and two touchdowns, and caught a touchdown pass that gave the Sooners a 17-point lead with 6 seconds left in the first half.

But the Heisman Trophy winner could not get the Sooners (12-2) into the end zone in the first overtime when a touchdown would have ended the game.

The Bulldogs will play either Alabama or Clemson on Jan. 8 for the national championship in Atlanta, about 90 miles from their campus. After Georgia made its first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1943 a rousing, heart-stopping success, the Bulldogs will play for their first national title since 1980.

"We got to get back to work. It's not done," Michel said. "Now we got to finish. Let's just finish this season off right."

The first overtime Rose Bowl was also the highest-scoring, surpassing last year's 52-49 USC victory against Penn State. There was a lot more on the line in this one, which will go down as an all-time great.

After an offside penalty on Georgia gave Oklahoma a first down on third-and-five in the second OT possession, the Sooners stalled again and Austin Seibert came out for a 27-yard field goal. Leaping through the line, Lorenzo Carter got his outstretched hand on the kick and the ball fluttered down short of the uprights.

Any score would have ended it for the Bulldogs, and on the second play Michel slipped one tackle and was home free. The Bulldogs sprinted off the sideline and toward the corner of the end zone to mob Michel. Confetti rained down. Meanwhile, Mayfield stood motionless on the sideline for several seconds, bent over with his hands on his knees and head down. Mayfield battled flu-like symptoms the week leading into the game, but he played just fine.

"I can't believe it's over. It's been a wild ride," said Mayfield with a hoarse voice before he started to cry.

Michel and his running mate Nick Chubb were awesome for Georgia. Chubb ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns, including a 2-yarder on a direct snap with 55 seconds left in regulation to tie it.

Both teams settled for field goals in the first overtime. First, Georgia's Rodrigo Blankenship hit from 38 to make it 48-45.

Then it was Mayfield's turn. A touchdown would have sent the Sooners to Atlanta, but on a third-and-2 from the 17 Georgia All-America linebacker Roquan Smith nailed Jordan Smallwood a yard short of the first down.

Seibert kicked a 33-yarder and the Bulldogs and Sooners played on, but not for much longer.

THE TAKEAWAY

Georgia: The Bulldogs came in with the sixth-best defense in the country, but Mayfield and the Sooners sliced it up in the first half, including a nifty reverse pass to the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback that made it 31-14 with 6 seconds left in the second quarter. Oklahoma had 360 yards in the first half, the second-most the Bulldogs had allowed in a game this season.

Coach Kirby Smart said the defense "stunk it up" in the first half, but there were no dramatic changes in the second. Smith and company just played better. Oklahoma managed only 171 yards and one touchdown in the second half and OT.

Oklahoma: The Sooners' defense has been an issue all season, but it did look for a while like it might make the decisive play. Linebacker Caleb Kelly lowered a shoulder into Michel trying to turn the corner on a sweep and the ball popped loose. Steven Parker picked it up on the bounce, tight-roped the sideline and raced 46 yards for a touchdown to put the Sooners up 45-38 with 6:52 left in the fourth.

But with a chance to close out the game with 3:22 left in the fourth, Georgia freshman quarterback Jake Fromm led a game-tying drive, capped by Chubb's TD run. Fromm finished 20-for-29 for 210 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

UP NEXT:

Georgia: It's back to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the Bulldogs, where they won the Southeastern Conference championship to get to the playoff a month ago.

Oklahoma: The Sooners start the post-Mayfield era next fall at home against coach Lane Kiffin's Florida Atlantic team.



Photo Credit: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Lose in Double Overtime, 148-142]]>Sun, 31 Dec 2017 21:42:33 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Julius-Randle-Lakers-Dec-31-17.jpg

On New Year's Eve, Julius Randle provided a glimpse of what he could be in 2018 and beyond if he can maximize his potential. 

In Houston, Randle relentlessly and routinely rounded his defender without regard and went coast to coast against the entire Houston Rockets' team without a care. The small ball starting center for the Los Angeles Lakers finished with 29 points, 15 rebounds and six assists in 33 minutes, all of which were season highs for the 23-year-old Dallas native.

Unfortunately for the Lakers, Randle fouled out before the conclusion of Sunday's double-overtime thriller, and his absence combined with Chris Paul's cunning led Houston to a 148-142 victory.

Lakers coach Luke Walton was short three starters, as Brook Lopez and Lonzo Ball were on the shelf with injuries and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was unable to leave the state of California for legal reasons. For the second game in a row, Walton started Randle at center, while Josh Hart took Caldwell-Pope's spot and Tyler Ennis earned a rare start at point guard.

Ennis finished the night with 20 points and 11 rebounds, as Walton's decision to play a pure point guard paid off in a more stable offense and a better tempo to the Lakers' play on the whole. Hart, meanwhile, made nine of his 13 shots and finished with 26 points and six rebounds in 37 minutes.

Unfortunately for Walton's Lakers, Hart, Randle and Ennis all fouled out and watched the conclusion of the close contest sitting next to their coach, rather than on the court.

Unlike the previous game against the LA Clippers on Friday night, the Lakers came ready to play on Sunday night and took a halftime lead into the locker room after scoring 72 points before the intermission.

With Randle leading the way and Ennis helping push the pace, the Lakers attacked the Rockets' defense and attempted to run the score up on Mike D'Antoni's ball club, which takes some doing.

Led by James Harden, the Rockets got back into the game in the second half, but the early 2018 MVP favorite pulled up lame and walked off the court gingerly with 44 seconds remaining in regulation. Harden would not return and finished the night with 40 points and 11 assists in 41 mintutes.

Paul stepped up in Harden's absence and kept Houston answering back for every jab the Lakers landed in the extra basketball periods. Every time the Rockets looked like they were wobbling, Paul would find an open shooter or find the bottom of the net. The long-time LA Clipper finished with 28 points, 10 assists and six rebounds in 42 minutes. 

Former Laker Trevor Ariza added 26 points for the Rockets in the victory and tied for a game-high 45 minutes with Ennis and Brandon Ingram.

While the Lakers lost their sixth game in a row and ninth game out of their last 10 contests over all, this loss featured a competitive group fighting against one of the best team in the NBA on the road. All five of the Lakers' starters scored in double figures and four of the five starters scored over 20 points, as the ball moved to the tune of 31 assists on 53 made baskets for the purple and gold.

In a contrast of styles, the Rockets attempted 52 three-pointers, which was more than double the Lakers' attempts from distance. LA shot 40 percent from beyond the arc, though, and rookie Kyle Kuzma hit five of his 10 long range attempts on the night.

Instead, LA did its damage inside and outscored Houston 82-58 in the painted area. Even with Harden being best friends with the referee's whistle, the Rockets only shot two more foul shots than the Lakers on the night. However, the Rockets claimed six extra points at the line than LA, as the Lakers continue to be the worst free throw shooting team in the NBA. In a game decided by the smallest of margins and requiring two overtime periods to decide a winner, one extra made free throw could have been the difference between winning and losing.

Finishing off 2017 with a victory would have obviously been more ideal for the Lakers, but Friday night in Houston was an impressive defeat. If such a thing did exist, the Lakers would arguably be the best team in the NBA at battling elite opponents to the end but falling just short, as this was the Lakers' third overtime defeat. The previous two overtime defeats came against the Golden State Warriors. 

Now 11-24 on the season, the Lakers will wake up in ice cold Minnesota for Jan. 1, 2018 and face the Timberwolves on the second night of a back-to-back. The NBA schedule makers did not exactly take pity on the Lakers on this occasion. On New Year's Eve, the temperature in Minneapolis was -12 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 40 degrees below freezing.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chargers Defeat Raiders But Lose Out on Entering Playoffs]]>Sun, 31 Dec 2017 17:17:54 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/192*120/AP_18001041512959.jpg

The Chargers defeated the AFC West rival Oakland Raiders 30-10 in front of a sellout crowd of over 25,000 at Stub Hub Center on Sunday. 

The Los Angeles Chargers controlled their own playoff destiny, to a degree. Despite the win on Sunday, the Tennessee Titans 15-10 win over the Jaguars, which eliminated the Bolts from a playoff appearance as a Wild Card. The Chargers made sure they had to handle their business so if nothing else they finished with a winning season for the first time since 2014.

Philip Rivers threw for more than 4,000 yards and, except for two three-interception games against Kansas City, he's been careful with the football. Keenan Allen had a career season and has written his name among the NFL's top receivers. Running back Melvin Gordon ran for more than 1,000 yards for the first time in three seasons.

Oakland's defense hasn’t allowed a 300-yard passing game in five weeks, led by a great pass rushing duo featuring Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin.

The Chargers kept the Raiders scoreless for the eighth time this season in the opening quarter. Los Angeles woke up as running back Melvin Gordon fumbled for the first time this season, yet the ball landed in the hands of Keenan Allen for a 26-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. The Raiders answered back quickly on 3rd and 22, deep in Chargers territory, Derek Carr launched a rocket pass on a post route over the top to Amari Cooper for an 87-yard touchdown catch, and the 7-7 tie.

The Bolts pressured the Raiders enough where they settled for a 30-yard field goal and took a 10-7 lead. Oakland decided to be lax on the Chargers drive after crucial Khalil Mack roughing the passer penalty, Rivers found a wide open Tyrell Williams for the 56-yard touchdown catch and 14-10 lead late in the second quarter.

The second half turned into an offensive onslaught by the Chargers, as a 25-yard field goal by Nick Rose was made early in the third quarter. Yet late in the third quarter, Rivers found a speedy Travis Benjamin down field for the 62-yard touchdown late in the third quarter.

Chargers:

Philip Rivers completed 28-for-37 passes for 387 yards and three touchdowns in the victory. Rivers tied Fran Tarkenton for sixth most passing touchdowns in NFL history.

Keenan Allen finished with 9 receptions for 133 yards and a touchdown. Allen has a new record for catches in a single season passing LaDianian Tomlinson with 100.

Melvin Gordon finished with 17 carries for 93 yards on the day. Gordon also completed 6 receptions for 31 yards. 

Raiders:

Derek Carr completed 19-for-27 passes for 243 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the loss.  

Marshawn Lynch finished with 19 carries for 101 yards.

Amari Cooper ended the day with 3 receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown. Cooper is the first player to get over 100 yards receiving against the Chargers this season.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Niners Rout Rams in Regular Season Finale]]>Sun, 31 Dec 2017 19:43:29 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*123/GettyImages-900124620.jpg

The regular season has come to a close.

Without 20 of their 22 starters, the Los Angeles Rams lost the final game of the regular season, 34-13, to Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers on New Year's Eve at the L.A. Coliseum.

Garoppolo threw for 292 yards, two interceptions and two touchdowns on the day, as he improved to 5-0 as the starting quarterback for San Francisco.

"They've definitely improved," said L.A. Rams head coach Sean McVay about the new-look Niners with Garoppolo under center. "It's impressive just to watch the way those guys play. I'm impressed with those guys and they did a nice job finishing up the right way this year."

Overall, the man known as "Jimmy G," is 7-0 as a starting quarterback to start his career (two wins with New England).

Jimmy G got the Niners on the board when he found Marquise Goodwin on a screen pass in the first quarter for an 8-yard touchdown pass that put San Francisco up 10-0.

Carlos Hyde had 84 yards and two touchdowns for the Niners who finish the season on a tear, winning six of their last seven games under first-year head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Jimmy G added an extra insurance touchdown to start the fourth quarter when he found Aldrick Robinson over the middle in the end zone for the score.

After the Rams clinched the NFC West last week with a win over the Tennessee Titans last week, head coach Sean McVay opted to rest nearly all of his starters before their NFC Wild Card matchup against the Atlanta Falcons.

"We feel good about being able to allow some of our players to get some rest, a little bit of recovery time that I think is much needed for some of those guys and then you keep a couple guys out of harm's way," said McVay of his decision. "Hopefully, they'll be fresh and ready to roll whenever our game is."

Among the notable starters to rest in the game were quarterback Jared Goff, pro-bowl tackle Aaron Donald, and MVP candidate Todd Gurley.

In place of Goff, backup quarterback Sean Mannion made his first career NFL start, and threw for 169 yards with no touchdowns and one lost fumble.

Lance Dunbar scored the only Rams touchdown on the day when he rushed it up the middle for the 5-yard score late in the fourth quarter. 

Rams kicker, Sam Ficken, making his second career NFL start, bounced back from a bad week against the Titans, and was 2-for-2 on field goal attempts and 1-1 on extra-point attempts.

"He did a nice job today," McVay said of his kicker. "He made the most of his opportunities, and had some good kickoffs as well. He definitely improved from the previous week, so pleased with Sam today."

Backup cornerback Kevin Peterson had two interceptions for the Rams in the first start of his NFL career. 

"I knew going into the game that I was going to get a lot of opportunities," said Peterson of his two interceptions. "They came into a formation that I recognized, and we had a call that matched it well and I just went and got it. I'm really more mad because I feel like I made some worse plays than the interceptions, so I didn't really get a chance to celebrate those."

Scary Moment:

Late in the second quarter, San Francisco 49ers receiver, Marquise Goodwin, was hit in the head by cornerback Blake Countess, and laid motionless on the field for several minutes. He eventually was carted off the field and taken to a nearby hospital with a concussion.

Up Next:

The playoffs! The Los Angeles Rams will host the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday, January 6, at 5:15PM PST in the NFC Wild Card game at the L.A. Coliseum.



Photo Credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Rose Bowl Getting Four New Hall of Famers]]>Sat, 30 Dec 2017 10:04:09 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/170918-rose-bowl.JPG

Former UCLA quarterback Cade McNown, former Texas coach Mack Brown and 1997 Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson will be among four men inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame Saturday.

The fourth member of the hall's Class of 2017 is the late Charles West, the first black quarterback to play in the Rose Bowl Game.

McNown had a record 538 yards of total offense in UCLA's 38-31 loss to Wisconsin in the 1999 Rose Bowl Game, the Bruins most recent appearance in the game.

Brown coached the Longhorns to victories in the 2005 and 2006 Rose Bowl games. Texas defeated Michigan, 38-37, in the 2005 Rose Bowl, on Dusty Mangum's 37-yard field goal as time expired.

The Longhorns defeated USC, 41-38, in the 2006 Rose Bowl Game, which also served as the Bowl Championship Series National Championship, overcoming a 12-point deficit with four minutes, three seconds to play.

Woodson made an interception in the end zone in Michigan's 21-16 victory over Washington State in the 1998 Rose Bowl Game.

West was part of the 17-member team from Washington & Jefferson that faced California in the 1922 Rose Bowl Game, the last to be played at Pasadena's Tournament Park. The Presidents used just 11 players, who all played the entire 60 minutes, in the Rose Bowl Game's only 0-0 tie.

West died in 1979 after maintaining a general medical practice in Alexandria, Virginia for more than 50 years.

The Rose Bowl Hall of Fame was established in 1989 to honor individuals connected with college football's oldest bowl game. This year's class increases its membership to 125.

The induction ceremony will be held from noon-1:30 p.m. in the Lot K Tent at the Rose Bowl Stadium.

The Rose Bowl Hall of Fame induction ceremony and luncheon will be held from noon-1:30 p.m. in the Lot K Tent at the Rose Bowl Stadium.

"These four individuals epitomize what the Tournament of Roses and Rose Bowl Game stand for," Tournament of Roses Football Committee Chair Brad Ratliff said.

"This class has exhibited strength, passion, tradition and honor in relation to college football, but also in making a difference in their communities."



Photo Credit: NewsChopper 4]]>
<![CDATA[Clippers Cruise Past Lakers 121-106]]>Fri, 29 Dec 2017 23:07:34 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-vs-Clippers-12-29-17.jpg

On Friday night, the Los Angeles Lakers played their final home game of 2017 and sufferred their fifth straight defeat, as the LA Clippers routed their city rivals, 121-106.

Blake Griffin marked his return from injury with a game-high 24 points, along with six rebounds and six assists in the victory. DeAndre Jordan finished the night with 12 points and 16 rebounds, as the big man dominated the undersized Lakers on the glass.

Julius Randle earned his first start of the season for the Lakers and finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and two assists, as Lakers coach Luke Walton gave the forward 29 minutes on the court, mostly as an undersized center.

The Lakers had a team meeting a day earlier to share frustrations and reset course after the team's play had fallen apart in recent games. Defensively, in particular, the Lakers no longer look like the side that consistently ranked in the top 10 to start the season.

The team meeting and the starting lineup switch, though, clearly did not have the desired impact for the Lakers. Six minutes into the game, the Clippers led 24-7. From there, the Lakers never truly threatened. At one point early in the third quarter, the Lakers cut the deficit to seven points, but the Clippers pushed the margin to double digits and the Lakers never threatened again.

Jordan Clarkson, who had been starting in place of injured point guard Lonzo Ball, lost his starting spot to allow Randle in. The backup guard finished with a team-high 20 points, eight assists and five rebounds in the loss. Also off the bench, Larry Nance Jr. made six of his seven shots and finished with 16 points, four rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block in only 18 minutes on the court.

"We’re not going to go into a meeting and come out and go 'Great! We're the Warriors now!' There’s none of that going on," Nance said after the game. "But, in terms of morale, in terms of togetherness, in terms of 'We're all in this as a unit, as a team and we're going to dig ourselves out it and to figure it out together,' yea, there was definitely some chemistry build and some comradery built. Especially in a rough patch in the season, there can be splintering, so that was good."

Of course, coming out of that meeting and laying an egg to start the game the next day is a tough pill to swallow for the team.

"It's a long season and right now, we're in the thick of it," Nance said. "Definitely, we're struggling."

From the Lakers' standpoint, one play summed up the night. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope drew a crowd of defenders and thought it a good idea to toss a pass off the backboard to himself. Instead, he missed the backboard and threw the ball out of bounds.

With the defeat, the Lakers dropped to 11-23 on the season, while the Clippers improved to 15-19 with the victory.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Darnold's 3 Turnovers Cost USC in Cotton Bowl]]>Sat, 30 Dec 2017 01:35:13 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/168*120/GettyImages-899656436.jpg

This was not how they drew it up.

The Trojans committed four turnovers and No. 8 USC fell to No. 5 Ohio State, 24-7, in the Cotton Bowl on Friday night in Arlington, Texas.

Sophomore standout Sam Darnold committed three of those turnovers, throwing a pick six, followed by a fumble that turned into 14 points for the Buckeyes in the second quarter.

It was evident early on that it was not the Trojans night as wide receiver Deontay Burnett fumbled the ball on the opening drive, giving Ohio State excellent field position on their first possession.

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett ran the ball in on a read option for the Buckeyes first score and Ohio State jumped out to an early lead.

After Ohio State started the second half with a field goal, they scored 10 points in 13 seconds when Darnold made an ill-advised throw on the first play of the ensuing drive, and Damon Webb took it to the house for an interception return for a touchdown. 

The 23-yard interception return for a touchdown was the first pick-six of the season for Ohio State, and it came at the best time for the Buckeyes. 

Darnold's second turnover of the game came midway through the second quarter when he was sacked by Tyquan Lewis, and lost the ball, allowing another Ohio State score by Barrett off the turnover.

Trailing 24-0, the Trojans finally got on the scoreboard following a muffed punt by K.J. Hill, and USC scored six plays later on a run by Ronald Jones II.

On the same field they won their first championship under head coach Urban Meyer three years ago, Ohio State's saved the day as they sacked Darnold eight times in the game. All four touchdowns in the game came off turnovers.

The Trojans had their chances in the second half, but a missed field goal, followed by another fumble by Darnold—this time inside the red zone—put a sour end to USC's 2017 season.

Both teams were snubbed by the college football playoff this season despite winning their conference championship. 

For many USC seniors and star players, this was the final game of their collegiate career. One of those players could be Darnold, who is projected to be the second quarterback taken in the NFL draft should he decide to turn pro. 

The Buckeyes meanwhile will see junior cornerback Denzel Ward and quarterback J.T. Barrett head to the NFL after each declared for the NFL draft earlier in the week. 



Photo Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Lakers Hold Team Meeting, Walton Explains Randle's Minutes]]>Fri, 29 Dec 2017 15:54:53 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-team-meeting-12-29-17.jpg

After losing four straight games and seven of their last eight games overall, the Los Angeles Lakers didn't need another practice. Add in that guys were banged up from playing big minutes the night before, and Lakers coach Luke Walton decided that the team needed to sit down and share frustrations and move forward as a collective unit.

"I don't know if anything got accomplished," Walton said after Friday's shootaround. "It's just good for every once in a while to get together and share your feelings."

The coach intimated that he considered burning sage like former Lakers coach Phil Jackson did to symbolically rid the team of its demons, but he went for the more traditional route on this occasion.

"We've got a young group," Walton said. "One of our biggest themes this year is getting guys to communicate more, to hold each other accountable, to hold themselves accountable, so we constantly talk about that. One way to do that is have team meetings and make guys share what they see and what they think and give them an open platform."

The coach contended that team meetings are a natural part of the NBA season unless a team is winning and downplayed the magnitude of the occurrence.

"There's some frustration, but there's frustration on every team unless you win every game. Whenever you lose games, there's frustration. People want to play more, as everybody in the league should want to play more. It's nothing. It's just normal middle of the season NBA type stuff with a team that's struggling to get wins."

In recent days, veteran center spoke about the frustration festering in the locker room and particularly spoke about the Lakers' front office creating an atmosphere where players don't necessarily know if they're coming or going, and Walton admitted that those types of topics were discussed in the meeting.

"I think everybody pitched out how we could be better as a team, how we could be more effective and how we could have each other's backs on the basketball floor and off the basketball floor," Lakers forward Brandon Ingram shared his takeaways from the meeting.

Ingram added, "I don't think we worked through it in one day, but I think we put it out there about how each guy was feeling, about how they play on the basketball floor, how they were feeling about the business of the organization, how they want to be played or anything of the nature."

Ingram made it sound like it was a positive experience: "I think they just put it all out there and ultimately I hope felt free. I did."

One won't have to wait long to see if the team meeting will have an immediate impact on the court, as the Lakers host the Clippers on Friday night at Staples Center.

Kyle Kuzma Expected to Play Friday

Lakers coach Luke Walton said that he expected his rookie forward to play on Friday night, but of course, the training staff will need to clear the 22-year-old. Kyle Kuzma finished Wendesday's game hobbled after suffering a contusion in his thigh and was officially listed as "questionable" but went through shootaround on Friday morning. He revealed that he's sore but sounded hopeful that he would be able to play. The rookie out of the University of Utah leads the Lakers in scoring at 17.8 points per game.

Julius Randle's Minutes

Lakers forward Julius Randle has had an up and down season in terms of minutes and usage, as the Lakers' dynamic backup forward/center came off an 11-minute outing against the Memphis Grizzlies after only playing eight minutes in Houston earlier this month.

On Friday morning, Walton was asked about Randle's minutes and offerred this explanation on the topic.

Q: What happened with Julius' minutes in the last game and how did he handle that?

Walton: "Julius has shown us how great he can be, and I believe in Julius and I continue to challenge him. And some nights he doesn't play big minutes, it’s because other guys are rolling. And some nights it's because it's not up to the standard he's set for himself. I want him to feel and realize the difference in those things as part of his growth as a player."

Q: Which one was it the other night (vs Memphis)?

Walton: "It was one of the two. He knows. Sometimes, it's a combination of both of those two."

Q: Does it depend on matchups?

"No, because we feel that Julius can guard everybody. There's somethings that I think Bogut does really well with some bigger players and his rebounding and his defense, his ability to give us different coverages out there. We feel confidence in Julius' ability to guard anyone in this league."

Q: When Julius has not met his personal standard, what are the common themes?

Walton: "For me, it's a lot of times, we want him running. We want him playing fast. We want him running into screens. [He's]such a dynamic roller when he does it. He collapses a defense with how he can move around the court, so those are the things we're consistently looking for him to do."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rams Revealed: John Sullivan]]>Fri, 29 Dec 2017 03:58:41 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/John_Sullivan_RR_1200x675_1125781571588.jpg

NBC LA Sports Reporter Michael J. Duarte interviews Los Angeles Rams center John Sullivan about his decision to sign with the Rams, his ability to read a defense, and the secret undercover mission he would go on with Andrew Whitworth.]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Reveal New Kobe Bryant Designed Jersey]]>Fri, 29 Dec 2017 03:46:06 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Kobe-Bryant-designs-Lakers-jerseys.png

Nine days after the Los Angeles Lakers retired both of Kobe Bryant's jersey numbers, the team announced a new uniform designed by the "Black Mamba" labeled "For the City."

So what would a jersey designed by the five-time recently retired champion look like?

Of course, the print looks like the skin of a snake, as the traditionally purple and gold team reveals its second black uniform. Back in 2013, the team began down this path with its black Hollywood Nights jerseys, which were fan and player favorites. Those jerseys were also black and had gold trim, but the lettering was in the team's traditional purple color, which the team marketed as "Forum Blue."

Bryant may have ditched the "Forum Blue," for more black inside the numbers, but he kept the gold around the numbers, neck and arms and also around the waist and down the sides of the shorts. All-in-all, Bryant designing cool looking team apparel that will likely sell in droves shouldn't come as a surprise, as his personal Nike line is extremely popular around the NBA and in the stands.

As a related note, Nike took over production of the NBA's jerseys and has decided to ditch the traditional home and away jerseys. In fact, the Lakers did not wear their traditional purple road jerseys until after Thanksgiving. The shoe and apparel brand has focused on slowly revealing new jerseys for teams at different points in the season.

For the Lakers, Bryant's return to the jersey catalogue in any capacity has to lift sales. For the 2015-16 season, which was Bryant's final season with the Lakers, the team ranked no. 3 in terms of merchandise with Bryant ranking no. 3 in jersey sales.

Only one year later by June of 2017, though, the Lakers had dropped down to no. 6 in terms of merchandise behind the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, and even the San Antonio Spurs.

For 2016-2017, the Warriors had three players ranked in the top 15 in terms of jersey sales, while the Cavaliers and Bulls each featured two players on that list. At the time, the Celtics had Isaiah Thomas made the cut, while the Spurs' Kawhi Leonard ranked no. 6 in terms of player jersey sales for the 2016-17 season.

The Lakers did not have any players ranked in the top 15 in jersey sales, and one would have to go a long way back to find a year that the Lakers did not feature one of the 15 most popular NBA jerseys. One would expect it's been over two decades.

Kyrie Irving will likely keep the Celtics high on that list, and Leonard should still be a top seller for his team, while the Bulls will likely drop out with Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler no longer in Chicago.

The Lakers, frankly, haven't had a premier jersey seller since Bryant retired, and the front office's push to get an All-Star level free agent would also likely be a welcome sight for the business side of the the team. Superstar players sell merchandise and jerseys.

Rookie Lonzo Ball is undoubtedly popular, but one should note that no rookies finished in the top 15 in jersey sales in any of the past five seasons and traditionally do not make the list. Ball may be exception considering his unique popularity, but the league has yet to announce any merchandise results for 2017-18.

For now, Bryant is still the Lakers' biggest star.

So, while the team doesn't feature any All-Stars, the Lakers and Nike giving Bryant and his team design control makes a great deal of sense for all parties involved.

Even if the jerseys don't say Bryant on the back, the fact that his signature is part of the jersey design can't hurt sales. In addition, Bryant's new jerseys also come with a new line of sweatshirts that feature the "24" on the neck of the hoodie, which was recently being sported by Larry Nance Jr. in the locker room prior to the line's release. He expressed his approval verbally to NBCLA and physically by, well, wearing the gear in the locker room before a game.

Also, the t-shirts in the line prominently feature "24" in the middle of the chest, while a $90 "Hyper Elite Long Sleeve Shooter" gold warmup features "Lakers" on the back and the "24" on the left chest. Clearly, even if Bryant's name is no longer on the back of the Lakers' jerseys, the team and Nike are working hard to capitalize on his popularity, especially in the wake of his recent jersey retirement.

For the 2017-18 NBA season, the Lakers have worn white jerseys, gold jerseys, blue "MLPS" jerseys and purple jerseys. Now, Bryant's "For the City" black jerseys have been added to catalog.



Photo Credit: Twitter/@Lakers]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Drop Fourth Straight, Lose to Grizzlies]]>Wed, 27 Dec 2017 23:07:33 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-lose-to-Grizzlies.jpg

On Wednesday night at Staples Center, the Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Memphis Grizzlies 109-99, as Tyreke Evans had a big night for the visitors with 32 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

Brandon Ingram was back following a couple games out with minor injuries in both quadriceps, and the forward finished with team-highs with 23 points and four assists, along with four rebounds. While having Ingram back was a boost for the Lakers, the forward's return could not turn the tide and stop the bleeding.

With the loss, the Lakers sufferred their fourth defeat in a row and seventh in their last eight games. The purple and gold have still not won a game at home during the month of December with only one home game remaining before the calendar flips to 2018.

Once again, the Lakers continued to shoot themselves in the foot from the foul line. Entering the night as the worst free throw shooting team in the NBA and the only NBA team shooting below 70 percent from the charity stripe, the Lakers missed 12 of their 33 free throws in the loss to the Grizzlies. Meanwhile, Memphis only attempted six more free throws than the Lakers but managed to collect an extra 13 points from the foul line.

Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma, who had been sensational in recent games, finally had an off night as heavy minutes appeared to catch up with the forward. The 22-year-old missed 20 of his 24 shots on Wednesday, including 10 of his 11 three-point attempts. In addition, the rookie appeared to take a knee and came up hobbling late in the game. However, Kuzma came in to finish the game, so one would expect he'll be ready to play on Friday night.

On the topic of rookies, the Lakers were without Lonzo Ball for the second game in a row, and LA looked like a completely different team without its starting point guard available. In particular, the Lakers struggled to get out in transition, push the pace and share the ball on Wednesday night. LA finished with only 14 assists in the game.

With the win, the Grizzlies improved to 11-24, while the Lakers fell to 11-22. Ball and starting center Brook Lopez will both be sidelined on Friday, when the Lakers host the LA Clippers for the final home game of 2017.

Notes: Lakers forward Julius Randle only played 11 minutes in the loss, as he continues to struggle for time on the court. Jordan Clarkson got the start in place of Ball for the second game in a row, and Clarkson finished with 22 points, four rebounds and two assists in 38 minutes.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Gurley, Kupp, and Whitworth Win Annual LA Rams Team Awards]]>Wed, 27 Dec 2017 19:23:20 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-898097674.jpg

And the award goes to… 

The Los Angeles Rams announced the winners of their annual team awards on Wednesday, and running back Todd Gurley, wide receiver Cooper Kupp, and left tackle Andrew Whitworth, were the recipients of awards voted on by their teammates.

Gurley received the Daniel F. Reeves Memorial Award given to the team's Most Valuable Player. The award was introduced in 1969 to honor former Rams owner Dan Reeves.

Reeves owned the Rams from 1941-71 and won World Championships in 1945 and 1951. He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1967.

Gurley leads the NFL in touchdowns with 19, and ranks first in the league in yards from scrimmage (2,093), and rushing yards (1,305). He is also the first NFL player since former Ram Marshall Faulk to have at least 2,000 yards from scrimmage, 10 or more rushing touchdowns, and at least six receiving touchdowns in a single season.

Whitworth was the recipient of the Carl Ekern Spirit of the Game Award, given to the Rams player that best exemplifies sportsmanship, ethic, and commitment to his teammates.

The award was introduced in 1990 in memory of Rams linebacker Carl Ekern who was killed in an automobile accident in 1990. Ekern exemplified these traits while starting for the Rams from 1982-88.

Despite playing his first season with the Rams in 2017, Whitworth is one of the leaders in the locker room and a mentor to young players both on and off the field.

Whitworth is a 12-year NFL veteran and was voted as one of the team's captains before the season began. Whitworth is the leader of an offensive line that has allowed just 25 sacks this season.

Kupp was the recipient of the Carroll Rosenbloom Memorial Award given to the team's best rookie.

The award was introduced in 1979 in honor of the passing of former owner Carroll Rosenbloom who became the owner of the Rams in an unprecedented franchise trade in 1972.

Kupp is one of eight rookies in 2017, and leads the team in receiving yards (869) and is second in receptions with 62. As a rookie, he's posted five receiving touchdowns, and leads all rookie receivers in the NFL in yards, first downs, and 20-plus yard receptions.

Kupp was drafted No. 69 overall in the 2017 NFL draft out of Eastern Washington University. 



Photo Credit: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rams to Rest Starters in Week 17]]>Wed, 27 Dec 2017 18:20:32 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-898114238.jpg

It's going to be a starless night sky at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum on New Year's Eve.

The Los Angeles Rams have locked up their first NFC West division title since 2003, and have guaranteed themselves a first-round home playoff game next week (Jan. 6 or 7).

The Rams are unable to earn a first round bye (by virtue of Vikings tiebreaker) by beating the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, so with either the 3rd or 4th seed guaranteed, the team has decided to rest their starters for the final game of the regular season.

"For us, everything that we do is intentional and designed to try to be best for our team and our players," said head coach Sean McVay in his media availability on Wednesday afternoon. "I think they understand that. I know sometimes people might not always agree, but when situations like this come up, we talk about it's a nice luxury to be able to have. We feel that this is the best approach for us."

Among the rested starters for the final game of the regular season are linebacker Alec Ogletree, defensive tackle Aaron Donald, quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley, center John Sullivan, offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, and linebacker Connor Barwin.

Offensive lineman Rodger Saffold is also expected to sit out the contest as he nurses an oblique injury, and wide receiver Cooper Kupp could miss the contest with a knee injury.

The decision to rest players when there's nothing to play for in the final game of the season is one that has long haunted teams and coaches in the NFL. There's no right or wrong answer, either. Some teams rest their starters, some teams play them for the entirety of the game. Others, like the New England Patriots, treat the game like a preseason game, opting to play starters for the first half or first quarter before inserting their backups. 

For example, the Jacksonville Jaguars are in a similar situation as the Rams. They have clinched the AFC South division, and the no. 3 overall seed in the AFC playoffs. Despite nothing to play for, Jaguars coach Doug Marrone has chosen to play all his starters and play to win against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday (something the Chargers are thankful for).

In the case of Gurley, the week off could hinder his MVP bid as the running back could have added to his case, following his back-to-back breakout performances in Week 15 and 16, respectively. 

Gurley became the third player in NFL history with over 2,000 yards from scrimmage, 10 or more rushing touchdowns and six or more receiving touchdowns in a single season, joining former Ram Marshall Faulk and O.J. Simpson.

However, as coach McVay mentioned, Gurley and Goff's production could be limited anyways, especially if three starters on the offensive line don't suit up for the game as expected.

Sean Mannion will start at quarterback for the Rams on Sunday, with Goff dressed and serving as the backup in an emergency.

The resting Rams give 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo the opportunity to improve to 5-0 on the season as the starting quarterback in San Francisco, and 7-0 overall to start his NFL career. 



Photo Credit: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[How to Purchase LA Rams Playoff Tickets]]>Wed, 27 Dec 2017 18:04:07 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-873362586.jpg

Yes, we're talking about playoffs.

The Rams are headed to the NFL playoffs for the first time since 2004, and the first time in Los Angeles since 1989. (The Raiders were the last LA-based NFL team to make the playoffs in 1993).

The team celebrated their first NFC West division title since 2003 in the visitor's locker room of Nissan Stadium on Sunday, as they donned their NFC West Champion shirts and hats, following a 27-23 win over the Tennessee Titans.

Now that the regular season is all but wrapped up, it's time for fans to direct their attention towards the postseason as tickets go on sale on Friday, December 29th.

Tickets were offered on Tuesday to current season ticket holders, and on Thursday will be offered to 2018 season ticket holders, and season ticket holders of the Rams new stadium in Inglewood set to open in 2020.

After all those presale tickets have been accounted for, the Rams will release the remaining tickets to the NFC Wild Card game on Friday at 10:00 AM PST.

Rams Chief Operating Office Kevin Demoff said that if the public wants to guarantee themselves playoff tickets, that they can place a deposit for 2018 season tickets or 2020 season tickets at the new stadium, and will have a presale opportunity on Thursday, Dec. 28.

The Rams will host one of four teams: The New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons or Seattle Seahawks at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum on either Saturday, January 6 or Sunday, January 7.

The NFL will announce the date and time of the playoff game following Week 17, which will also be when the Rams discover who their first round opponent will be.

Fans interested in purchasing tickets can buy them at:  therams.com/playoffs.



Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Rookie Kyle Kuzma Too Valuable to Sit Down]]>Tue, 26 Dec 2017 14:21:35 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Kyle-Kuzma-heavy-minutes-12-26-17.jpg

On Christmas, Los Angeles Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma scored 25 or more points for the fourth time in his last five games, and the former Utah Ute continued to turn heads with an impressive start to his NBA career. While Kuzma's production has been a welcome surprise for the purple and gold over the first 32 games, the Lakers still have 50 games remaining in the marathon 2017-18 NBA season.

Recently, Kuzma's minutes have crept up, as the 22-year-old has topped 40 minutes in those same four of the past five games, but Lakers coach Luke Walton explained his dilemma with the rookie following a Boxing Day practice session at the team's practice facility in El Segundo.

"I'd like to," Walton said when asked about reducing the rookie's minutes.

But how could the coach keep his top scorer and, arguably, most promising player off the court?

"You rely on other guys," Walton said. "Again, it's next man up. Hopefully, we get Brandon (Ingram) back. You know, we were playing Brandon at some backup [power forward]. Julius (Randle) and Larry (Nance Jr.) get more opportunities for sure."

Walton seemed to hesitate as he continued answering the question.

Walton added, "But at the same time, we're trying to play a certain way and win these games, and if Kuzma looks healthy, then it's tough to get him out of there. It really is. The way that he's playing, it's hard to get him off the floor. But I would like to ideally play him less than he's playing right now, as a rookie, just to keep him healthy throughout the whole season."

Effectively, the coach conceded that Kuzma is playing too well for any of the other options to take minutes away from the 220-pound forward, and the coach hinted that Ingram's return following a couple games out with minor issues in both quadriceps could help lighten the rookie's load. The "certain type of way" Walton was most likely referencing has to do with floor spacing and offering the threat of shooting outside the painted are.

Nance and Randle, seemingly, cannot steal a steady stream of minutes from Kuzma because they don't offer the type of shooting that the Flint, Michigan native brings to the game. Over his last five games, Kuzma is attempting nearly eight 3-pointers per game and making a ridiculous 56.4 percent from distance.

Meanwhile, Randle is averaging 22.3 minutes for the season, and Nance is close behind at 22.0 minutes per game and dropping, as the Ohio native is no longer starting and has only touched 30 minutes in a game once during the month of December.

Based on Walton's comments, both Nance and Randle would ideally lighten the load off Kuzma and Ingram's return will help, but the rookie is simply playing too well to sit down if the goal is to win games. Considering the Lakers do not have any incentive to tank and lose games, one expects Walton will continue to play Kuzma big minutes, especially late in games. 

Notes
Kuzma the last five games: 27.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steals in 39.8 minutes per game.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[No Lonzo, No Ingram, No Win for Lakers on Xmas]]>Mon, 25 Dec 2017 23:01:40 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-vs-Twolves-12-25-17.jpg

Down three starters, the Los Angeles Lakers faced long odds to get a Christmas night victory at STAPLES Center, but they managed to keep the game competitive and fans in their seats for the majority of the contest thanks to another stellar performance from rookie Kyle Kuzma, who became the first rookie since LeBron James to score 30 points on Christmas.

Averaging 24.5 points per game over his past six games, Kuzma finished the night with a game high 31 points, along with three rebounds and four assists in the 121-104 defeat to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

"No, not really," Kuzma said when asked about whether being the the same company as James carried meaning.

After being pressed, Kuzma added, "Of course its cool, but at the same time I expect to do all of this, I work hard, I feel like I should be doing all of this, so its not like a surprising type feel, but it’s definitely cool to reach milestones and what not"

Per Lakers PR, Kuzma's 31-point outing made him the fourth highest scoring rookie on the December holiday behind only James (34 points), Bill Cartwright (33 points) and Patrick Ewing (32 points).

Karl-Anthony Towns, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler led the visitors offensively, with all three of the Timberwolves' starts scored over 20 points in the win. Butler and Gibson each scored 23 points, while Towns scored 21 points in the win.

The Lakers could not slow down Minnesota offensively, as the Timberwovles finished with four different players scoring 19 or more points. Kuzma was the only Laker to top that modest mark to show the dropoff for the home team.

In addition, the Timberwovles shot 58.3 percent from the field, which was notably higher than the Lakers' 43.5 percent. 

With Lonzo Ball out, Jordan Clarkson got the start at point guard and managed 17 points, seven assists and six rebounds in the defeat, while rookie Josh Hart contribed 12 points, six rebounds and two assists deputizing for Brandon Ingram.

"We're not getting blown out by nobody [sic]," Clarkson said he thought the Lakers were in a better spot than the previous year's team, which also had an 11-21 record after 32 games. "I think the score tonight wasn't indicitive of how the game flowed, but I feel like we're right there competing every night."

Off the bench, Julius Randle scored 16 points and pulled down seven rebounds in only 19 minutes on the court, as the backup forward/center continues to struggle for regular minutes with Lakers coach Luke Walton juggling big bodies like Larry Nance Jr. and Andrew Bogut.

When eyeing the talent on the floor for Minnesota versus the talent available for LA, it was a Christmas miracle that the Lakers kept the game close for three quarters and even managed to take a one-point lead early in the fourth quarter.

The Timberwolves promptly spit off a 13-0 run and outscored the Lakers 38-24 in the fourth quarter to finish with the lopsided 17-point victory, which was also the visitors' largest lead of the night.

In the end, the Lakers lost, and this turned out to be the sixth loss in the past seven games for the purple and gold. Next, the Lakers host the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[LA Rams: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas']]>Sun, 24 Dec 2017 19:57:10 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-898124612.jpg

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the field
Not a Titan was stirring, not even Marcus Mariota's shield.
The Rams had arrived by a plane with care,
In hopes that a NFC West Crown soon would be there;

The Rams were nestled in huddles and threads,
While visions of the playoffs danced in their heads;
And Jared Goff in his helmet, and Gurley in his pads,
Had just told their teammates, 'Let's win Lads!'

When out on the field, there arose such a clatter,
Fans across the country arose to see what was the matter.
It was the Rams new kicker, he missed left and right,
So fans and players knew, they were in for a long night.

The sun on the breast of the freshly cut field,
Was evidence enough that one team must yield.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But an 80-yard touchdown that saw Gurley reach top gear.

With the youngest head coach in the NFL, so lively and play,
I knew in a moment it must be Sean McVay.
His protégé, more accurate than Mariota, as his passes they came,
As they whistled by defenders, receivers shouted his name;

"Goff! I'm Open! Throw it now! We'll score!
Said Woods, and Watkins, and Cupp Galore!
From beyond the 50! To inside the red zone!
Touchdown after touchdown was thrown!"

Four in total as the offense it roared,
Even the mighty defense almost scored.
So up the NFC West to their first division title they flew,
The first since 2003, to accomplish that too.

The final score, 27-23, read the board,
The Rams had now become, an unstoppable horde.
They celebrated on the field, with smiles all around.
Back to Los Angeles for Christmas they soon would be bound.

McVay the youngest in history to win the NFC West,
The youngest since Madden, who was one of the best.
"One more game!" He said with a 'woo!"
Maybe even a first-round bye for the yellow and blue.

A new franchise record for points (250) they scored on the road,
and a force to be reckoned with to the NFL they showed.
So on to the playoffs for the Rams, how merry!
For many of these players, uncharted territory, how scary!

So off to the Nashville airport they went with a flash,
Escorted by the police to make sure they didn't crash.
As the plane took off, and flew out a sight,
I heard the Rams yell, "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rams clinch 1st NFC West title since '03]]>Sun, 24 Dec 2017 18:50:47 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-898124618.jpg

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams and first-year coach Sean McVay saved the real celebration for the locker room.

That's where McVay, the youngest coach in modern NFL history, channeled wrestler Ric Flair after the Rams clinched the franchise's first NFC West title since 2003 by beating the Tennessee Titans 27-23 on Sunday.

"When you find a way to come on the road and finish up your road record 7-1 and win a division title, there's only one thing you can say. Woooo! One more: Woooo!" McVay said before giving the Rams off until Wednesday.

Los Angeles trailed 23-20 before Jared Goff threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp with 11:41 left. The Rams (11-4), who came in needing a win or a loss by Seattle to secure the division, took care of business themselves, with Todd Gurley II and Goff leading the way again.

Gurley bolstered his argument for NFL MVP with 118 yards rushing and 158 yards receiving with two TDs, including a screen he took 80 yards for the longest reception of his career. He became only the third in NFL history to put together such a performance in the same game, joining Ollie Matson (1954) and Herschel Walker (1986). Goff finished with four touchdowns and 301 yards passing.

"He is in my book," Goff said, vouching for Gurley for MVP. "If there's anyone out there that's a running back that deserves it, he's the guy."

Gurley finished the game with two receiving touchdowns, giving him 19 on the season, a new Rams franchise record.

Gurley's 80-yard touchdown catch and run in the second quarter was the longest by a running back in franchise history, surpassing Marshall Faulk in 2000.

The Titans (8-7) lost their third straight game, damaging their chances of ending their own playoff drought stretching to 2008. The loss handed the AFC South title to the Jaguars, and Tennessee hosts Jacksonville in the regular-season finale needing a win to reach the postseason.

"We still have an opportunity to get into the playoffs, and that is the next objective," coach Mike Mularkey said.

The Titans had the ball and a chance to win late in the game. On fourth-and-4 at the Rams 44, Marcus Mariota rolled right and chucked the ball incomplete under pressure from Connor Barwin.

The Rams ran out the final 1:35 for their second straight victory and fourth in five games.

Head coach Sean McVay became the youngest head coach in NFL history to make the playoffs, and surpassed John Madden's record as the youngest head coach in the NFL to win their division. Madden was 34 years old when the Raiders won the AFC West in 1970.

The Rams finished the season 7-1 on the road, and set a new franchise record for most points scored on the road in a single season with 250. 

OFFENSIVE STRUGGLES

The Titans' penchant for settling for field goals was costly once again. They had four trips inside the Rams 20 and scored only one offensive TD on DeMarco Murray's 6-yard run. Ryan Succop kicked three field goals and missed a 45-yarder wide right. Linebacker Wesley Woodyard scored Tennessee's first defensive TD of the season on a 4-yard fumble return.

MISSING ZUERLEIN

Greg Zuerlein was placed on injured reserve Wednesday, and the Rams really missed their Pro Bowl kicker. Instead of letting Sam Ficken kick with Los Angeles at the Titans 32 on their opening drive, the Rams picked up a delay of game penalty the Titans declined. Then punter Johnny Hekker's pass intended for Michael Thomas was batted down. Ficken also missed his first point after attempt.

When the Rams turned first-and-goal at the Titans 7 into fourth-and-18, McVay sent Ficken out for a 36-yard field-goal try. The kick bounced off the right upright no good.

ONSIDE CONFUSION

It looked as if the Rams benefited from a confusing sequence in the third quarter. After Murray scored on a 6-yard run, the Titans recovered an onside kick. Succop said the official signaled live ball, so he tried the onside kick to steal a possession. But officials threw a flag, and referee Walt Anderson announced the Rams took their first timeout just before kickoff. Then he announced there was no timeout because the ball had not been put in play. Then he said, "First down." The Titans kicked deep on the next try.

MORE TURNOVERS

The Rams forced a turnover on the opening drive for the eighth time this season. Linebacker Cory Littleton, starting with Mark Barron scratched, intercepted Mariota on the Titans' second play from scrimmage.

INJURIES

Rams left guard Rodger Saffold hurt his ribs late in the game, and Rams safety Marqui Christian hurt a shoulder.

Murray was helped to the sideline with 2:23 left with an injured right knee. Mularkey said Murray will have an MRI exam, but it doesn't look good.

UP NEXT

Rams: Host 49ers on Sunday.

Titans: Host Jaguars on Sunday.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chargers Have Record-Setting Day On The Road]]>Sun, 24 Dec 2017 17:35:00 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/172*120/12.24.17_Anotion-Gates-Chargers.jpg

Not only did the Los Angeles Chargers pull off a narrow 14-7 victory over the New York Jets Sunday, they also kept their playoff hopes alive with the win and the Bills' and Titans' losses.

Several Chargers players set records on Sunday that were extremely important.

In the second quarter, quarterback Philip Rivers found Antonio Gates on a 3-yard pass in the end zone for the touchdown. It was the 114th touchdown catch of Gates' career, but his just third of the season. It's also the 87th time that Rivers and Gates have connected in the end zone.

In the second half, running back Melvin Gordon not only scored his eighth touchdown of the season, and also became a 1,000-yard rusher for the first time in his three-year career. Gordon currently has 1,012 yards rushing with one game remaining against the Oakland Raiders.

It is the first time the Bolts had a 1,000-yard rusher in Gordon and a 1,000 yard receiver in Keenan Allen (1,250) since 2013. Former Bolts running back Ryan Mathews (1,255 rushing yards) and rookie Allen (1,046 yards) were the last combo to achieve this milestone.

Quarterback Philip Rivers completed 22-of-40 passes for 290 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's victory. Rivers passed for 4,000 yards on the season for the ninth time in his illustrious career. He's only the fourth quarterback to ever accomplish that milestone in the NFL.

If Los Angeles is fortunate enough to make the post season, this is truly a Hollywood script, or a future "30-For-30" documentary.

The Chargers finish the regular season against AFC West opponent Oakland Raiders at Stubhub Center next weekend. Kickoff is on Sunday, Dec. 31 at 1:25 p.m. PT on CBS.




Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Chargers Remain Alive for Postseason In Win Against Jets]]>Sun, 24 Dec 2017 14:46:20 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-898089064.jpg

On 4th down in the final quarter, New York Jets quarterback Bryce Petty decided to throw the ball toward Robby Anderson in the end zone, and was broken up by Pro-Bowl cornerback Casey Hayward. That play broke the spirit of the Jets as the Los Angeles Chargers held on for the 14-7 win at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on Sunday afternoon.

If the Kansas City Chiefs win one more game, the Chargers cannot win the AFC West. And the only way Los Angeles can get a wild card spot is if the Ravens (8-6) or Titans (8-6) get the No. 5 seed, the other loses both their remaining games to finish 8-8, and the Chargers finish tied with the Bills for the No. 6 seed at 9-7, because they beat the Bills in Week 11.

Chargers tight end Hunter Henry, the team's third-leading receiver with 579 yards and four touchdowns, was placed on injured reserve Tuesday because of a lacerated kidney suffered against the Chiefs. Running back Austin Ekeler broke his hand and was out of action. The Bolts were without middle linebacker Denzel Perryman with a hamstring tendon strain, and Corey Liguet.

After a lethargic start by both the Chargers' and Jets' offenses, Los Angeles finally found their rhythm in the second quarter when Philip Rivers connected with Antonio Gates for a huge 27-yard catch for a first down. The Bolts caught a break when Rivers threw a pass for Tyrell Williams in the end zone, but couldn't hold on due to a pass interference penalty.

Two plays later, Rivers found Gates for the 3-yard touchdown catch and the 7-0 lead. That's the 114th touchdown catch of Gates' career, but his just third of the season. It's also the 87th time that Rivers and Gates have connected in the end zone.

The Jets offense gets off of life support as Bilal Powell ran thought the holes and outran every Chargers opponent for a 57-yard touchdown. That tied the game 7-7 early in the third quarter.

C. Jonathan Harrison started his first game for the Jets, and provided protection the entire way for Powell down the sidelines to the end zone.

Rivers answered quickly as he spread the ball around to Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen and Sean McGrath, who caught an imperative pass near the 2-yard line. Next play, Gordon spun around for the one-yard touchdown and the 14-7 lead. Gordon scored his 8th touchdown of the season. On the next drive Gordon had a 7-yard run that gave him over 1,000 yards rushing, the first time the Bolts had a 1,000 yard rusher in Gordon and a 1,000 yard receiver in Allen since 2013.

Bryce Petty overcame a horrible first half and made sure that he beat the Chargers with his legs, since his arm wasn't getting the job done in the second half. Two solid runs by Petty kept the Jets offensive drive alive in the final quarter. The Jets didn't enter the red zone until midway through the fourth quarter, which spoke well for the Chargers defense all afternoon.

The Chargers remain alive in the playoff hunt due to the Los Angeles Rams victory over the Tennessee Titans, and the New England Patriots victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

Philip Rivers completed 22-of-40 passes for 290 yards and a touchdown. Rivers passed 4,000 yards on the season for the ninth time in his illustrious career. He's only the fourth quarterback to ever accomplish that milestone.

Running back Melvin Gordon currently has 1,012 yards on the season, and left the game late in the fourth quarter with a mild left ankle injury. Gordon is expected to be available for the Dec. 31 showdown against the Oakland Raiders at Stub Hub Center.

"He'll be listed a day-to-day; it's an injury that he's nursed all week," Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said on the status of Gordon this coming week. "It's an ankle he was dealing with all (last) week."

Byrce Petty completed 15-of-28 passes for 119 yards and one interception. Petty was also sacked three times in the loss to the Chargers. Running back Bilal Powell finished with 19 carries for 145 yards and a touchdown on Sunday.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Coach Frustrated With Refs Following Loss]]>Sat, 23 Dec 2017 22:59:00 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-frustrated-officials-Luke-Walton.jpg

On Saturday night, the Los Angeles Lakers lost yet another close contest, 95-92, to the Portland Trial Blazers, and this time, Lakers coach Luke Walton could no longer bite his tongue.

As he was answering his first question during his postgame press conference, Walton paused as if to decide whether he should finally say what was on his mind and accept the likely financial fine that would come with it.

"It's funny," Walton started out. "Every night, I learn about new rules about what's a foul, what's not a foul."

The frustrated coach rambled somewhat incoherently for a moment about the technicality of a defensive blocking foul, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope not getting a couple calls, James Harden marching to the foul line every time a Laker sneezed on him and Lonzo Ball having his "shoulder ripped" before he got to the point he was attempting to make.

"It's frustrating," Walton said. "We're trying to teach this young team how to play and what to do and do it properly, and it just feels like every night, it's a different excuse on why we're not getting calls."

Walton did not put all the blame of Saturday's loss or the other recent close defeats on officiating alone, but clearly, the issue had boiled to a point that he felt he needed to address it publicly, even if his comments will likely bring a hefty fine from the NBA's league office.

Of course, the experienced response to Walton's comments is that he's coaching a team of young players, and referees have a reputation of swallowing their whistles when rookies are the players getting fouled. On Saturday, the Lakers started three rookies, and one of the plays that frustrated Walton was a non-call on rookie Kyle Kuzma that would have given the forward three free throws with the Lakers leading by a point late in a close ball game.

"Some of it, yea," Walton said when asked if the lack of calls had to do with rookies simply not getting calls. "But then, I was told in Golden State that [the referees] don't look at names on jerseys. They only call what they see. So, if that's the case, that shouldn't be an excuse for it. So, I don't know."

Walton added, "I'm getting different answers every night."

Lakers Frustrated By More Than Officials

After a brutal stretch of games, the Lakers started a four-game home stand on Saturday with a tough loss to Portland. With the defeat, the Lakers fell to 11-20 on the season and have now lost five of their last six games. Saturday's loss seemed to sting a bit more than the others, as the Lakers faced a Blazers team that was without Damian Lillard.

Even with Brandon Ingram sitting out for the Lakers, LA had a great opportunity to get a victory. After the game, Walton said that something felt off and that the energy didn't feel right for his team. He said his guys seemed like they were "pouting" and wasn't sure exactly why that was the case.

Asked about the team pouting after the game, veteran center Andrew Bogut offered his opinion on what was going on.

"Guys are frustrated," Bogut stated the obvious. "There’s [sic] some injuries right now. There’s [sic] different rotations. So, guys are frustrated obviously. You’d be lying to say that there are guys that are not frustrated on this team."

Then, Bogut pulled the curtains back and shared a bit of insight into the psychology of the Lakers' young team playing in front of a backdrop of a major free agency shakeup coming in the upcoming offseason, based on the front office's public comments.

"Everyone knows what’s going on with the salary cap situation next season and all that," Bogut said. "They’re distractions that we can’t let affect us. That’s part of this league. They’re the business decisions that front offices and coaches make. So, if that’s distracting guys, it’s going to be like that your whole career. That’s just the nature of this league."

Asked if the players talk about the front office's public statements about saving salary cap space and chasing top level free agents in the summer of 2018, Bogut confirmed that the topic comes up from time to time.

"We make light of it," Bogut said. "We have a laugh about it. You just can't let it affect you. It's hard to tell young guys, 18, 19, 20 (years old), that comes [sic] from a great college environment which is usually great cultures that are built on team first and then you come into a situation like this sometimes where kind of guys don't know if they're coming or going."

Bogut added, "That's just the way it is in professional sports. You just have to come in and do the job to the best of your ability."

Bogut, though, did not put Saturday's defeat on any one player: "Tonight, as a collective group, not just one guy, we didn't have that energy and focus."

Next, the Lakers play on Christmas night against the Minnesota Timberwolves.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[UCLA Players in Shoplifting Scandal Suspended Through Season]]>Sat, 23 Dec 2017 14:51:17 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/ucla-basketball-hill-riley.jpg

Two freshman UCLA basketball players who were arrested for shoplifting in China will remain suspended through the remainder of the 2017-18 season, the university announced.

Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were initially suspended "indefinitely" pending the outcome of the university's disciplinary process. UCLA officials said the decision to suspend them for the balance of the season "operates in conjunction" with the results of that disciplinary process, the outcome of which will remain confidential.

A third player who was arrested, LiAngelo Ball, previously withdrew from UCLA. Ball is the younger brother of former Bruin and current Laker Lonzo Ball.

Hill and Riley will not be permitted to travel with the team or suit up for home games, but they will be permitted to attend team meetings and take part in practices beginning Tuesday.

"Cody and Jalen are a part of our basketball and university families, and we will continue to support them as they serve their suspensions," head coach Steve Alford said. "Since returning from China, they have done everything asked of them and continued to work hard in the classroom and in their own personal workouts.

"I've told our players all along that actions have consequences, and the season-long suspension shows how seriously we take their misconduct," he said. "Though they will not suit up for games or travel with the team, I look forward to their return after the Christmas holiday. I am confident they will make significant contributions to the university moving forward."

UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said the players' actions "were contrary to the values of UCLA" and harmful to the university and basketball program.

"As members of the Bruin family, it is our responsibility to help them grow from this situation," he said. "We will continue to support them as students, as athletes and as young men, and we hope that they will use this as a learning experience."

The three players were arrested while the team was on a trip to China for a season-opening game against Georgia Tech. They remained at the team's hotel in China until the case was resolved, with President Donald Trump saying he discussed the situation with Chinese President Xi Jinping.



Photo Credit: UCLA Athletics]]>
<![CDATA[Durant Scores 33 Vs. Lakers, Says Kuzma 'Is a Problem']]>Sat, 23 Dec 2017 01:22:10 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/212*120/Kyle-Kuzma-Lakers-Warriors-Durant.jpg

On Friday night at Oracle Arena, the Golden State Warriors led by as many as 23 points and looked ready to run away with a feel-good blow out home victory to claim the NBA's best record and the team's 11th straight victory.

Though the Warriors would eventually claim a 113-106 victory, with Kevin Durant getting the on-court postgame television interview with a game-high 33 points, along with seven assists and seven rebounds, this game was anything but an easy practice session for the Warriors.

"Kuzma should have been a lottery pick," Durant said about Lakers' rookie Kyle Kuzma in that postgame ESPN interview. "Kuz is a problem. I like him."

The 22-year-old rookie out of the University of Utah scored 27 points and pulled down 14 rebounds in the loss. Friday's game brought Kuzma's streak of 20-point games to four, including a 38-point outburst in Houston on Wednesday.

"He's shown maturity," Lakers coach Luke Walton said about Kuzma's development in the Lakers' recent brutal schedule of games on Spectrum SportsNet after the game. "He's just a great competitor. And I think that's why he's had these great nights. Obviously, more minutes, more opportunities in that starting lineup and he's taken full advantage of that. Give him credit."

The rookie's ability to score helped get the Lakers get back into the game, as LA erased Golden State's advantage and even took a one-point lead in the fourth quarter.

Along with Kuzma, fellow rookie Lonzo Ball put forth his second highest point total as a professional. The 20-year-old former UCLA Bruin scored 24 points and made five of his six three-point attempts on the night, to go along with five assists and five rebounds. Over his past five games, Ball is shooting 47 percent from three-point land, as the rookie appears to have rebounded from his poor shooting start.

With three minutes remaining, the Lakers and Warriors were only separated by two points. A couple questionable calls, a hurried shot, and Durant playing for the Warriors resulted in the Lakers failing to claim a victory on Friday night.

This was the third close loss to the Warriors in the 2017-18 season. The previous two defeats had come in overtime at Staples Center. The final meeting between the two Pacific Division foes is set for Mar. 14, 2018 at Oracle Arena.

Given an extra three months of NBA experience, Ball and Kuzma could be even more of a problem for the Warriors the next time these two teams meet.

Kenavious Caldwell-Pope Back Starting

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who missed Wednesday's game due to a court order than requires him not to leave the state of California in connection with a March DUI while he was a member of the Detroit Pistons, returned to the starting lineup. On Spectrum SportsNet, Lakers coach Luke Walton said Caldwell-Pope clearly seemed to be affected by his legal status. The Lakers' starting shooting guard went 1-10 from three-point land and missed numerous open shots that he normally makes.

Julius Randle Gets Minutes

Julius Randle scored 21 points in 24 minutes after only playing eight minutes in Houston. Randle also had 10 rebounds, two steals, a block and an assist in Golden State. Randle even his two of his three 3-point attempts. He played a vital role in the Lakers' second-half comeback.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rams Revealed: Tanzel Smart]]>Thu, 21 Dec 2017 05:32:01 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/205*120/Tanzel+Smart+Rams+Revealed.png

NBC LA Sports Reporter Michael J. Duarte interviews Los Angeles Rams rookie defensive tackle, Tanzel Smart, about playing alongside Aaron Donald, growing up in Baton Rouge, and what he wants to do after his playing career is done.

Photo Credit: Michael Duarte]]>
<![CDATA[Kyle Kuzma Scores Career-High 38 points, Lakers Beat Rockets]]>Wed, 20 Dec 2017 20:35:20 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Rockets-Kyle-Kuzma.jpg

On Wednesday night, the Los Angeles Lakers went to Houston to face a Rockets team that had won 14 games in a row and won 21 of its last 22 games, and LA was without its starting shooting guard and its starting center. Added to that, James Harden scored 51 points.

Still, the Lakers won, 122-116, inspired by a career-high 38 points from rookie Kyle Kuzma and 21 points from Corey Brewer off the bench.

Kuzma made his first nine shots of the night, scoring 16 points in the first quarter alone, as the Lakers took a short-lived 22-point lead in the first half. However, Harden led the Rockets in a predictable comeback and Houston tasted the lead before three minutes had elapsed in the second half.

With Brook Lopez expected to miss three weeks with an ankle sprain, Lakers coach Luke Walton inserted veteran center Andrew Bogut into the starting lineup and switched Kuzma in for Larry Nance Jr. Also, Walton put in rookie Josh Hart in place of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who is unable to leave California due to a temporary court order. Nance is a solid defender and rebounder, but Bogut's addition required more offensive balance, which Kuzma provides. Kuzma is a three-point shooting threat able to space the floor and provide more offensive production than the former Wyoming Cowboy.

On the night, Kuzma hit 7-10 from three-point land, making him the only rookie in the NBA to make seven three-pointers in the 2017-18 NBA season thus far. Overall, the 22-year-old out of the University of Utah made 12 of his 17 shot attempts and also snagged seven rebounds and four assists in the victory.

Brewer, who joined the Lakers in a trade with Houston at the tail-end of the 2016-17 season, stepped up to put in a performance worthy of the title of "revenge game." Brewer finished as the second leading scorer on the Lakers with 21 points on 7-9 shooting, five rebounds, three steals and an assist in 25 minutes. He would have finished the game for Walton, but Brewer fouled out with 1:02 remaining in the contest and the Lakers leading by nine points.

The Rockets did cut the Lakers' lead down to six points in that final minute and made it an interesting finish, but LA managed to hold on and collect a deserved victory over the team that holds the best record in the NBA.

Along with Kuzma's special night, the Lakers uncharacteristically took care of the basketball and only committed six turnovers over the first three quarters of the game. They eventually finished with 10 turnovers on the night, but even that number was well below their season average.

Had LA been able to hit foul shots, the Rockets would likely have stood no chance. The Lakers missed 16 free throws on the night, as seven of the eight Lakers to step up to the charity stripe on the night missed at least one free throw. Bogut stood apart from his fellow Lakers as the only Laker to not clank a foul shot in Houston.

Of course, Harden's 51 points, nine assists and three rebounds helped keep Houston in the game, but Houston was hampered by an injury to Chris Paul. Paul left the game in the second half with a sore leg. The veteran point guard scored eight points and had five assists and five rebounds in 25 minutes on the court, but the long time LA Clipper has a habit of getting points in the fourth quarter, when points are at a premium.

Regardless, the Lakers earned the victory with Kuzma acting as the leading man deserving of any accolades coming his way. On a night when Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball combined to shoot 9-29 and Jordan Clarkson only made two of his 10 shot attempts, Kuzma and Brewer stepped up to carry the Lakers to an unexpected victory.

Next, the Lakers will look to shock the world again when they face the world champion Golden State Warriors on Friday night in Oakland.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[LA Rams Greg Zuerlein Placed on IR]]>Wed, 20 Dec 2017 16:54:55 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*125/GettyImages-894373206.jpg

"Legatron" has been shut down.

The Los Angeles Rams Super Bowl chances took a hit on Wednesday, as the team announced that Pro-Bowl kicker Greg "Legatron" Zuerlein, was being placed on injured reserve with a back injury, effectively ending his season.

According to Rams head coach Sean McVay, Zuerlein has been dealing with a herniated disc in his back throughout the season, but on Saturday night, while sleeping at the team hotel in Seattle, Zuerlein re-aggravated the injury and could barely get out of bed Sunday morning, let alone walk.

McVay was told about Zuerlein's condition before kickoff, and said that punter Johnny Hekker was prepared to be the emergency field goal kicker, with Cooper Kupp being the holder. 

However, just hours before the game, Zuerlein said he would give it a go, and played injured during the team's  42-7 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. 

The hope was that Zuerlein would be better by Monday or Tuesday, and the team had planned to sign another kicker, giving Zuerlein a week to rest, but doctors told the Pro-Bowler he would need to undergo surgery.

Rams COO Kevin Demoff told NBC LA that the team worked out 10 different kickers at the practice facility located on the campus of Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, CA on Wednesday. One of those kickers was former Chargers kickers Younghoe Koo and Travis Coons, who was released by the Chargers on Monday.

The team announced late Wednesday afternoon that in place of Zuerlein, they signed former Penn State kicker Sam Ficken, despite the fact that he's never attempted a field goal in an NFL game.

Ficken went undrafted in 2015, but signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars before the 2016 season. He was waived before the season officially began, and signed by the Kansas City Chiefs before this season after an injury to Cairo Santos.

However, Santos recovered from his injury in time and Ficken was released by the Chiefs. He will now be the Rams primary kicker for the duration of the regular season and the postseason.


Zuerlein, was named to his first ever Pro Bowl on Tuesday, and was on a historic pace this season, converting 38 of 40 field goals on the season and 44 of 46 extra points. 

UPDATE: Zuerlein will undergo back surgery performed by Robert Watkins on Thursday and is expected to be out until Training Camp in 2018. 



Photo Credit: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Last Minute Gift Ideas For Dodger Fans]]>Wed, 20 Dec 2017 04:38:22 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/172*120/GettyImages-142644723.jpg

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

In less than a week, the big Holiday will be upon us, and if you're like most Americans, you might have procrastinated a bit on your holiday shopping. Fear not, whether it's a gift for mom, dad, your significant other, or just a friend, we have the best last-minute gift ideas for the Dodger fan you're shopping for.

Tickets:

What does the Dodger fan want most for Christmas? Why tickets of course! If you're running late on time, purchasing mini plans for the 2018 season could be the best gift idea of the holiday season. The Dodgers are currently offering holiday specials on mini plans for as low as $15 per ticket. Not only is this a great idea, but it's the gift that keeps on giving, as you and the recipient will have something to look forward to next year. Who knows, they might even take you with them to the game. 

Jerseys: 

The future is bright for the Boys in Blue! After advancing to their first World Series since 1988, the Dodgers are ready to win it all in 2018, and have a young nucleus of stars that should be with the team for years to come. With that said, nothing says Merry Christmas like a Dodger jersey featuring your favorite player. Whether it's Clayton Kershaw, Yasiel Puig, Cody Bellinger, or more, they all can be found here.

Stadium Tours:

Dodger Stadium is one of the most historic stadiums in all of Major League Baseball. Located atop Chavez Ravine, the stadium overlooks downtown Los Angeles, Glendale, and Hollywood. What better gift for the Dodger fan in the family then a tour around the third oldest stadium in the league. Also, for a limited time, Dodger Stadium is playing host to a pop-up museum that showcases 60 years of Dodger baseball in Los Angeles.

Dodgers Sneakers:

For the sneaker head in the family, grab these collectible sneakers.

World Series Metal Print Poster:

The 2017 Dodgers' season was one for the ages, and what better way to look back on it, then with a historic 2017 World Series Print.

The 2017 Fall Classic between the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers was one of the best series in recent memory, and now, thanks to photographer Chris Fabregas, you can always remember the series fondly with these limited edition photographs of Dodger Stadium during Game 7 of the World Series.

Fans can purchase a fine art metal print, or a 12" x36" poster that is sure to bring your home to life with flashbacks of the Fall Classic. The photographs are on sale now, and available at cfabmedia.com.

 

Gift Cards:

Can't figure out what to buy the Dodger fan in your family? Well, let them choose for themselves with a Dodgers gift card for anything they want from MLBshop.com. Gift certificates are available online, or physical gift cards can be mailed to you before Christmas.

Spring Training Tickets:

The Dodgers announced the reporting dates for players for Spring Training on Tuesday, and baseball will be back at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, AZ as soon as February 13, 2018.

For the Dodger fan who hasn't made the trip to Spring Training, now might be the year—on the heels of the first World Series appearance in 30 years—to give the gift of the Spring Training Experience.

Stocking Stuffers:

If you're looking for small gift ideas for Dodger fans, the Top of the Park store and MLBshop.com has the perfect stocking stuffer items for you. Everything from wallets, license plates, earrings, wine glasses, key chains, watches, fidget spinners, neckties and more, is available on the store for $20 or less. 



Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rams Have Five Pro-Bowl Players ]]>Wed, 20 Dec 2017 03:47:27 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-508227254.jpg

Now that deserves a high five.

The National Football League announced the rosters for the 2018 Pro Bowl on Tuesday, and the hometown Rams landed five players on the roster, the team's highest output since 2003.

Ironically, 2003 was the last time the Rams had a winning season, and it's no coincidence that their 10-4 record, and first place position in the NFC West were determining factors in the roster choices.

Among the five selections were punter Johnny Hekker, kicker Greg Zuerlein, punt and kick returner Pharoh Cooper, defensive tackle Aaron Donald, and running back Todd Gurley.

"The presence of five of our players on the Pro Bowl roster is a testament to the collective effort of our team," said Rams first year head coach Sean McVay. "While we emphasize football as a team sport, we appreciate their individual contributions to our overall success. We're extremely proud of them, and it's great to see other players, coaches and fans recognize their achievements as well."

Cooper and Zuerlein were selected for the first time in their careers, Gurley for the second time in his three-year career, and Hekker and Donald will be heading to the Pro-Bowl for the fourth time in their careers.

In addition to the five selections, the NFL also announced that quarterback Jared Goff, offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, and cornerback Trumaine Johnson were Pro Bowl alternates.

In the NFC, only the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles had more Pro Bowl selections than the Rams with six players. The Pro Bowl will take place in Orlando, FL on January 28, 2018 at 3:00PM EST at Camping World Arena. It will be televised on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and simulcast on ABC.

For tickets, visit: www.VisitOrlando.com/ProBowl.



Photo Credit: Kent Nishimura/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kobe Bryant Retires No. 8 and No. 24 With The Lakers]]>Tue, 19 Dec 2017 23:04:41 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/166*120/Kobe-Bryant-jerseys-retirement-ceremony-1.jpgLos Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant has his No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys retired and became the first NBA player to have both his jerseys retired by the same team.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Charger's Hunter Henry Placed on IR for Rest of Season]]>Tue, 19 Dec 2017 20:02:22 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*121/3rd+cowboys+game+%2821%29.jpg

Not only did the Los Angeles Chargers suffer a 30-13 loss at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday, but they also lost their top-notch tight end.

The Bolts lost Hunter Henry due to a laceration of the kidney. On Tuesday Henry was placed on Reserved /Injury list.

He suffered the injury early in the fourth quarter in Kansas City. The second-year tight end finishes his season with 45 receptions for 611 yards and four touchdowns.

In 19 career games, he has 81 receptions for 1,059 yards and 12 touchdowns. Henry is currently tied with running back Melvin Gordon for second on the Bolts in receiving touchdowns.

The Chargers will move on without Henry to face the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 24.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Four Los Angeles Chargers Named to 2018 Pro Bowl]]>Tue, 19 Dec 2017 20:02:46 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/172*120/AP_173511826968861.jpg

On Tuesday, the league announced the 2018 Pro Bowl roster, that included four Los Angeles Chargers to represent the AFC. The Bolts will be represented by DE Joey Bosa, QB Philip Rivers, CB Casey Hayward, and WR Keenan Allen.

"It’s always an honor to be selected," Rivers told reporters. "Knowing that opposing coaches and players vote you in, it’s meaningful."

The seven time Pro Bowler led the Bolts to the leagues third-ranked passing offense. Rivers completed 310-of-498 attempts for 3,838 yards with 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for a 93.8 QBR.

"I’m so excited for Keenan, Joey and Phil," Casey Hayward said. "This team and organization is pulling in the right direction. To be a good team in this league, you’ve got to have good Pro Bowl and Hall of Fame-type players. We have two Hall of Fame players, and now we’ve got four Pro Bowlers this year."

Hayward ranks seventh in the NFL with four interceptions. He leads a secondary that has not given up a single 100-yard receiver all season.

Bosa's motor remains in high gear as he totaled 61 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks and four forced fumbles over the first 14 games of the season. His 11.5 sacks rank fifth in the NFL and second in AFC. He also finished first in fan voting for AFC defensive ends.

Allen caps off a dynamic season, receiving his first Pro-Bowl call coming off missing the 2016 season due to injury. He's caught 88 passes this season for 1,197 yards and five touchdowns, setting new career highs for receptions and yards in a single season. His 88 catches are tied for fifth-most in a single season in Chargers history. Allen became the first player in NFL history to catch at least 10 passes, record at least 100 yards and notch at least one touchdown reception in three straight games.

Four other Chargers were named Pro Bowl alternates, including DE Melvin Ingram, RB Melvin Gordon, OT Russell Okung, and DT Corey Liuget.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Center Brook Lopez Out Three Weeks]]>Tue, 19 Dec 2017 12:58:09 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Brook-Lopez-ankle-injury.jpg

On Tuesday, an MRI revealed a moderate right ankle sprain for Los Angeles Lakers center Brook Lopez after he landed on Kevin Durant's foot during the Los Angeles Lakers' 116-114 overtime loss to the Golden State Warriors.

Lopez did not play the entire second half or the overtime session of Monday's game, though initial x-rays came back negative. As such, Lopez did not suffer a fracture. The MRI results, though, confirmed the gravity of the sprain after Lopez left STAPLES Center on crutches.

The Lakers stated that Lopez will be reevaluated after three weeks, which points to the center missing a minimum of 12 games due to the injury.

The Lakers have two young centers that can gain experience with Lopez out. Rookie Thomas Bryant is a 20-year-old rookie that exudes energy and shoots three-pointers. He's been turning heads with the South Bay Lakers and is currently with the parent squad on its two-game trip to Houston and Golden State.

Also, the team has 20-year-old Ivica Zubac, who is in his second season with the team and started 11 games during his rookie season. Zubac is more of a traditional center with a larger frame and more NBA experience, but the Croatian played in a game for the South Bay Lakers on Tuesday morning.

Already, the Lakers are starting two 20-year-olds in Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, so Lakers coach Luke Walton may opt to go with the experience of backup center Andrew Bogut to balance the youth.

Another alternative, of course, is to change styles and play with a smaller starting lineup. Julius Randle can step into the starting lineup and play as a small-ball center. Randle often assumes this role late in games. Nance and Randle often played together late in games during Walton's first season on the bench, but that combination has been pushed out because neither big man can shoot from outside and stretch the floor.

Instead, Walton may opt to start rookie Kyle Kuzma at power forward and push Nance to center, an experiment that the coach has used with limited success thus far. The possibility of using Randle and Kuzma as starters and pushing Nance to the bench should also be on the table, but Walton has been a fan of Nance's defense and energy in the starting unit.

Three weeks is a long time, so Walton will likely try more than one of the aforementioned options over that stretch.

With Lopez ruled out for Wednesday's game in Houston and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope unable to travel out of state due to a court order stemming from a DUI while he was a member of the Detroit Pistons, the Lakers could conceivably shuffle the starting deck and start Ball, rookie Josh Hart, Ingram, Kuzma and Bryant. That would amount to four rookies and a second-year player aged 20 years old starting for the Lakers. Hart started in place of Caldwell-Pope in Cleveland when the shooting guard missed the game due to the same issue.

Walton isn't likely to make that leap into youth just yet, but that same lineup with Nance starting in place of Kuzma is entirely conceivable and hardly kills the average age. Kuzma is 22, while Nance is a senior citizen on the Lakers at age 24.

Regardless of how he decides to lineup his team on Wednesday and beyond, Walton will likely have to rely on even more youth than ever before with Lopez out injured.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sports and Comedy Collide in 'The 5th Quarter']]>Tue, 19 Dec 2017 18:43:58 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/215*120/Lonzo_and_LaVar.png

Is Blake Griffin the next Eddie Murphy? Lonzo Ball the next Richard Pryor?

Alright, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but the Los Angeles basketball superstars do have some comedy chops, and they have their sights set on Hollywood.

You've probably seen Griffin in some of those Kia or GameStop commercials and thought he was mildly entertaining, but it turns out Griffin is pretty serious about this comedy thing.

"I've always loved comedy," said Griffin in an exclusive interview to NBC LA. "It gives athletes a chance to do something outside of a cameo. This is where comedy meets sports, and it's right up my alley."

Over the offseason, as Griffin rehabbed a foot injury, he performed standup at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood in order to get a feeling for what performing live in front of an audience was like. 

"I like doing stuff to get outside of my comfort zone," continued Griffin. "Stand up was probably the ultimate thing. I walked away feeling confident."

Griffin signed on for an Internet TV show called "The 5th Quarter," produced by OBB Pictures which premiered on November 30th.

The show is part of Verizon's go90 series and features short sports mockumentaries featuring athletes, actors, models, and sports broadcasters.

After a stint as a 30-year-old child named "Cliff, Cliff" in the show's first season, Griffin stars as Sheldon King, one of the best race walkers in the world in an episode called "Born to Walk."

"That relationship was a cold call. I called him and pitched him the idea," said director Michael D. Ratner of how he was able to get Griffin to agree to the show. "He said "it sounds awesome." It's a domino effect. You get one of these big athletes to do it, and then everyone wants to do it."

The episode also stars Jimmy O. Yang, Hailey Baldwin and Kenny Mayne. 


The premiere comes on the heels of a devastating knee injury that will sideline Griffin for the next two months. Griffin's teammate, Austin Rivers, fell on Griffin's left leg, spraining the MCL in his left knee in the fourth quarter against the Lakers on November 28th

"I'm going to start the rehab process right away," said Griffin of his injury and how long he will be on the sidelines. "I don't know if it's a hard two months."

Speaking of the Lakers, fans in Laker Nation might be excited for one specific episode called "Fetus Jones," that premiered recently on December 7th.

The episode stars Lakers rookie point guard Lonzo Ball and his larger than life father, LaVar Ball. It tells the story of a 7-year-old NBA prospect, Jermaine Jones AKA "Fetus Jones," and his over-the-top father who tries to turn his child into the next big basketball brand.

The father is played by legendry comedian Marlon Wayans, and is a direct spoof on LaVar and Lonzo's relationship, even to the point where Wayans character commits to UCLA despite the fact his son is just seven years old.

The second and third seasons of "The 5th Quarter," can be seen on Verizon's Go90 streaming service as part of their collection of sports documentaries, or "docuseries."

For more information on the show "The 5th Quarter," and to watch all the episodes including "Born to Walk," and "Fetus Jones," click the link below.

The 5th Quarter presented by Verizon Go90



Photo Credit: The 5th Quarter]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Lose in Overtime, Kobe Bryant Retires Two Numbers]]>Tue, 19 Dec 2017 00:46:00 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-lose-to-Warriors-on-Kobe-Bryant-retirement-night.jpg

On Monday night, the Los Angeles Lakers lost in overtime, 116-114, to the Golden State Warriors on a night when the NBA and Lakers' family came out to pay tribute to Kobe Bryant, who had both of his numbers retired at halftime of the game.

Bryant sat at center court with his family for the game, as Kevin Durant scored 36 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and handed off eight assists to lead a short-handed Warriors team to its ninth win in a row. Draymond Green, Stephen Curry and Zaza Pachulia all sat out Monday's game.

For the Lakers, Kyle Kuzma led the team with 25 points off the bench, while Julius Randle tabbed a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Brandon Ingram led the starters with 19 points, and the Lakers had five different players score in double figures on the night.

Lonzo Ball had one of his most comfortable nights at STAPLES Center, as the rookie point guard finished with 16 points on 50 percent shooting, six rebound, six assists, two blocks and one steal.

After the game, the broken record inside the locker room and from the coach's platform pointed to a familiar tune: missed free throws. The Lakers missed 13 foul shots on the night and lost by only two points after an extra five minutes had to be played to separate the two squads.

Ultimately, the game came down to Durant hitting a shot to break a 114-114 deadlock. Rather than call timeout, the Lakers pushed the ball up the court but failed to convert.

Still, Lakers coach Luke Walton did not appear too downtrodden with the defeat because his former teammate had returned for a night and brought NBA royalty and spirit back with him.

"It was awesome," Walton said after the game. "The defending World Champs, a home game, a great opportunity for our young players, mix that with basketball legends sprinkled all over the arena, Kobe getting his jerseys retired--take away the final outcome, it was a really good game."

Walton added, "It was a pretty incredible night of basketball."

Incidentally, the Lakers hosted the Warriors fewer than three weeks earlier, and that game also went to overtime, with the visitors winning on that occasion, too. In an odd scheduling quirk, the two teams will meet again on Friday in Oakland.

Notes: Brook Lopez sufferred a right ankle sprain and did not play the second half. X-rays were negative, but the Lakers' starting center is due for an MRI on Tuesday before the team flies to Houston for a game on Wednesday.



Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Immortalize Kobe Bryant's No. 8 and No. 24]]>Tue, 19 Dec 2017 04:05:14 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Kobe-Bryant-jersey-retirement-ceremony.jpg

On Monday night, Kobe Bryant became the first NBA player to have two jerseys retired by the same team, as No. 8 and No. 24 rose into the rafters in front of the jam-packed, star-studded STAPLES Center in Los Angeles.

Lakers President of Basketball Operations Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Lakers president, majority owner Jeanie Buss, spoke during the halftime ceremony that culminated with a double jersey reveal and Bryant on the microphone.

Standing at center court, Buss explained the decision to retire both of Bryant's jerseys by stating that if one looked at Bryant's career with No. 8 and No. 24 separately, "Both of those numbers would qualify for the Hall of Fame."

Traditionally, the Lakers only retire jerseys for players inducted into the Hall of Fame. Bryant's eventual induction is a mere formality given his body of work. 

Bryant won three NBA championships and scored 81 points in a game while donning the No. 8. Then, a decade into his career, the Philadelphia native changed his number to 24 and went on to claim two NBA championships, two NBA Finals MVPs and a league MVP wearing No. 24.

Separating the two decades into two players would have created two Hall of Famers, so Buss' argument held weight.

Monday's celebration at Staples Center started hours before the game with a "Kobeland" carnival and street fair honoring Bryant's No. 8 and No. 24. Hoards of fans came out to enjoy the games and activities. The festive atmosphere carried into the arena for a spirited first half between the Lakers and the visiting Golden State Warriors.

At halftime, the spotlight shone brightly on Bryant to reveal two jerseys with an audience of all-time greats looking. From Bill Russell to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Allen Iverson to Shaquille O'Neal, Bryant's ceremony brought out some of the greatest names in the history of the hardwood.

"One of the first things I did when I walked into the [Great Western] Forum, when the lights were down, it was dimly lit, I looked up and looked at all the jerseys up there because I'd seen them many times on the video tapes before," Bryant said, explaining the gravity of the occasion and what it meant to him prior to the game.

The man of honor added, "Before every game, I made it a point to kind of glance up there and remind me of what I'm playing for."

With the two jerseys lit up and the ceremony all but wrapped up, the retired basketball star finished up by thanking the fans and his family.

Finally, Bryant concluded the ceremony with his now famous catchphrase: "Mamba out."



Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed ]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers' Kuzma Spreads Holiday Cheer in Compton]]>Mon, 18 Dec 2017 18:48:51 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-874657300.jpg

It was a very festive day on Sunday afternoon as the 5th Annual Christmas Toy Giveaway took place in Compton, CA. 

Over 3,000 residents received gifts and hugs from numerous volunteers, but those in attendance were given a special surprise as Major Aja Brown, Olympic track Gold Medalist Carmelita Jeter, ESPN’s Marcellus Wiley, Master P, and Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma were all in attendance to ring in the Holiday cheer. 

Kuzma has been spreading holiday cheer all month, as they Lakers returned off of a difficult road trip where they finished 2-2 and currently sit at 10-17 on the season. Not only has Kuzma played outstanding on the court, but continues to be an MVP amongst the people in the communities across Southern California. Kuzma is looking forward to the jersey ceremony on Monday night. 

Along with Kuzma, Compton native and ESPN personality Marcellus Wiley took photos with many residents at the holiday affair, and shared his thoughts on retirement of Kobe Bryant on Monday Dec. 18 at Staples Center.

"It's always great to have witnessed a legend like Kobe [Bryant]," Wiley said. "No better athlete, no better person who had dedication and learned his craft."

Along with celebrating the holidays with thousands of residents, Mayor Aja Brown also shared her thoughts on historic career of Kobe Bryant.


After seeing the smiles on many of the children's face and greatful attidtudes of many of the parents, witnessing this event will be like watching Kobe's retirement -- absolutely priceless.



Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[See the Other Lakers Greats Whose Jerseys Were Retired]]>Mon, 18 Dec 2017 13:35:10 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP_071005011573.jpgKobe Bryant joins nine other Lakers players who have had their jerseys retired.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[No. 8 or No. 24: Kobe Bryant Deservedly Getting Both Retired]]>Mon, 18 Dec 2017 21:16:24 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Kobe-Bryant-jersey-retiring-no-8-no-24.jpg

For 10 years, Kobe Bryant wore No. 8, and for 10 years, Bryant wore No. 24. For 20 years, Bryant dominated sports in Los Angeles like no one before him.

After entering the NBA in 1996 straight out of Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia, Bryant won the NBA Slam Dunk in his rookie season. He went on to win three NBA titles in a row, single-handedly outscore a team 62-61 over three quarters and notch 81 points in a single game. Bryant won an NBA All-Star Game MVP, earned three All-NBA First Team honors and four NBA All-Defensive First Team honors.

Bryant accomplished all that while still wearing the no. 8.

Bryant's No. 8 going up in the rafters alongside the Lakers' greats makes sense. As No. 8, Bryant was an athletic scoring machine that played elite level defense, dominated in the postseason and was one of the greatest young talents the league had ever seen. While Shaquille O'Neal gets deserved credit for the Lakers' three-peat, Bryant served as far more than a role player during those title runs in the early 2000s.

After an accomplished decade in the NBA, Bryant switched his number to 24 ahead of the 2006-07 season.

Clearly, he had put together a Hall-of-Fame caliber career. Had Bryant quit after the 2005-06 season, he'd still be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and one would have a difficult time denying that he belonged alongside the greatest players to ever pick up a basketball.

In his second decade as a professional, Bryant set an arena record at the time at Madison Square Garden with 61 points, won two NBA Finals MVPs, won an NBA league MVP trophy, won two NBA titles and won two gold medals with Team USA. Also, he scored 60 points in his final NBA game and led the Lakers to the most epic of comeback victories to seal the sunset ride in his storybook ending.

In many ways, Bryant's second act was more impressive than his first. Donning No. 24, Bryant found a perfect running mate in Pau Gasol and still had a great coach in Phil Jackson, but the "Black Mamba" was the clear No. 1 on his team for three straight trips to the NBA Finals and back-to-back NBA titles in 2009 and 2010.

Bryant went from being one of the greatest talents in NBA history wearing No. 8 to becoming one of the most accomplished players in the league's memory wearing No. 24.

Bryant passed Michael Jordan, his mentor, on the NBA's all-time scoring list wearing No. 24. Bryant finished his career ranking No. 3 on that hallowed list, behind only Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. When Bryant finally hung up his jersey with the miraculous 60-point farewell performance in 2016, the lifelong Lakers' fan that grew up studying archival basketball footage in Italy also ranked in the top 15 in steals, ahead of Isiah Thomas, and top 30 in assists, ahead of Jerry West.

Bryant may have loved to score and may well have been the greatest scorer since Wilt Chamberlain, but he knew how to pick a pass and played some of the best perimeter defense the hardwood has ever seen.

Bryant made nine All-Defensive First Teams and also three All-Defensive Second Teams, meaning he was considered one of the top four defensive guards in the NBA for 13 of his 20 seasons in the NBA. Whether it was Steve Nash, Allen Iverson, Scottie Pippen, Tracy McGrady, Chris Paul or any other opponent that gave guards in the league nightmares, Bryant stepped forward and took the challenge. As competitors, both No. 8 and No. 24 saw eye-to-eye.

Cutting Bryant's career in half, No. 24 did enough to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, while no. 8 was a three-time champion and the most explosive offensive basketball player the league had seen in the modern era. Even with the three-point shot changing the style of the game, no player has come close to hitting 81 points since Bryant hit that incredible height in 2006.

Historically, the Lakers have only retired jerseys for players that have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Bryant's future in the hallowed hall is unquestioned, so the team opting to jump the gun is understandable.

Over 20 years, Bryant effectively played out two Hall-of-Fame careers, so the Lakers made the correct call by choosing to retire both No. 8 and No. 24.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[From No. 8 to No. 24: Kobe Bryant's Incredible Career]]>Mon, 18 Dec 2017 05:32:52 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-102187223.jpgLos Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant will have his No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys retired and become the first NBA player to have both his jerseys retired.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Gurley's 4 Touchdowns Lead Rams in Win Over Seahawks]]>Sun, 17 Dec 2017 21:15:47 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/161*120/GettyImages-894379404.jpg

Move over Seahawks, you've been dethroned. 

The Los Angeles Rams are going to win the NFC West after they dominated the rival Seattle Seahawks, 42-7, on Sunday afternoon at CenturyLink Field.

The Rams must have watched the film on the Seahawks defense last week, as Seattle allowed 157 yards on the ground to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

With the Seahawks depleted on defense, the Rams ran early and often, as Todd Gurley finished the game with 152 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

Gurley also did damage in the secondary as he caught three passes for 28 yards and a touchdown, giving the All-Pro running back a total of four touchdowns in arguably the biggest game of the season for Los Angeles.

In total, the Rams rushed for 244 yards against the Seahawks, as Seattle had no answer for the likes of Gurley and backup running back Malcolm Brown.

Jared Goff did not need to do a whole lost as he was 14-for-21 for 120 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

The Rams started slow with a couple of field goals by Greg "Leg-A-Tron" Zuerlein, but it didn't take long for LA's patient offensive attack to find the end zone as Gurley punched in his career-high 11th rushing touchdown of the season midway through the first quarter.

Gurley did it again, to start the second quarter, capping off a five-play, 36-yard drive with another 1-yard touchdown up the middle, his 15th of the season overall.

Leading 20-0, the Rams changed it up a little bit on their third score, as Goff found receiver Robert Woods in the front left corner of the end zone for the score.

Woods missed the last three weeks with a shoulder injury, but returned for the NFC West matchup with the Seahawks, making six receptions for 45 yards and a touchdown.

A few minutes later, Gurley made it a hat-trick when he found the end zone for the third time, breaking through the Seahawks front four, running 57-yards for the score. 

By halftime, the game was all but over as the Rams led 34-0 at the break. Nonetheless, Gurley and the Rams put a cherry on top of their "Sunday," as he caught a pass from Goff out of the backfield, and walked in for the 14-yard score.

Gurley now has an NFL-best 17 touchdowns this season, and also leads all running backs with 11 100+ yard games from scrimmage this season.

Seattle's only score of the game on pass from Russell Wilson to tight end Luke Willson late in the third quarter. 

The Rams improve to 10-4, and have a two-game lead in the NFC West, owning the tiebreaker, provided they are able to defeat the San Francisco 49ers at home in the final game of the season.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks (8-6) suddenly find themselves on the outside looking in on the NFC playoff picture. The Seahawks will need wins against the Cowboys and Cardinals in their final two games of the season.

Up Next:

The Rams will spend Christmas in the Music City as the travel to Tennessee to face the Titans on Christmas Eve. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00PM PST. 

Please refresh this page for more stats, updates and player reactions…



Photo Credit: Steve Dykes/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Rams vs. Seahawks: Preview and Predictions]]>Sun, 17 Dec 2017 06:32:13 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-859144018.jpg

The NFC West is up for grabs on Sunday when the Los Angeles Rams travel to CenturyLink Field to battle the Seattle Seahawks.

It wouldn't be winter if the Rams didn't make their annual visit up to the rain-soaked city, as the team has travelled to Seattle each of the last eight seasons to play the Seahawks in either December or January.

Over the span of those last eight years, the Rams have been mostly bad. Struggling to stay above .500, while the Seahawks seemingly won the division each year, including four out of the last five years.

This year is different however, as the Rams enter the game in first place in the NFC West, and have a winning record this late in the season for the first time since 2003. 

Despite the fact that the Rams have been subpar over the last few seasons, they've still managed to play the Seahawks well, as the two teams have split the last head-to-head matchups against each other. 

"It's going to be a big one," Rams QB Jared Goff said about the game. "A big one for us, and a big one for them." 

Goff isn't lying. Both teams are coming off disheartening losses in week 14, and are looking to bounce back. The Rams (9-4) need to win, in order to put two games between them and the Seahawks, with two games left to play in the season, all but guaranteeing themselves the division title.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks (8-5) need a win over the Rams to move into a first place tie in which they would hold the tiebreaker over the Rams. If both teams somehow finish with an identical record at the end of the season, the Seahawks would be crowned the winners of the NFC West, and the Rams likely would have to play a road game in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, if they even make the playoffs at all. 

The Rams will be without starting CB Kayvon Webster who was lost for the season with a ruptured achiles, but WR Robert Woods is expected to return after missing the last three weeks with a shoulder injury. 

The Seahawks are riddled with injuries and are expected to be without starting safety Kam Chancellor, DE Nazir Jones, LB K.J. Wright, and perhaps All-Pro LB Bobby Wagner.

The Rams and Seahawks will kickoff at 1:05 PM PST from CenturyLink Field in Seattle, WA. The game will air live on FOX. The game can be live streamed here and on FuboTV.

Fantasy Football Start/Sit:

Start: Russell Wilson, Todd Gurley, Mike Davis, Doug Baldwin, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Jimmy Graham, Greg Zuerlein, Seahawks Defense. 

Sit: Jared Goff, Paul Richardson, Sammy Watkins, Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Blair Walsh, Rams Defense.

Betting Odds (Courtesy of Bovada):

Rams: +1 (-105)
Seahawks: -1 (-115)
O/U: 47 

Prediction: 30-28 Seahawks

Each and every week, NBC LA reporters Michael J. Duarte and Nick Hamilton bring you an NFL podcast entitled, "Bolts by the Horns," as the writers breakdown what's going on inside the worlds of both Los Angeles based football teams including; insider information, interviews with players and experts, latest injury updates, previews, predictions, betting odds, fantasy advice and more.

Give it a listen below:



Photo Credit: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chargers Can't Get Out of Their Own Way in Kansas City]]>Sat, 16 Dec 2017 21:48:31 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/174*120/GettyImages-893963086.jpg

The Kansas City Chiefs made a huge statement with a 30-13 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on a brisk Saturday night.

Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt sealed the deal with his second rushing touchdown of the night late in the fourth quarter.

Kansas City scored 17 points off of three turnovers committed by the Chargers. Three interceptions thrown by quarterback Philip Rivers didn't matter at all. In his two games versus the Chiefs, Rivers' passed for 500 yards, one touchdown and six interceptions.

"We didn't play our best, we have to look ourselves in the mirror, figure out why we didn't come prepared for a big game like this," Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said. "Maybe we made this game bigger than what it was."

With the AFC West division on the line, both the Chargers and the Chiefs were tied at 7-6 entering this game. Kansas City not only captures sole possession of first place in the AFC West, but now has a great chance to win the division.

The Chiefs have won eight straight games against the Chargers, matching the team’s longest win streak over the Chargers franchise (from 1990-93).

The last time the Chargers beat the Chiefs was Dec. 29, 2013 -- a Week 17 game at Qualcomm Stadium that the Chargers won in overtime, 27-24. The Chargers are seeking their first five-game winning streak since 2014.

A gutsy call by head coach Andy Reid on 4th down and 3, allowed quarterback Alex Smith to remain on the field as he found Kareem Hunt for 21 yard catch and run for the first down. Two plays later, Kansas City settled for a 31-yard field goal by Harrison Butker just before the end of the first quarter for a 3-0 lead.

Kansas City continued their offensive onslaught, as Alex Smith found a speedy Tyrek Hill on a go -rout for a 64-yard catch and run for a touchdown. Hill scored his 10th touchdown of the season for the 10-0 lead early in the second quarter. The Chargers responded back in a huge way off of the running talents of Melvin Gordon, who made tremendous runs in that drive. That eventually led to a 2-yard run up the middle for the touchdown. Los Angeles didn't enter the red zone until 3:53 of the second quarter.

A marvelous effort by the Bolts defense early in the third quarter set up a magnificent drive led by Gordon's 49-yard catch. Several plays later, Rivers found Allen for a 15 yard catch near the Chiefs 10 yard line. Eventually Rivers found Antonio Gates for his 113th career touchdown and the 13-10 lead.

Gates' recorded his first touchdown catch since his record-setting grab in Week 2. It was the 86th time that Rivers found Gates in the end zone, second only to Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison.

Kansas City decided to retaliate as Smith spreads the ball around to various targets that included Travis Kelce, and capped off by a supreme 3-yard touchdown run for the 17-13 lead. With the Bolts backs against the wall, Rivers threw a crucial interception to cornerback Marcus Peters who took it back 62 yards to the Chargers' 6-yard line. Hunt nearly caught his second touchdown, but the ball hit the ground while he was trying to pull it in. Kansas City settled for a field goal taking a 20-13 lead over the Chargers with 28 seconds left in the third quarter.

Rookie running back Austin Ekeler fumbled the ball at the next Bolts possession, as Marcus Peters stripped the ball from Ekeler, and Ron Parker recovered for a 7 yard return to the Chargers 41 yard line. The Bolts defense led by Joey Bosa held the Chiefs in check and only allowed a 51-yard field goal midway through the final quarter.

Philip Rivers completed 20-of-36 passes for 227 yards, three interceptions and a touchdown.

RB Melvin Gordon finished with 169 total yards and one touchdown in the loss.

Melvin Ingram captured his 10th sack of the season on Alex Smith in the opening quarter. The first time he's hit double digit sacks since 2015. Joey Bosa has 11.5 sacks on the season. This is the first time defensive coordinator Gus Bradley has had two players with multiple sacks in nine seasons as a head coach or coordinator. Bosa and Ingram are the first Chargers duo to have double digit sacks in the same season since 2006.

Alex Smith completed 23-of-30 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns.

RB Kareem Hunt ran for 172 yards in Week 3, the most the Chargers have given up to any running back this season. Hunt ran for 155 rushing yards on Saturday night.

The Chargers must win their last two remaining games against the N.Y. Jets and Oakland Raiders, and will need help to get into the playoffs.

The Bolts also lost players due to injuries such as Denzel Perryman (hamstring), Keenan Allen (back), Austin Ekeler (hand), Austin Philips (ankle).

If Kansas City defeats the Miami Dolphins next Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, they will win the AFC West.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Court Orders Lakers Player Not To Leave California]]>Sat, 16 Dec 2017 14:42:02 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Kentavious-Caldwell-Pope-DUI-restrictions.jpg

On Saturday, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope told reporters that he had been ordered by court to stay in California for a period of 25 days in relation to his guily plea to a DUI in Michigan while he was still a member of the Detroit Pistons.

After Caldwell-Pope plead guilty in May, the NBA suspended Caldwell-Pope for the first two games of the 2017-18 NBA season, but the new restriction guarantees that the shooting guard will miss a minimum of six games related to this incident. In addition to the game in Cleveland, Caldwell-Pope will be unable to travel with the team to Houston (twice) and Minnesota in the coming weeks.

"For me, this is new," Lakers coach Luke Walton said following Saturday's practice, sharing that he was not notified in advance that Caldwell-Pope would miss Thursday's game.

Walton added, "There's still some legal stuff that they're doing still, so I'm not going to comment on specifics."

After Walton, Caldwell-Pope took time to speak with reporters and provide further details on his updated situation.

"My restriction is only California," a typically soft spoken Caldwell-Pope said at the team's practice facility in El Segundo. "That was part of the agreement with the court that we came up with."

Caldwell-Pope said that the original plan was for him to leave New York, travel to Detroit for the legal matter and meet the team in Cleveland before Thursday's game against the Cavaliers. However, the court put in the new restriction and Caldwell-Pope flew directly back to California to adhere to the court's decision.

"With the court situation, we came up with the agreement that I still get to carry on with my season but only in the state of California for the 25-day restriction that I have," Caldwell-Pope said. "I was blessed that I was able to continue to play ball."

Caldwell-Pope said that the restrictions would not have any impact on practice time.

The 24-year-old said, "It was very disappointing to me, as well. As far as my teammates, I feel like I let them down, as well the coaches, the organization."

The Georgia-native said that he did not know about the possibility of the restriction changing, nor did he provide any long term outlook on the situation.

Caldwell-Pope concluded, "For right now, it is what it is."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Robert Woods Interview: Rams' Receiver Is Ready to Return]]>Fri, 15 Dec 2017 21:57:18 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Robert+Woods+Returns.png

He's back. 

The Los Angeles Rams have been without their number one receiver Robert Woods for the past three weeks.

Woods injured his shoulder against the Vikings back in Week 11, and since that time the Rams are 2-2, and currently one game ahead of the Seattle Seahawks for first place in the NFC West.

That makes Sunday's pivotal showdown in Seattle at CenturyLink Field, a must-win game for the Rams, if they want to win the division and host a home playoff game in 2018.

Woods spoke to NBC LA reporter Michael Duarte after practice this week and stated he was ready to go for the big game on Sunday.

Here's the transcript of the interview:

Robert, you have been dealing with a shoulder injury the past few weeks, and have not been able to play, how has the rehab process been for you?

Everything's good. Long process trying to get back, trying to get healthy. Guys did well prepping up to this. Getting wins and everything, and I'm finally back trying to finish it off with the team.

You practiced last week, could you have suited up and played against the Philadelphia Eagles if you needed to?

It felt good. I was going out there and running routes and everything, but I just wanted to play it cautious, play it safe. It's a long season. We're looking forward to playing these games, so I wanted to make sure I'm healthy and can last.

Is your shoulder still bothering you? Are they any final hurdles you need to clear this week before returning to the field? 

I wouldn't say so. The movement and everything is there. Everything is good and ready. I've been in practice last week and starting this week, I'm very confident in it.

When I first talked to you after you went down with the injury, you said there was no structural damage and you would not require surgery. Just how close were you from this injury being a lot worse, and how relieved were you it was nothing too serious?

I was very grateful that I didn't need surgery and I didn't hit anything important. Just looking at Aaron Rodgers injury, he broke his. Fortunately, mine wasn't broken. Just a little injury. Being able to bounce back and able to recover quick enough to return this season is a big testament to our training staff and our coaches.

Is this the biggest game of the season for the Rams so far this Sunday against the Seahawks with the NFC West division on the line?

We look at it like any other game. We know it's Seattle, we know there's a lot on the table. But we go in prepping to win. There's always a lot on the table when you're trying to win, no matter if it's Seattle, Philadelphia, whomever lines up, we're going in with all we got like it's our last game.

How do you think your team looked these past three weeks without you?

They moved the ball well. Gurley was doing Gurley things running all over the field. Sammy made big plays. Josh stepped up and so did Cooper Kupp on the outside.

Why do you think the Seahawks are just so good each and every year, despite the injuries?

Their unity. They play well as a unite on the defensive side and offensive side. Just looking at them on a defensive side, they play as a unit, they communicate well, they fly over, and their communication from Earl [Thomas] to Bobby Wagner at the linebacker position.

What's it like entering that hostile environment at CenturyLink Field, they have one of the best home field advantages in the NFL?

The environment helped. It's loud and fun. It's a competitive game, a competitive team. You just want to go out there and go against good competitors and good opponents and when they play well, you play well, and the team plays well. Our main goal is just to go out there and get a win.

How's your timing going to be with Jared Goff?

I did some throwing and route running last week. I wanted to make sure to keep my timing down with Jared. I didn't do a whole lot with the team, but just wanted to make sure me and Jared still had our timing straight.

Did you happen to see that "Snow Game" in Buffalo on Sunday? Did it bring back any memories?

No, it didn’t. [laughter] I actually walked past the TV and had to do a double-take. It was pitch white out there. It looked fun for a little bit, but I know playing in it before it probably wasn't the best. Happy that they got a win though.

How glad were you watching it that you were here in Southern California where it's 80 degrees and sunny and not out there playing in the Snow Bowl?

This is football weather right here. 

The Rams and Seahwaks will kickoff at 1:05PM PST from CenturyLink Field in Seattle, WA on Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017. The game will air live on FOX. 



Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[LeBron James Gets Historic Triple-Double, Cavs Beat Lakers]]>Thu, 14 Dec 2017 20:35:59 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/LeBron-James-Triple-double-Lakers-vs-Cavs.jpg

In a 121-112 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night, LeBron James recorded his 59th career triple-double to move into a tie with Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird at no. 6 on the NBA's all-time triple-doubles list.

James finished the night with 25 points, 12 assists and 12 rebounds, along with two blocks and two steals in yet another impressive performance for the former and possibly future Most Valuable Player. James is shooting a career-high in three-pointers and also averaging a career-high in assists.

At age 32, James miraculously looks better than ever, which is a scary thought for a player considered to be one of the top five greatest humans to pick up a basketball. Feeding off James' play, Thursday's win marked the Cavaliers' 10th straight home victory at Quicken Loans Arena. Over all, Cleveland has now won 16th of its last 17 games.

Even with James and the Cavaliers currently claiming the title of the hottest team in the league, Thursday's game against the young Lakers remained competitive until the dying minutes.

Lakers rookie point guard Lonzo Ball came within two rebounds of a triple-double of his own. Ball, who grew up with James as his favorite player, finished with 13 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds on the night, along with two steals. After the game, James had a personal conversation with the rookie on the court. The 15-year professional kept his mouth covered during the talk and refused to share what he told the Lakers' rookie when asked during his on-court TNT postgame interview.

James spoke highly of Ball a couple days earlier, so one would imagine the message was one of encouragement.

Thursday's game proved to be an interesting contest between two teams on opposite ends of the experience spectrum and also in terms of style. The Lakers started the game well and took a two-point lead into the second quarter by focusing on attacking the painted area.

Early on in the second period, the visitors extended their lead to nine points before James and the Cavaliers used their superior three-point shooting to take a three-point lead into the intermission.

Early in the third quarter, the Lakers dug a hole and eventually fell behind by as many as 11 points, but the team dressed in gold continued to fight back. With eight minutes remaining, the Lakers had cut the deficit to only four-points.

Fewer than two minutes later, though, the Cavs once again led by double digits. Still, the young Lakers continued to fight. With 3:54 remaining, the Lakers were back within five points when Kyle Kuzma converted from about seven feet.

Kuzma, who is the reigning Western Conference Rookie of the Month and also the team's leading scorer, finished the night with 20 points and seven rebounds.

Unfortunately for Luke Walton's men, the Cavaliers shifted into a higher gear as the game wound down, and the Lakers found themselves watching the lead grow as the clock wound down. Eventually, the Cavs held a nine-point advantage when the final buzzer sounded.

Second year Lakers forward Brandon Ingram had a particularly strong game for the visitors with 26 points on 10-15 shooting from the field, six rebound, six assists and one steal in the loss. In his previous game, Ingram missed 10 of 12 shots, so Thursday proved to be a great bounce back game for the 20-year-old former no. 2 pick.

Former UCLA Bruin Kevin Love recorded a double-double with 28 points and 11 rebounds. Another third Lakers' rookie, Josh Hart, recorded his first career double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds in his first career start. Lakers starting shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was excused for personal reasons, and Walton gave the 22-year-old rookie the last second start. Hard played well on both ends and often found himself guarding James one-on-one and taking the unenviable task on with confidence.

The Cavs may have won, but the Lakers had no reason to drop their heads following this defeat.

Next, the Lakers return home to play the Golden State Warriors on Monday, Dec. 18, while the Cavaliers host the Utah Jazz on Saturday.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Is Chargers QB Philip Rivers An MVP Candidate?]]>Fri, 15 Dec 2017 11:22:13 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/3rd+cowboys+game+%288%29.jpg

Running back Melvin Gordon told reporters on Wednesday that Rivers deserves to be in the MVP conversation, especially if the winning continues toward a division title. 

"At the end of the day, it’s a great compliment to say you’re the MVP," Gordon said. “You don’t get it when you’re losing. It’d be awesome right now if Philip was able to get that. Later on down the line, I think he’d appreciate it a little more. I think right now, he would just look at it as it what it is. He’s super focused."

Aside from the MVP talk, Rivers remains focused on the upcoming battle against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on a cold Saturday night. He reminisced about the battles between the two teams and understands what this game means to the entire Chargers season.

As he continued to speak from the podium on Wednesday, Rivers smiled and said how much he respected the fans in Kansas City and how playing there is a good place to compete. After starting the season 0-4, the veteran quarterback knows how to rally his troops and pull out a big victory in the moment. With the AFC West and playoff implications hanging in the balance, Rivers knows his team has to continue to play loose and with control.

“We’re going to Kansas City on a Saturday night in December, playing for the division lead with three weeks to play," Rivers said. "I think it’s good to acknowledge that, but make sure that we don’t get too caught up in the hype. It can turn the other way in a hurry.”



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Hosting 'Kobeland' for Kobe Bryant Jersey Retirement]]>Fri, 15 Dec 2017 14:48:21 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Kobe-Bryant-jersey-retirement-Lakers-Kobeland.jpg

On Monday, Dec. 18, the Los Angeles Lakers will raise two numbers into the rafters: no. 8 and no. 24. Yes, Kobe Bryant will have both his numbers retired, and the team announced plans to launch a special "Kobeland" street festival to celebrate the occasion.

From 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Chich Hearn court, the street that divides STAPLES Center and LA Live, the Lakers will have a variety of Bryant-themed games, a Ferris Wheel, photo opportunities, branded merchandise and a live D.J. spinning records. One expects the music playlist will skip over Bryant's own short-lived rapping career, but if ever there was a time to bust out those old tunes, this would be it.

In addition to the games and photo opportunities put on by the Lakers, Nike expects to have a notable presence with a no. 8 and no. 24 themed truck on site, so one would be wise to expect giveaways and competitions. After starting his career as an Adidas athlete, Bryant switched over to Nike and finished his career with the popular athletic brand.

Even though Bryant is no longer playing, his signature shoes are ubiquitous in NBA games and remain one of the most popular basketball shoes in the league.

Bryant's numbers will be retired in a ceremony at halftime of the game against the Golden State Warriors on Monday night. The cheapest seats to witness the ceremony live are $275 each on the popular ticket resale site Stubhub.com. A pair of courtside seats were listed for as much as $28,050 each on the same site.

For those who do not want to shell out big bucks but still want to celebrate and be a part of the historic occasion, "Kobeland" is free and open to the public.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[LeBron James on Lonzo Ball: "The Kid Can Play Ball"]]>Thu, 14 Dec 2017 07:35:27 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-vs-Cavs-Lonzo-Ball-LeBron-James.jpg

On Thursday, the Los Angeles Lakers conclude their four-game road trip in Cleveland, where they face a Cavaliers team that has won 15 of its last 16 games. The Lakers, meanwhile, are stuck on 10 wins for the season with no immediate relief in sight.

Through a third of the NBA season, LeBron James has been a monster. The 32-year-old is averaging 28.2 points, 9.0 assists and 8.2 rebounds per game, meaning he's nearly averaging a triple-double in his 15th year as a professional. Add in that James is shooting 42.2 percent from beyond the three-point line, which is better than Stephen Curry this season. 

Acknowledge that James is on pace to average a career highs in assists, three-point percentage and field goal percentage, and one could argue that James is putting forth the most impressive season of his highly decorated career.

On the night the Lakers fell to the New York Knicks, James shared his thoughts on Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball, who refers to James his favorite player of all time.

"The kid hasn't said anything," James told ESPN's Dave McMenamin. "It's been everybody else. So, I love his humility. He goes out, every time someone asks him a question, he says, 'This is not about me, man. I just want to win. I don't care about what I did.' I seen he had a triple-double one game and they lost. He was like, 'I don't care. We lost.'"

About a month earlier in Milwaukee, Ball became the youngest player to record a triple-double, breaking a record previously held by James. The Lakers lost that night, and the rookie didn't seem like he was in a celebratory mood despite making history. Four games later, Ball repeated the accomplishment and became the youngest player to record multiple triple-doubles and showed slightly more joy because his team won on the night.

"Can I draw any parallel to my experience?" James continued. "I mean, of course. I guess when you're drafted to a franchise, they want you to kind of be the savior. And it takes a while. I mean, listen, man, this guy is 20-something games into his pro career. S--- doesn't happen [that fast]."

Obviously, joining the Lakers has put Ball in the spotlight, and his early shooting troubles garnered attention. Even those numbers have improved, and the rookie's shooting numbers away from STAPLES Center are respectable: 39.2 percent from the field and 36.2 percent from three-point land. However, he's still a 20-year-old, and the inconsistency that comes with being an NBA rookie is not unexpected, even if it is under the magnifying glass.

In this case, Ball being overly scrutinized has brought his game to the attention of the Cavaliers' star, and James likes what he sees.

"Everybody wants it right away," James continued. "Can he play ball? Absolutely. The kid can play ball. Do guys want to play with him? Absolutely, because it's a guy who is not about [himself]. It's about the success of the team. And he gives the ball up, and he passes the ball, and there's energy behind the ball."

Of course, James expects to be a free agent in the upcoming summer, and the Lakers are openly in the market for big name free agents. The Cavaliers' star owns property in Los Angeles and has even been photographed visiting schools for his kids in the LA area. Over the summer, James even went to Las Vegas and watched Ball play in the NBA Summer League to further spark talk of a move to LA.

If nothing else, James' latest comments added to the rumors of a move out West by being publicly complimentary of Ball's play, sharing his belief in the kid's future and the veteran subtly hinting at possibly wanting to play alongside the Lakers' rookie.

On Thursday, though, James will play against Ball for the first time, as the Lakers and Cavaliers are set for a 5 p.m. Pacific Time tip-off.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Report: Lakers Tell Lonzo Ball's Father to Calm Comments]]>Wed, 13 Dec 2017 00:52:18 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-talk-to-Lonzo-Ball-father.jpg

The Los Angeles Lakers' front office reportedly met with the father of their no. 2 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Lonzo Ball, per a report by ESPN's Ramona Shelburne with the intention of cutting some of the negative comments attributed to the older Ball with regards to the Lakers' starting the season 10-16.

Ball's father has been an outspoken figure and has only gained further prominence following the start of the Los Angeles Lakers' season, in part assisted by a Facebook video series. As far as parents go, Ball's father is one of the most high profile figures to enter the NBA news cycle after launching his own brand and even launching into a social media dispute with the president of the United States.

The point guard's father had a knack for making headlines with imaginative and often unbelievable quotes. One time, he said that he would have beaten Michael Jordan at one-on-one in basketball. Another time, the parent said his son was better than two-time NBA champions and former NBA MVP Stephen Curry.

However, Ball's father's quotes seemed to cross an imaginary line when Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton had to begin answering pregame questions about criticism leveled on him by the father of his point guard saying the second year coach did not understanding how to properly play his son at the end of games.

"It was the best thing, man," Ball's father confirmed the meeting with Shelburne. "Everybody's going to try to make it an ego thing, like I'm trying to tell them what to do or they're trying to tell me to tone it down. It's not about that. It's about coming together and to get a solution to this problem."

On the night the story broke, Ball's father and two siblings were watching the Lakers play the New York Knicks from courtside seats at Madison Square Garden, with Lakers president of basketball operations Earvin "Magic" Johnson also in attendance in one of those exclusive floor level seats. According to ESPN, both Johnson and Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka declined to comment regarding the meeting.

"Anyone that says anything about us, not just [Ball's father], but anyone, if you are not part of our group or circle, have whatever opinion you want," Walton said to ESPN on the topic following the game, expressing that the comments had no relevance to the job he was doing.

Judging by his loud personality and his consistent history, though, Ball's father is likely to continue providing eye-brow raising quotes as long as reporters continue putting microphones in front of his mouth. However, the message to be more positive may tone down targeting Walton and his staff directly or making comments about how his son is being mismanaged by the team. Or, Ball's father may continue saying whatever is on his mind, even if it conflicts with the organizations.

"I'm going to say whatever I want to say, however I want to say it," Ball's father also told ESPN before explaining the takeaway of the meeting. "And [the Lakers front office] said, '[Ball's father], come and talk to us first.' So that's fine too."

In more relevant news, Ball played 40 minutes in a 113-109 overtime loss to the Knicks on Tuesday and scored 17 points, including hitting three of his six three-pointers, and also filled up the box score with eight rebounds, six assists, two steals, one block and only one turnover.

In front of a national audience, the 20-year-old point guard played one of the most complete, impressive and mature games of his young NBA career.

The rookie continues to shoot at a markedly better rate away from Los Angeles. In 14 games at STAPLES Center, Ball is averaging 6.9 points on 26.6 percent shooting from the field and 16.7 percent shooting from three-point land. In the 12 non-LA based games, Ball is averaging 11.25 points on 39.2 percent from the field and 36.2 percent from beyond the three-point line.

Ball and the Lakers face a grueling stretch to wind down December, as their final nine games include five games against the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers.

With losing likely in Ball's immediate future, the father of the point guard may have his patience and self control tested in the coming weeks.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Lose to Knicks in Overtime]]>Tue, 12 Dec 2017 19:38:28 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-vs-Knicks-Porzingis-Lonzo-Ball.jpg

Four quarters weren't enough to separate the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, as Kristaps Porzingis scored 37 points and pulled down 11 rebounds in a thrilling 113-109 overtime victory for the home team.

Lakers rookie point guard Lonzo Ball also had one of his best games as a professional, finishing with 17 points, eight rebounds, six assists, two steals, one block and only one turnover in the loss. Ball also hit three of his six three-point attempts in his MSG debut, and the back-and-forth game made for a palpable atmosphere that could be heard on the radio and tasted through the television screen.

Among the privileged people witnessing the event live were Ball's father and two brothers, all three of whom were sitting courtside. Lakers president of basketball operations Earvin "Magic" Johnson was also sitting courtside and enjoying watching his team and rookies compete at the Mecca of basketball.

While Ball played well and deserved the attention he received, standout rookie forward Kyle Kuzma also put on a show and did his part to help the Lakers nearly steal the road game. Kuzma finished the contest with 19 points, six rebounds, two blocks and an assist in 30 minutes on the court, and the 22-year-old played a vital role in sending the game into overtime.

The former University of Utah Ute hit the game-tying three-pointer with 24 seconds remaining in regulation after the team had trailed by five points with less than a minute remaining in regulation. Kuzma scored 10 points in the vital fourth quarter.

Porzingis, though, proved to be too much for the visitors. The Latvian forward hit his first five three-point attempts on the night before going on to hit the nail in the Lakers' coffin with 52 second remaining in the overtime period. With his shot, the Knicks led by six points and appeared to have the game locked up.

However,  tenacious defense led to a Knicks' turnover and another chance for the Lakers. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who led the Lakers with 24 points on the night, had the opportunity to draw the Lakers to within one point with 33 seconds remaining, but the shooting guard's three-point attempt could not find the bottom of the net, and the Knicks corralled the rebound.

Curiously, the Lakers elected not to foul and instead played out a full possession that concluded with a turnover and a fast break basket for the purple and gold. LA only trailed by two points, but with only 1.6 seconds remaining in the overtime period, this game was decided, even if it was not technically over.

A replay review, a couple timeouts and a couple fouls later, the Knicks walked away victorious, 113-109.

Notes: Knicks rookie Frank Ntilikina had a positive showing with 13 points, five assists and five rebounds off the bench, and his contributions played a factor in the final outcome. Conversely, Brandon Ingram had an awful shooting night and missed his first 10 shots and finished the game with five points on 2-12 shooting from the field. Ingram also committed a game-high five turnovers on the night.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[LaMelo and LiAngelo Ball Turn Pro, Heading to Lithuania]]>Mon, 11 Dec 2017 23:09:05 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/LaMelo-Ball-Lithuania-Liangelo-Ball.jpg

On Monday, LaMelo Ball and LiAngelo Ball, the younger brothers of Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball, turned professional and agreed to contracts with Lithuanian first division basketball club Prienu Vytautas, first reported by ESPN.

Nineteen-year-old LiAngelo Ball recently gave up his UCLA scholarship after a shoplifting incident in China left him, along with two teammates, suspended from the team indefinitely. The incident occurred during the team's preseason tour in China and caused an international media frenzy, including multiple tweets from the President of the United States directed at the father of the family, LaVar Ball.

In addition, President Donald Trump claimed to have spoken to his Chinese counterpart and publicly asked for gratitude for helping in the release of the three basketball players involved, which included LiAngelo Ball. While the players thanked the president for his efforts, LaVar Ball refused to offer any gratitude, and that led to angry tweets from the president and a prime time CNN appearance for LaVar Ball.

LaVar subsequently went on to announce that LiAngelo Ball would not be returning to UCLA, and UCLA coach Steve Alford released a statement acknowledging the decision by LiAngelo and his family. Even before the indefinite suspension, LiAngelo Ball did not figure to play heavy minutes for the Bruins.

Prior to the media attention over the shop lifting incident, LaVar Ball had already pulled his youngest son, LaMelo Ball, out of Chino Hills High School. On Monday, the 16-year-old LaMelo Ball turned professional as a basketball player and gave up his future commitment to UCLA and his amateur status in the process. Considering he already had a signature shoe, LaMelo Ball's eligibility would have forced the NCAA to ask tough questions in a couple years, but the decision to go to Europe solved the potential headache for college basketball administrators.

While the practice of athletes turning professional as minors is common in Europe, the practice is literally and figuratively foreign to American sports culture. With the exception of a standout soccer player like US Mens National Team star Christian Pulisic, underage American athletes almost never turn professional and move to Europe.

In terms of basketball players, the practice of sending an underage player to develop in Europe is unheard of and would normally make little sense when considering the end goal is to play in the NBA, which is based primarily in the United States, with one team in Canada.

"They are excited to be playing on the same team," a tweet from the Official Big Baller Brand account confirmed the early report from ESPN. The tweet also showed both brothers signing their professional contracts.

LiAngelo Ball can enter into the 2018 NBA Draft, but the general consensus is that the middle brother in the family has almost no shot of hearing his name called among the 60 players selected to join the NBA annually. As such, the move to Europe did not come as a shock for the ephemeral UCLA Bruin.

LaMelo Ball would not be draft eligible until 2020, so his decision to give up his amateur status and play in Europe for the next three seasons is unexpected. If all goes according to plan for the youngest of the brothers, he would hear his name called at age 18 and play his first NBA game at age 19. While the decision to send LaMelo Ball abroad may not work out, it is also undoubtedly revolutionary.

More than likely, the desire to keep the two siblings together and guarantee playing time for the two teenagers played into why the family chose Prienu Vytautasi, which is based in a Lithuanian city with a population of fewer than 10,000 people.

The City of Los Angeles counts nearly four million residents based on the 2016 Census, and to underscore the dramatic shift in backdrops, Pauley Pavilion, where UCLA plays its home games, holds over 12,000 people.

The Balls' new home arena holds a total of 1,700 seats, with 500 of those reserved for sponsors according to ESPN. Tickets cost 5 Euros, though that price could jump if the Balls attract the same level of fans in Lituania as they do in New York or Los Angeles.

"It's not about money for the Ball Brothers," that same Big Baller Brand tweet read.

Johnatan Givony of Draft Express offered further perspective on the financial implications when he shared that salaries for players at the level the Balls would be playing would not exceed $500 per month.

Possibly, LaVar, LiAngelo and LaMelo chose to play in Lithuania because the country's name starts with the letter "L". More likely, the decision to join the fledgling club in Eastern Europe has to do with guaranteeing playing time and keeping the siblings together.

ESPN also reported that the two Ball brothers are meant to move to Europe in January.



Photo Credit: Getty Images for Crosswalk Produ]]>
<![CDATA[Eagles' Chris Long Gets Into Heated Exchange With Rams Fans]]>Sun, 10 Dec 2017 21:03:43 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-889874586.jpg

This wasn't a pleasant reunion.

Current Eagles defensive end Chris Long got into a heated exchange with fans from his former team, after Philadelphia defeated the Los Angeles Rams, 43-35, at the L.A. Coliseum on Sunday.

Before you watch the video, it's noteworthy to mention that the L.A. Coliseum had a season-high 67,752 in attendance for the highly anticipated matchup of NFC heavyweights.

However, the Eagles loyal fans were out in full force as "Fly Eagles Fly" nation came out in droves to support their team, engulfing many sections of the heralded arena in a sea of green.

One of those sections was section 17, where an assemblage of Eagles fans had gathered along the railing to cheer on their 11-2 team.

As evidenced in the picture below of the section, it's mostly Eagles fans with the exception of this one Rams fan who is showing his support with a "Central Valley Rams" flag.

 

Minutes after this photo was taken, the Rams had a 1st and 10 from their own 24-yard line with one second remaining on the clock. Jared Goff threw a quick pass to Pharoah Cooper who lateraled to Tavon Austin, who then lateraled the ball into the arms of Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham, who scored a 16-yard fumble return touchdown just as time expired.

Graham immediately ran to the fans in Section 17 to attempt his own version of the "Lambeau Leap," as he jumped into the awaiting arms of Eagles fans with his teammates.

Late to the celebration was Long, who also tried to jump into the stands that he once patrolled for the first eight years of his life when his father, Howie, played for the L.A. Raiders.

Unfortunately for Long, he jumped into the stands of three Rams fans who immediately pushed him back onto the field. After the incident, the fans and Long exchanged words, and Long can be seen yelling "[Expletive] You!" to the fans as he walks away.

Our own Michael J. Duarte was in the end zone when they exchanged happened, and NBC Philadelphia also tweeted out a video of the TV showing a different angle of the incident.

 

In the end, Long, who was drafted by the then St. Louis Rams in 2008 with the second pick overall, and played for the Horns from 2008 to 2015, left the Coliseum with the victory and has a chance to add another Super Bowl ring to his collection after he won his first with the Patriots last season.

The Eagles clinched the NFC East with the victory and are in pole position to claim the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC Playoffs including a first round bye, and home field advantage throughout. 



Photo Credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Eagles Soar Over Rams in NFC Showdown]]>Sun, 10 Dec 2017 19:03:49 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-889854070.jpg

This was a good old fashioned shootout. 

The Philadelphia Eagles rallied from a fourth quarter deficit to defeat the Los Angeles Rams, 43-35, in a showdown of NFC Supremacy at the L.A. Coliseum on Sunday afternoon.

Carson Wentz threw for four touchdowns before leaving the game in the fourth quarter with a knee injury, finishing with 291 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. 

His counterpart, Jared Goff, threw for 199 yards and two touchdowns, as the two teams took turns delivering knockout blows throughout the afternoon.

A Jared Goff fumble late in the fourth quarter gave the Eagles the ball inside Rams territory, and shortly thereafer, a Jake Elliot field goal gave them a 37-35 lead with just over two minutes left.

After a Rams punt, the Eagles were able to wind the clock down to one second, time for one final play for Goff and the Rams.

Goff threw to Pharoah Cooper who tried to lateral the ball to Tavon Austin, but he dropped the ball and it was recovered by Brandon Graham for the game clinching score.

Here are all the highlights of one of the best game you'll see this year:

Todd Gurley started the opening drive with a 30-yard run down the sidelines, and capped it off with a 2-yard touchdown run that gave Los Angeles their eighth consecutive score on the opening drive. 

The Eagles answered right back as Carson Wentz quickly found tight end Brent Celek to tie the game at 7-7.

Philadelphia continued to pile on as they scored on their next possession as Wentz found backup tight end, Trey Burton for the go-ahead touchdown.

Philadelphia pulled away to open the second quarter as it was once again Wentz who found Burton in the corner of the end zone and the Eagles took a 21-7 lead. 

The Rams responded as Jared Goff threw his first passing touchdown of the game, finding his former roommate Cooper Kupp for the score.

The Rams scored to open the second half on a touchdown pass from Goff to Sammy Watkins, but just as it looked like the Eagles were in total control, the Rams special teams came up with the play of the game as Michael Thomas blocked a Donnie Jones punt and Blake Countess returned it for a touchdown. 

The Eagles took the lead at the end of the third quarter as Alshon Jefferey made a sensational shoestring catch to put Philadelphia up, 31-28 heading into the fourth quarter. 

 

The back and forth battle continued as Todd Gurley scored his second rushing touchdown of the game to give the Rams back the lead.

Up Next:

The Rams will travel to CenturyLink Field in Seattle next Sunday in a NFC West showdown that could decide the division. Kickoff is set for 1:05PM PST.



Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Chargers Destroy Washington and Now Focus on Chiefs]]>Sun, 10 Dec 2017 16:41:56 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*121/AP_17344846614175.jpg

The Los Angeles Chargers continue to keep their playoff hopes alive with a 30-13 victory over Washington on a warm Sunday afternoon at Stub Hub Center.

The only bright spot for Washington was a Kellen Clemens interception late in the fourth quarter, that allowed Bashaud Breeland who made a 96-yard touchdown return.

With news of the Kansas City Chiefs victory over the Oakland Raiders, the Chargers are now tied with the Chiefs for first place in the AFC West.

Los Angeles controls it's own destiny with facing the Chiefs next Saturday night and finishing the season at Stub Hub Center against the Raiders. However the team didn't get caught overlooking Washington led by quarterback Kirk Cousins. Washington has had success this season on the west coast defeating the Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks earlier in the year. With the Chargers ranking fourth in the NFL in sacks, Washington has allowed Cousins to be sacked 35 times this season. It's the most the quarterback has experienced in his three years as a starter.

The Chargers set the tone early as they marched down the field almost flawlessly, as Philip Rivers had one incomplete pass in the opening drive as Los Angeles settled for a 33-yard Travis Coons field goal for the 3-0 lead in the opening quarter.

Defensively the Chargers also held up their end of the bargain, putting an enormous amount of pressure on Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins, led by Denzel Perryman halted Washington from driving down the field. Later in the opening quarter, Washington committed three crucial penalties on defense that allowed the Chargers to capitalize on a successful offensive drive, capped off by tight end Hunter Henry's 8-yard touchdown catch. When Henry gets at least five targets, the Chargers are 7-1.

Struggles continued for Washington, as Cousins threw an interception to Trevor Williams who couldn't hang on to the ball, yet Kyle Emanuel scoops it up and runs back to the Washington 29 yard line. After a great defensive play by corner back Josh Norman preventing Keenan Allen from entering into the end zone, the Chargers settled for a 21-yard field goal for the 13-0 lead.

Being shut out in the opening quarter didn't sit well with Cousins, who maintained his poise and found a streaking Vernon Davis for the touchdown. With that catch, Davis surpassed Kellen Winslow Sr. for 10th on the All-Time list for receptions. Davis now has 542 career receptions.

Rivers' spoke through his actions, as he found speedy wide receiver Tyrell Williams for 75-yard touchdown catch for the 20-6 lead in the second quarter.

Los Angeles defense continued to play exceptional, only allowed Washington 33 rushing yards in the first half. In the first six games the Chargers allowed 915 yards, they allowed 642 yards in the next six games.

The Chargers defense continued to frustrate Cousins as Washington's offense stalled several times in the third quarter. With great field position, on a flee flicker from Rivers who launched a 59-yard pass to Allen for the first down. That's Allen's fourth straight game with over 100 yard receiving. RB Melvin Gordon then bulldozed his way to the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown. It was the first time in three weeks that Gordon found the end zone for his ninth touchdown of the season.

Washington was truly out of the league as the Chargers crushed any hope of momentum or hope of victory early in the third quarter. Desmond King, Corey Liuget and Melvin Ingram (split a sack) sacked Cousins. King has four solo sacks on the season tying him with Rodney Harrison with the second most sacks by a defensive back in a single season in Chargers history. Ingram recorded his first sack since October 22, and now has nine on the season.

Philip Rivers completed 18-of 39 passes for 319 yards and two touchdowns. Another career day for Rivers, as he became the 3rd QB in NFL history to pass for 3,500+ yards in 10 consecutive seasons (2008-2017).

Kirk Cousins completed 15-of-27 passes for 151 yards, one touchdown and an interception in the Washington loss.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Walton's Lakers Forming New Identity, Winning Games Too]]>Sun, 10 Dec 2017 22:02:39 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/2017-18+LA+Lakers-defense.jpg

Fast approaching two full months into the 2017-18 NBA season, the Los Angeles Lakers remain an unknown commodity in the sense that they appear to be playing solid enough defense to challenge any team on a given night but their youth makes them an inconsistent group capable of losing to teams near the bottom of the league.

By the time the Lakers return home from the current road trip, Luke Walton's team will have completed a third of the season, and following the win over the Charlotte Hornets, the Lakers rank no. 8 in defensive rating and first in the NBA in pace. As a whole, the Lakers are playing the way the coach and organization intended at the onset of the season: a team that plays defense, causes turnovers and immediately pushes out on the break.

A handful of losses in games LA could have won have the Lakers sitting on a 10-15 record, but the Lakers are still ahead of the Clippers in the standings and 10th in the Western Conference. Walton's team is still only a couple games back of the eighth and final playoff spot the team targeted at the start of the season and continues to target as the season progresses.

Four of the Laker's next five games come against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors, who have combined to lose only four of their last 30 games. The manner in which Walton has his team playing, though, offers hope that the Lakers can steal one of those four games and stay within touching distance of that final playoff spot. When the schedule inevitably softens, the Lakers can possibly make up ground and potentially finish with a .500 record. That may not be good enough for a playoff berth in the West, but a 40+ win season would be a dramatic improvement on a 26-win season in Walton's rookie year on the bench.

Lonzo Ball has notably contributed to the Lakers' exciting pace and has been playing faster and with more of a purpose in recent games. Meanwhile, the point guard's defense has been a revelation and also contributed to the team's jump from the worst defense in the NBA for two years running into the top third of the league. In addition, Ball is a box score-filler and currently leads the team in rebounds, assists and ranks second on the team in blocks.

Shooting may be a concern, but Ball's ability to play and contribute in a positive manner is unquestioned.

Meanwhile, Kyle Kuzma has emerged as a candidate for Rookie of the Year, as the forward has tabbed eight double-doubles in 24 games, and the former Utah Ute has improved in his rebounding as the season has progressed. Kuzma has three double-doubles in the team's four December games thus far.

Perhaps, the greatest leap forward has derived from the undeniable improvement of Brandon Ingram. The former Duke Blue Devil only hit the 20-point mark twice in his rookie season, but his offense has developed to a far more consistent and threatening level in the 20-year-old's sophomore season. Ingram has topped 20 points in six of 25 games and is currently on a streak of 11 straight games scoring in double figures. Ingram has scored 15 or more points in 15 of the Lakers' 25 games and nine of the past 11 games. In short, he's getting better and more consistent with every passing game.

Following his 18-point outing in Charlotte, Ingram is now leading the Lakers with 16.2 points per game, which is an improvement of nearly seven points per game from his rookie season. In addition, the North Carolina native has demonstrated improvement in his three-point shooting percentage, free throw shooting percentage and overall field goal percentage, along with showing positive trajectory in rebounds, assists, steals and blocks per game. Ingram is also, arguably, the team's best wing defender, and his recent game-winning shot in Philadelphia in a nationally televised game made him the young team's shot maker when the game is on the line.

At the moment, Ingram is the best player on the Lakers—without any qualifications required.

Meanwhile, Jordan Clarkson is emerging as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate and could even snag that award should the Lakers make a late run and snatch a playoff spot by season's end. Clarkson currently averages 15.2 points per game, which is good enough for third on the team, despite ranking seventh on the team in minutes.

Ranking eighth on the team in minutes is Julius Randle. The forward may have up and down nights on the offensive end, but Randle's defensive versatility and tenacity have made him a regular closer for Walton. The former University of Kentucky Wildcat may not have displayed growth in his jump shot, but his per 48-minute stats project out to 26.6 points and 13.6 rebounds per game, which points to the 23-year-old's efficiency on the floor in limited time.

Several times already this season, Randle's energy has taken over large segments of games on both ends of the floors and spurred big runs. He's a unique player that can occasionally change a game on his own, and that's without being able to consistently hit a jump shot.

Brook Lopez and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope joined over the summer. Lopez seemed to struggle in his role early on, but the center has scored in double digits in each of his past four games and is shooting 33.3 percent from beyond the arc in December. Caldwell-Pope's shot selection has been a bit curious at times, but his defensive intensity is impossible to deny. On the perimeter, Caldwell-Pope is the team's best defender, and both Lopez and Caldwell-Pope have contributed to the team's improved defense.

In addition, Caldwell-Pope is the team's second best three-point shooter,36.8 percent, behind only Clarkson, 37.1 percent.

The Lakers have also found minutes and value out of Josh Hart. Hart is a stellar defender with toughness that the team lacked on that end of the court in recent years. The rookie out of Villanova started the season by making only two of his 15 three-point attempts. However, Hart has hit seven of his 10 three-point attempts since and is making a stronger case to get regular rotation minutes with every outing.

Larry Nance Jr. came into training camp as the best conditioned athlete on the team, and his work in the offseason shows in his strength on the defensive glass and simply battling down in the painted area. Walton's occasional experiments with Nance playing at center have not worked out, but at power forward, Nance expects to continue as the team's starter based on his output and contributions on the defensive side of the ball. Nance also leads the team in steals and is neck-and-neck with Ball and Kuzma for team leader in rebounds.

Based on matchups, Walton has looked to Corey Brewer and Andrew Bogut from time to time, and both veterans have helped more than they have hurt the team, but neither of the two NBA journeymen are central to the team's success or failure in the current season. Second year center Ivica Zubac, rookie Thomas Bryant and two-way players Vander Blue and Alex Caruso fall in that same category.

Luol Deng is entirely a non-factor.

Through 25 games, the Lakers have displayed growth, competitiveness and talent. Most importantly, the Lakers are finally playing NBA level defense again, which is the key for the team to be competitive throughout the season and possibly even achieve that lofty goal of making the playoffs.

An unlikely playoff berth would probably result in a four-game sweep to the Houston Rockets or Golden State Warriors, but still, the playoff experience would do wonders for the team's development. None of the Lakers' young core has experienced NBA Playoffs basketball, and failing in the postseason is part of the process of getting better and succeeding in the NBA's second season.

While the Lakers may still be a long shot to make the playoffs, they're trending in the right direction, and the prospect of the purple and gold in the 2018 NBA Playoffs no longer seems like a distant reality in a galaxy far, far away.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Clarkson, Lakers Sting Hornets 110-99]]>Sat, 09 Dec 2017 19:01:55 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-v-Hornets-Jordan-Clarkson.jpg

On Saturday night in Charlotte, the Los Angeles Lakers collected back-to-back road wins for the first time during the 2017-18 season, as Jordan Clarkson led the Lakers to a 110-99 victory over Dwight Howard and the Charlotte Hornets.

Clarkson scored 22 points to lead the Lakers and scored 14 of those points in the fourth quarter when he seemingly took over a close game and ran screen and roll with Julius Randle to victory. The Lakers' sixth man also had six assists and five rebounds on the night, and Lakers coach Luke Walton stuck with his backup guard down the stretch.

Clarkson's late form kept rookie Lonzo Ball on the bench for the duration of the fourth quarter, but the starting point guard had a good night overall. Ball finished the night with nine assists, five points, five rebounds and a block in 27 minutes on the night.

Brandon Ingram, who is a North Carolina native, scored 18 points to lead all of the Lakers' starters in a balanced scoring performance with six different Lakers scoring in double-figures. Ingram continued to attack off the drive and successfully use his length at the rim.

Along with Clarkson and Randle, rookie Kyle Kuzma put in a strong shift off the bench. Kuzma finished the night with 12 points and 14 rebounds to record his eighth double-double of the season and his third double-double in the past four games. Kuzma has seemingly readjusted to life with the second unit after deputizing for Larry Nance Jr. in the starting lineup while the Lakers' starting power forward recovered from a fracture in his hand.

The Hornets were led by 23 points from Kemba Walker and 21 points and 12 rebounds by Howard, who played a single season in Los Angeles.

However, the Hornets did not shoot better than the Lakers from the field, three-point line or free throw line on the night, so a win was improbable for the home team. The Hornets also got out-rebounded by the Lakers, and LA limited turnovers, which have been a problem for the visitors, to only 14 giveaways for the game. Add in the offensive balance on display, and the Lakers celebrated an all-around feel good victory.

With the win, the Lakers improved to 2-0 on the current road trip, with stops in New York and Cleveland still to come.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ball to Ingram, Lakers Win Late, 107-104, in Philly]]>Thu, 07 Dec 2017 20:35:02 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Brandon-Ingram-game-winner-Lakers-Sixers.jpg

On Thursday night in Philadelphia, Ben Simmons recorded a triple-double and Joel Embiid led all scorers with 33 points, but the Los Angeles Lakers claimed the victory in a perfect advertisment for the team's future.

Lonzo Ball sucked in the defense and found a wide-open Brandon Ingram for the game winning three-pointer that passed through the net with 0.8 seconds remaining to give the Los Angeles Lakers a 107-104 victory and snap a five-game losing streak.

Ingram led the Lakers with 22 points on the night, while Ball put up 10 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, four blocks and three steals with no turnovers in an impressive box score-stuffing performance. Both Ingram and Ball are 20 years old, and Thursday night felt like a signature win for a Lakers' team hoping for Ball and Ingram to lead the team for the foreseeable future.

Simmons' 12 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds should not be overlooked and would have been the leading story if the Sixers had pulled off the comeback, but the Lakers deresved this victory. They earned it by playing a cleaner game for 48 minutes. After back-to-back 20-plus-turnover games, the Lakers only turned the ball over 12 times against the Sixers.

In addition, the Lakers' defense forced mistakes and got out in transition off those mistakes. The Sixers turned the ball over 18 times on Thursday, and the Lakers scored 25 points off those Philadelphia errors.

If the Lakers had simply been able to hit their foul shots, the game would have been put to bed earlier. The Lakers missed half of their 24 foul shots, with Ingram leading the struggles with a 5-10 performance from the charity stripe.

The Lakers' second-year forward came out of the blocks hot and scored the game's first four points. He continued to build on his fast start but seemed to quiet down for much of the second half. Then, Ingram came to life late in the fourth quarter and found Julius Randle with an impressive hip-level pass on a drive. Ingram, of course, capped off the performance by draining the three-pointer for the win.

In terms of game flow, the Lakers took an early lead and led by as many as 16 points on the night and even held a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter.

With four minutes to play, though, the Sixers only trailed by one point after being inspired by Embiid and Simmons. Robert Covington got cooking late, as the Sixers' forward hit four of his six three-point attempts on the night and finished with 19 points in the loss.

Richuan Holmes, a third-year power forward, also played a role in the Sixers' late push and finished with 13 points off the Sixers' bench. Unfortunately for Philadelphia, Holmes accounted for all of Philadelphia's bench scoring, while Randle and Jordan Clarkson evenly split 32 points off the Lakers' bench. Overall, the Lakers' bench outscored the Sixers' bench 41 to 13.

All five starters from both teams scored in double figures, further providing evidence of ball movement and balance in a fast-paced game that was fun to watch for the neutral fans.

Ultimately, the Lakers won and the two teams split their season series, with each team winning on the road. The Lakers improved to 9-15 on the season, while the Sixers dropped to 13-11.

Next, LA plays in Charlotte on Saturday.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rams Johnny Hekker Delivers Supplies to Wildfire Victims]]>Thu, 07 Dec 2017 17:37:33 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/198*120/Johnny+Hekker+Helps+Fire+Victims.png

We're all in it together.

Johnny Hekker was relaxing in his Thousand Oaks home on Tuesday afternoon when he turned on his television and saw that a handful of wildfires were ravaging the Southland.

So the Rams All-Pro punter did what many of us wanted to do, but didn't. He took action. 

"I saw how fast it escalated with the winds and it got out of hand," said Hekker. "I went outside and smelled the smoke. I saw the ash on my car and realized something needed to be done."

On Sunday, Hekker will be taking the field in arguably the biggest and most anticipated game of the Rams season. But that didn't stop him from leaving the comfortable confines of his home in order to help others.

Knowing that their community—both in Los Angeles and Ventura Country—were under threat from fire and dangerous air quality, Hekker sprung into action with his wife Makayla, who is seven-months pregnant, by his side.

Hekker contacted Ventura County Star beat writer Joe Curley to ask where he could go and what he could do to assist those in need. Curley, who ironically was helping out with coverage of the fires himself, was at the Ventura County Fairgrounds at the time, where a press conference was being held.

Curley sent Hekker a list of shelters in the area, and told him that there was a shelter at the fairgrounds and that victims of the Thomas Fire, which burned down hundreds of homes in the Santa Paula area, were in need of warm clothing and other supplies.

So the Hekker's immediately jumped into their truck and headed to Target in Newbury Park, where they filled up four shopping carts full of sweatshirts, sweatpants, underwear, diapers, baby wipes, socks and toys.

"I didn't spend enough," Hekker said. "Walking around the store, I couldn't grab enough stuff. I really want to go back and just buy out the whole place because there are so many people here who are in need of so much."

Hekker said initially he was concerned about his wife wanting to go with him because he wasn't sure if the smoke in the air was good for the baby, but once they reached Target, she took action, and helped him with purchases he would otherwise not have known to make.

"It made walking through Target that much easier," Hekker said of his wife. "She knew what to grab. I would have been lost in the Women's section. She has a big heart. "

As the Hekker's were waiting in the line to check out, he was touched by a token of generosity that moved him to tears.

"One of the men at the store came up to me and gave me $40. He said, 'I know what you're doing,'" continued Hekker. "It moved me to tears."

Together, Johnny and Makayla drove to the Ventura County Fairgrounds and hand delivered the items to the shelter shortly after 8 p.m.

"The people were grateful. A lot of them had nothing.," Hekker said of what he saw. "They didn't have sweatshirts or sweatpants and it was cold there in the shelter. We bought a lot of sweatshirts and sweatpants. I grabbed some footballs and a bat for kids to play with. I saw a little kid running around playing with it and it moved me quite a bit.

"It was moving, to see everyone, including the firefighters who were just taking a quick break before heading back out into the mountains."

Hekker shook the hands of all the volunteers and met with some of the evacuees and first responders to tell them he was feeling for them and praying for them. 

"We're all in it together. It's a real situation where wen can kind of rally around one another and try to lift the spirits of these people who have lost everything that they knew."

Hekker grew up in a family that frequently served his community in Washington. His parents were active in the community and with the local church. He said when people were in need growing up, his family was always quick to act.

"A lot of my teammates were also texting me throughout the day asking me how they could help," added Hekker. "People told me to start a GoFundMe, so I'm going to get that going as well."



Photo Credit: Leon Bennett/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Chargers WR Keenan Allen Electrifies the League ]]>Wed, 06 Dec 2017 15:23:22 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/184*120/AP_17337855916094.jpg

Wide receiver Keenan Allen came off another impressive game against the Cleveland Browns last Sunday at Stub Hub Center. Allen finished with 10 receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown in the victory, along with the Chargers controlling their own destiny, Allen is carving out his own path not just in Los Angeles but across the NFL with his performance. Allen is the only player with 10 plus catches, 100 plus receiving yards and a touchdown in three consecutive games.

After overcoming a series of injuries starting in 2013 with a A/C joint sprain, 2015 he required surgery to repair a lacerated kidney, and in 2016 he required surgery to repair a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in his right knee. Allen had a focus and determination that would inspire anyone to get back on the football field. He credits positive people around him and the strength and believe his teammates provided him throughout those processes.

He currently ranks fifth in the NFL with 1,033 yards on 77 receptions entering this Sunday's contest against Washington. In the last three games, Allen caught 33 passes for for 436 yards against the Buffalo Bills, Dallas Cowboys, and Browns. With the Bolts (6-6), Allen's play in crucial situations have made the difference offensively. The foundation of Allen's success lately has been out of the slot more on plays, where he draws man-to-man coverage. He's not the fastest nor possesses great size, however his ability and agility to catch the ball in tight spaces, throwing to him on quick slant routes makes him that top receiver for Los Angeles.

Quarterback Philip Rivers praised the 6-foot-2, 211 pound receiver along with his willingness to stay the course this season.

"You don't just have three good games and get to 1,000 yards," Rivers said. "He did something to get to this point and get to where he is third or fourth in the league in catches. It didn't just happen the last three weeks, but it certainly has been an awesome three weeks. He is just a guy, again, that is so easy to feel as a quarterback when I am back there getting ready to throw it. He is just an easy guy. His body language is very inviting as far as when he is coming in on his cuts. I can just see it easily and well. Some of that is reps and some of that is just what makes him really good. The guy's ability to beat man coverage and to understand what the defense is doing is up there with the best of them."

Last season Allen paid strict attention to wide receivers such as Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and Larry Fitzgerald on how to improve his game especially with yards after the catch. Allen also reiterated last week that this was the healthiest he's felt in a while and it couldn't have come at a better time.

Allen is playing on a Pro-Bowl level, and if that continues not only will he help ensure his team a playoff spot (as they rack up wins), but would be in line to win the league's Comeback Player of the Year Award.



Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Lakers Brandon Ingram - Most Improved Player?]]>Tue, 05 Dec 2017 22:44:08 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/212*120/Lakers-Brandon-Ingram-Most-Improved-Player.jpg

For the 2017-18 season, Los Angeles Lakers forward Brandon Ingram is driving to the basket as often as Kyrie Irving and only a shade behind LeBron James, and the 20-year-old is shooting a slightly better percentage than Irving and a respectable percentage compared to James on those drives.

He's also passing out of those drives as often as Irving and only slightly behind James in that category, as the Kinston, North Carolina native has made strides that could see him steal the annual Most Improved Player award should he continue on his current trajectory.

In his last five games, Ingram is averaging 19.8 points on 51.5 percent shooting from the field and 75 percent from the foul line, along with 5.8 rebounds, three assists and a steal per outing. He's hit double figures in scoring in nine straight games and has twice set new career-highs during that stretch, including his first 30-point performance in a 32-point outing against the world champion Golden State Warriors at Staples Center.

"He's getting better at going left," Lakers coach Luke Walton said after watching film on the narrow overtime loss to the Warriors. "Even talking to [Warriors forward] Andre (Iguodala) after the game (on Wednesday), that the first thing he said: 'He's getting good now because he's able to get to that left hand and still create in the lane. Where before, we could force him that way and we knew nothing good was going to happen.'"

Walton added, "So, that obviously a credit to him and the work he's putting in."

Ingram told NBCLA.com that he's had several players come up to him and say positive comments this season, with his main takeaway to keep working and improving his game.

Only six months earlier, a 19-year-old Ingram did not even make the All-Rookie First Team as he went into his first offseason as a professional. His work ethic had already drawn public recognition from the coaching staff and newly planted team executives during the tail-end of his rookie season, but Ingram's first NBA summer planted the seeds that are bearing fruit as the season hits its second quarter.

As an example, Walton memorably got a text message at 8:00 a.m. on the morning of Memorial Day informing him that Ingram wanted to come into the facility and lift weights.

"Well, I actually saw Andre after the game and he'd made a comment about that," Ingram told NBCLA.com about catching up with Iguodala and talking about going left after the game against the Warriors. "I've talked to him before, and I just try to make growth."

Ingram shared the message Iguodala delivered: "There're going to be ups and downs, but just enjoy the process because the end result is going to be good."

The forward contended that he could always go left, but he did admit he prefers to go right and finish. Still, he enjoys having the option and confidence to finish with his left hand because he's put the work in. And it shows.

"I could always go left," Ingram says in a confident matter-of-fact tone. "I could finish left. I could lay the basketball with my left. It's just, I had so much success going to right and laying it up with my right and dunking with my right and finishing with my right. It's the way that I like to go. Going to my left, I think I can finish the same way, drawing the contact and finishing over the top."

Using his length to finish at the rim is a part of Ingram's game that came out late in his rookie season, but his sophomore season has been defined by not only finishing but finishing through contact. The forward is getting to the foul line with greater frequency, and even that part of his game has shown improvement.

In the month of November, Ingram averaged 5.7 free throws per game and shot a lukewarm 65.0 percent from the charity stripe. Over his last three games, though, the 20-year-old has grown comfortable at the foul line and made 18 of his 21 free throws. Passing the quarter mark, Ingram is suddenly as good a bet at the foul line as any of his teammates.

"His ability to finish, understand how to use his length to wrap around guys, get to the free throw line is impressive, really impressive," teammate Larry Nance Jr. told NBCLA.com.

Nance gushed over the difference in the Ingram that ended the 2016-17 season and the player that has emerged during the 2017-18 campaign, "A new level of aggressiveness and confidence. He's been awesome attacking off the dribble."

Nance added, "It's been fun to watch."

In a season that offered only the slightest hope at the playoffs, Ingram's play has provided a great deal of the enjoyment that Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka promised at the start of the season. Lakers president of basketball operations called for Ingram to be the team's leading scorer, and although the former Duke Blue Devil is currently second on the team in scoring, he's quickly rising and only trails team-leading Kyle Kuzma's 18.8 points per game by less than a point.

The smart money is on Ingram finishing his sophomore season at the leading scorer on the Lakers.

"We don't want him to come into the game of the mindset of 'Alright, let me go get 30 (points) again tonight,' he's got to continue to play the right way and play within the system that we're trying to play," Walton in the days following the Warriors' game. "The style of play we want to use, and if he can do that consistently, then, you can become that guy."

On Sunday, Ingram put in a well-rounded 18-point, nine rebound and five-assist game against the Houston Rockets. He only turned the ball over once in a 20-turnover team performance where the Lakers continued to take the season of giving a little too literally on the basketball court.

"(Ingram)'s more of a basketball player than he is just a scorer," Walton said following the game. "We're at our best when he's in the game trying to not only get to the rim to put pressure on it but also looking to play-make for his teammates when the defense collapsed."

Even the most casual of Lakers' fans can see that Ingram has improved as an overall basketball player. His points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, free throw percentage, three-point percentage and overall field goal percentage are all up from his rookie season. He already has three double-doubles on the season, while he never hit that statistical marker even once in his rookie year.

One would have a difficult time finding any player in the NBA that has improved more than the Lakers' 20-year-old starting small forward.

As the Lakers embark on the coldest of road trips and face the frostiest of December schedules, Ingram's continued progress as a basketball player should help provide that bright, warm light required to look past the record when the losses inevitably start stacking up—left and right.



Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed ]]>
<![CDATA[Rams Revealed: Cooper Kupp]]>Tue, 05 Dec 2017 05:17:07 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Cooper_Kupp2_1200x675_1109728323883.jpg

NBC LA Sports Reporter Michael J. Duarte interviews Los Angeles Rams Receiver Cooper Kupp about living with Jared Goff, his favorite restaurants in L.A., and his NCAA records.]]>
<![CDATA[Rockets Blow Past Lakers, Losing Streak at Five]]>Mon, 04 Dec 2017 01:00:50 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/James-Harden-12-3-17.jpg

On Sunday night at STAPLES Center, the Houston Rockets handed the Los Angeles Lakers their fifth straight loss and one that came in convincing fashion. James Harden led the rout with 36 points, nine assists and four rebounds on a night where the Rockets led by as many as 24 points.

"The turnovers, again, killed us," Lakers coach Luke Walton lamented following the game. "We talk about it every day in practice. We literally are doing drills that the players joke are like high school drills, but that's what it's come to."

On this night, the Lakers turned the ball over 21 times, off which the Rockets scored 27 points. A night earlier, they also turned the ball over 21 times, and LA is tied with Philadelphia for last in the NBA in giving the ball away at an average of 17.5 turnovers per game.

The Lakers also struggled to keep up with the Rockets at the foul line, in the paint or from three-point lands, as this was a comprehensive beat down. 

Walton stated, "In my opinion, Houston's playing the best basketball in the NBA."

In searching for positives, Kyle Kuzma led the Lakers in scoring off the bench with 22 points and 12 rebounds to record a double-double. The reigning Western Conference Rookie of the Month has managed double-doubles in back-to-back games and for the seventh time in 21 appearances during the 2017-18 season.

Brandon Ingram and Larry Nance Jr. also had positive individual performances. Ingram scored 18 points to go along with nine rebounds and five assists on the night. Nance scored 15 points and pulled down eight rebounds in the loss.

Lonzo Ball had a notably quiet night, as the 20-year-old struggled with sore calves. Ball missed all four of his shots and finished with two points, three assists, two blocks and three turnovers in 22 minutes on the court. Walton said the lopsided score and the sore calves kept him from calling on the rookie late in the game.

"I've got two knots in my calves right now, so it's kind of like this (balls up fists), two rocks every time I run and jump," Ball said after the game. "You could play through it, but it just hurts a little bit."

In terms of game flow, the Lakers played the Rockets even for the first quarter, but the second quarter took a tie ball game and turned it into a 15-point halftime lead for the visitors. Sixteen points from Harden in that second period and nine points from Eric Gordon highlighted a 34-point quarter for the Rockets.

The Lakers did come out of the intermission with focus and momentarily clawed to within only three points just about midway through the third quarter, but the Rockets refueled and led by 12 points entering the final 12 minutes.

Chris Paul and Harden combined for 21 points in the fourth quarter to put the game to bed, and 16 of Kuzma's 22 points on the night came in that final quarter when the Lakers were going down in flames. In that quarter, the Lakers were outscored 33 to 22, and Kuzma's plus/minus for the night was a team worst negative-25 points, though the rookie did make seven of his 11 attempts in those final 12 minutes.

On Monday, the Lakers will have a day off for treatment following the back-to-back. Then, the team is scheduled to practice in El Segundo on Tuesday before taking off for a four-game East Coast road trip with stops in Philadelphia, Charlotte, New York and Cleveland before returning home to face the Golden State Warriors. After that, the Lakers have a trip to Houston and a game at Golden State to round off what is arguably the most daunting and difficult stretch of schedule for any team at any point during the 2017-18 season.

With the loss, the Lakers dropped to 8-15 on the season, and the quick peek ahead has to make one wonder if the Lakers will win 10 games before they collect 20 losses. For the Lakers, the cold winter has already arrived and, seemingly, only darkness lurks ahead.

Notes: Asked if he has ever lost five games in a row at any level, Ball responded, "Probably not, no."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chargers Defense Came Up Huge in Victory Over Winless Browns]]>Sun, 03 Dec 2017 17:41:21 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/171*120/AP_17337840250073.jpg

The Los Angeles Chargers (6-6) hung on to defeat the Cleveland Browns (0-12) 19-10 in front of 25,320 fans on a windy Sunday afternoon.

Once again DE Joey Bosa came up with a huge sack late in the fourth quarter on DeShone Kizer, that ensured the Chargers victory at Stub Hub Center. Los Angeles continues to control their own destiny with some help from their AFC West colleagues as the Chiefs and Broncos lost. With this victory, the Chargers and Chiefs are all tied for first place in the AFC West.

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers came off his career best against the Dallas Cowboys, a 434-yard, three-touchdown performance on national television. Wide receiver Keenan Allen caught 23 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns in his past two games. Allen has been more productive when coming out of the slot for the Chargers.

After starting deep in Browns territory, Rivers passed the ball around to Hunter Henry, Keenan Allen, and running back Melvin Gordon. Unfortunately as Los Angeles entered the red zone, they were unable to score due to newly signed kicker Travis Coons who missed a 38-yard field goal.

Later in the second quarter after Rivers was unable to connect with Allen in the end zone, Coons redeemed himself and made a 21-yard field goal for the 3-0 Chargers lead. The feisty Browns defense continued to deny the Chargers an open gateway into the end zone, which allowed Coons to knock in a 40-yard field goal for the 6-0 lead later in the second quarter.

The Browns have a young and scrappy defense led by rookie defensive end Myles Garrett, however the Browns have given up 289 yards this season.

Browns receiver Josh Gordon -- whose career was derailed by multiple drug and alcohol suspensions -- gave Cleveland a nice offensive boost. 

Gordon caught a great catch on a nice throw from quarterback DeShone Kizer as Cleveland made their way inside the Chargers' 30 near the 2-minute warning. Two plays later, Kizer found David Njoku on a deep pass down the middle for the 28-yard touchdown and the 7-6 lead late in the second quarter.

The Bolts responded quickly utilizing the two minute drill, Rivers threw an incomplete pass to Antonio Gates who appeared to be held, yet no penalty was called. Coons kicked a 22-yard field goal for the 9-7 lead. The Chargers struggled to enter the end zone in the first half which was a cause for concern offensively.

Midway through the third quarter the Bolts made some significant adjustments, as Rivers decided to spread the ball around more to Henry and Allen on the drive. Allen caught a key 26 yard catch that set up the first down and gave him 1,016 yards on the year thus far. Two plays later, Rivers found a sprinting Allen cutting into the end zone for their first offensive touchdown of the game. Allen has four touchdowns in his last three games this season.

Before the game, Allen needed just 73 yards for a 1,000 yard season, something he hasn't accomplished since his rookie year in 2013.

The Chargers defense would not be outmatched by Kizer and the Browns, as they came up huge on two plays early in the final quarter preventing Cleveland from seeing the end zone. The Browns settled for a Zane Gonzalez 27-yard field goal as they trailed 19-10.

Philip Rivers completed 31/43 passes for 346 yards and a touchdown on the day, while Keenan Allen had a career day with 5 receptions for 105 yards. It was Allen's third consecutive game with 100 yards or more.

DeShone Kizer finished with 15/32 passes for 215 yards and an interception in the loss. The Browns remain win less and continue to search for their first win next week.

The Chargers now prepare for Washington next Sunday at Stub Hub Center. 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Rams Keep Rolling With Win Over Arizona]]>Sun, 03 Dec 2017 16:37:54 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-884958494.jpg

Sometimes the hardest games to win are the ones you're supposed to.

Jared Goff threw for two touchdowns and the Los Angeles Rams held on to defeat the Arizona Cardinals, 32-16, on Sunday afternoon in Glendale.

Goff, who passed for 220 yards and two touchdowns, did not show the flashes of brilliance he's shown over the past month, as he was hurried and sacked throughout the day.

Linebacker Kareem Martin intercepted Goff in the first quarter, and the 23-year-old fumbled in the fourth quarter when Chandler Jones recorded a strip sack on Goff, but thankfully the ball was recovered by the Rams.

For the first time since 2003, the Rams (9-3) are guaranteed to finish the season with a winning record, and will remain in sole possession of first place in the NFC West regardless of the outcome between the Seahawks and Eagles on NBC's Sunday Night Football.

The Rams extended their scoring streak on the opening drive to six consecutive games after Greg Zuerlein nailed a 56-yard field goal on the first possession to give the Rams a 3-0 lead.

Zuerlein, the NFL's scoring leader, converted four field goals in the game, but snapped a streak of 33 consecutive extra points made when he missed after the team's first touchdown of the game.

Goff gave the Rams a 9-0 lead when the team went for it on 4th and goal from the Cardinals 1-yard line. Rather than run the ball, head coach Sean McVay dialed up a pass play to tight end Gerald Everett for the score.

The Rams defense continued to show why they are among the best units in the league as the "Mob Squad," intercepted Cardinals' quarterback Blaine Gabbert on his first passing attempt of the game.

One possession later, Alec Ogletree intercepted Gabbert and took it all the way to the house for a pick-six that gave the Rams a 16-0 lead. 

The Rams defense finished the game with four sacks and two turnovers.

Gabbert finished the day throwing for 2065yards, with two interceptions and one fancy touchdown strike to veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

The future Hall of Famer passed former Rams' receiver Isaac Bruce for fourth all-time on the NFL's receiving yards list, and finished the day with 10 catches for 98 yards and a touchdown.

Kerwynn Williams played well for the Cardinals in place of the injured Adrian Peterson, rushing for 97 yards on 16 carries.

As they did in their dominating, 33-0, victory over Arizona in London earlier in the year, Goff and the Rams pulled away late as the sophomore quarterback found Sammy Watkins for a 13-yard score. 

The Rams improved to 6-1 away from Los Angeles this season, including a win in London that was considered a "home game."

Up Next:

The battle for NFC supremacy and potential a first round bye in the postseason begins next Sunday when the L.A. Rams host the 10-1 Philadelphia Eagles at the Coliseum. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:25PM PST. 

Please refresh this page for more stats, updates and player reactions…



Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Rams vs. Cardinals Preview]]>Sun, 03 Dec 2017 14:35:19 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-884946704.jpg

A nice bounce back by the Rams with a 26-20 win over New Orleans that followed a loss at Minnesota.

This one can be tricky — witness what the undermanned Cardinals did to Jacksonville last Sunday.

These teams went at it in London in October, a 33-0 Rams win that was Arizona's worst performance and cost it QB Carson Palmer (broken left arm).

"Preparation during the week for us is important," said L.A. Rams receiver Sammy Watkins about the matchup. "When we fall off, we lose. Make no mistake, they're going to come out and play hard. They're going to have that 33 to nothing in the back of their heads and they're going to play with an edge. We're going to have to come out and fight. It's not going to be a blowout game."

Los Angeles has displayed balance on both sides of the ball and was especially hard on Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 21 yards on 11 carries in London.

Peterson is expected to miss the game with an injury on Sunday.

An LA win would even the all-time series, which now is 38-37-2 for the Cardinals. It would also give the Rams a season sweep of the Cardinals. 

The Rams and Cardinals will kickoff at 1:25 PM PST from the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The game will air live on FOX. The game can be live streamed here and on FuboTV.

Fantasy Football Start/Sit:

Start: Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, Cooper Kupp, Larry Fitzgerald, Sammy Watkins, Gerald Everett, Greg Zuerlein, Rams Defense

Sit: Blaine Gabbert, Kerwynn Williams, D.J. Foster, Jaron Brown, John Brown, Tavon Austin, Josh McReynolds, Chad Williams, Ricky Seals-Jones, Tyler Higbee, Phil Dawson, Cardinals Defense.

Betting Odds (Courtesy of Bovada):

Rams: -7 (-110)
Cardinals: +7 (-115)
O/U: 43 

Prediction: 30-14 Rams

Each and every week, NBC LA reporters Michael J. Duarte and Nick Hamilton bring you an NFL podcast entitled, "Bolts by the Horns," as the writers breakdown what's going on inside the worlds of both Los Angeles based football teams including; insider information, interviews with players and experts, latest injury updates, previews, predictions, betting odds, fantasy advice and more.

Give it a listen below:

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California



Photo Credit: Norm Hall/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Browns vs. Chargers Preview]]>Sun, 03 Dec 2017 14:35:34 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/163*120/GettyImages-884945312.jpg

We know what you're thinking: Cleveland got off the schneid last season in Game 15 by beating the Chargers for the Browns' only win.

For that to happen again would be a huge upset considering how LA has gone from 0-4 to contention in the AFC West.

The Browns are 1-26 in two seasons under coach Hue Jackson and 4-44 in the past 48 games — the worst stretch in NFL history.

"They're really good," said Chargers' tight end Hunter Henry about the winless Browns. "Everyone knows about their record and knows what people say on the outside world, but they're in every single game and fighting to the finish and you would never really know that's what their record is. They have a really good defense."

The Chargers could go sack-happy with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.

The Browns and Chargers will kickoff at 1:05 PM PST from the StubHub Center in Carson, CA. The game will air live on CBS. The game can be live streamed here and on FuboTV.

Fantasy Football Start/Sit:

Start: Phillip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, Isaiah Crowell, Austin Ekeler (Flex only), Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry, Chargers Defense. 

Sit: DeShone Kizer, Duke Johnson, Corey Coleman, Josh Gordon, Tyrell Williams, Mike Williams, Antonio Gates, David Njoku, Travis Coons, Zane Gonzalez, Browns Defense.

Betting Odds (Courtesy of Bovada):

Browns: +13.5 (-115)
Chargers: -13.5 (-125)
O/U: 45 

Prediction: 28-14 Chargers

Each and every week, NBC LA reporters Michael J. Duarte and Nick Hamilton bring you an NFL podcast entitled, "Bolts by the Horns," as the writers breakdown what's going on inside the worlds of both Los Angeles based football teams including; insider information, interviews with players and experts, latest injury updates, previews, predictions, betting odds, fantasy advice and more.

Give it a listen below:

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California



Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Lose Fourth Straight After 'Meltdown' in Denver]]>Sat, 02 Dec 2017 21:40:50 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/205*120/Lakers-vs-Nuggets-Brandon-Ingram.jpg

On Saturday night, the Los Angeles Lakers fell apart down the stretch and only scored two points over the final five and half minutes to lose 115-100 to the Denver Nuggets in the thin air of the Mile High City.

Denver scored 21 points over those final five and a half minutes and finished the game on a 15-0 run, taking a game that was level at 100-100 and claiming a 15-point victory.

Lakers coach Luke Walton called it a "meldown" after the game.

"Winning on the road is hard," Walton told Spectrum SportsNet cameras after the game. "You got to really, really lock in down the stretch. I thought we had a little fatigue kick in. We were just careless. We had seven turnovers in the fourth quarter. You can't do that on the road and expect to win."

Walton added, "They played hard for us tonight for most of the game. Obviously, the end of the fourth was probably as bad as we could have played."

Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray led all scorers with 28 points on the night, while Brandon Ingram led the Lakers with 20 points on 8-8 shooting from the foul line. Reigning Western Conference Rookie of the Month Kyle Kuzma recorded his sixth career double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.

Turnovers cost the Lakers dearly all night long. The seven fourth quarter turnovers Walton referenced may have been notable for their timing, but the Lakers finished the night with 21 giveaways to the Nuggets' 12 turnovers. Both Ingram and Lonzo Ball had five turnovers apiece, with Kuzma adding three more off the bench. Yes, the Lakers' three most promising talents combined for more turnovers than the entire Denver team on Saturday.

Schedule Alert

With the defeat, the Lakers dropped their fourth game in a row with the Western Conference leading Houston Rockets waiting in Los Angeles on the second night of a back-to-back on Sunday.

The Lakers' upcoming schedule is the stuff of nightmares.

After playing the Rockets in LA, the Lakers hit the road for games in Philadelphia, New York, Charlotte and Cleveland. The Lakers have a murderous stretch of playing LeBron James and the Cavaliers in Cleveland, returning to STAPLES Center to host the world champion Golden State Warriors on Kobe Bryant jersey(s) retirement night, traveling to Houston to face Chris Paul and James Harden in Clutch City, then facing the Warriors in the Bay Area two nights late before finally returning home to host Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers on the second night of a back-to-back.

Holding a record of 8-14 and looking at the schedule ahead, one has to legitimately wonder if the Lakers will get their 10th win before their 20th loss.



Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[USC Clinches First Pac 12 Championship]]>Fri, 01 Dec 2017 22:17:47 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/178*120/GettyImages-884033032.jpg

For the first time since its formation in 2011, the USC Trojans are Pac 12 Champions.

Sam Darnold threw for two touchdowns, Ronald Jones II rushed for two more, and the No. 10 USC Trojans defeated the No. 12 Stanford Cardinal, 31-28, in the Pac 12 Championship Game at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara on Friday.

Three months ago, Darnold was considered one of the top candidates for the Hesiman Trophy, but after an inconsistent season that saw the sophomore sensation throw a Pac-12 worst 12 interceptions, his dreams of lifting the most prestigious prize in College Football were dashed. 

But after throwing touchdown passes to Michael Pittman Jr. and Tyler Vaughns, not to mention executing a back-breaking 99-yard drive in the fourth quarter, Darnold lifted another trophy after the game: Pac 12 Championship Game MVP. 

"Winning a PAC-12 Championship was our goal before the year and we achieved that goal," said Darnold after the game. "So I'm really excited for what's to come."

Darnold got the Trojans on the board first when he found receiver Michael Pittman Jr. over the middle on a seven-yard play action pass that put USC ahead 7-0.

Darnold was a perfect 4-for-4 for 81 yards and a touchdown in play action passes to start the game, and was just 1-for-3 without running the play action in the game's first few drives. 

Stanford answered right back on the ensuing drive as a couple whistles by the referee aided the Cardinal in tying the game at the start of the second quarter.

First, Stanford was given great field position inside the red zone after the Trojans were called for a questionable pass interference penalty. A few plays later, on the USC 7-yard line, Bryce Love appeared to have been stopped behind the line of scrimmage and fumbled on the play.

However, the referees whistled the play dead, therefore not allowing USC the opportunity to challenge the call, and the Cardinal scored on the next play when Love burst up the middle for the touchdown.

After a 40-yard pass from Darnold to Pitman Jr. put the Trojans inside Stanford territory, the Capistrano Beach native hit Tyler Vaughns on a screen pass that the receiver took to the house for the score.

Needing a score heading into halftime, Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello connected on a 42-yard pass to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside that set Stanford up inside the Trojans 10-yard line, and running back Cameron Scarlett capped off the drive with a touchdown run.

The second half started similar to the first as Darnold connected on a 49-yard pass to Steven Mitchell Jr. that put the ball on the Stanford 1-yard line. 

One play later, Ronald Jones II ran up the middle for the score, and the Trojans took a 24-14 lead. 

Stanford responded on their next possession thanks to the 12th run play of 50 yards or more by Bryce Love this season. 

Love setup a touchdown pass from roommates K.J. Costello and Kaden Smith that kept the Cardinal within striking distance. 

USC stuffed Stanford on a crucial and controversial 4th and goal from the Trojans 1-yard line, keeping the three-point lead. 

Scarlett was stopped on back-to-back runs, but on the 4th down play, he appeared to have landed on his own lineman before the referee prematurely blew the play dead. Had he not, it's possible Scarlett could have found the end zone on his second effort.

"You're talking about one of the best short yardage run teams in the world," said Helton. "For our defense to hold the line, not once, but twice there on the 1. Man, they just found a way. I'm proud of these guys. They're unbelievable."

The Trojans took over on their own 1-yard line and Darnold delivered one of the biggest plays of the game when he avoided a sack to deliver a 54-yard pass to Pittman Jr. to keep the drive alive. 

Jones II finished off the drive with his second touchdown of the game, putting USC up 31-21 with just over four minutes remaining.

Stanford made it interesting, with a second touchdown pass from Costello to Smith, but USC converted a 4th down and 2 with 27 seconds remaining to run out the clock and seal the victory. 

It was USC's first win in a Pac 12 Championship and first win by the Pac 12 South Division since the new format was introduced in 2011. 

Up Next: 

The Trojans are likely headed to the Fiesta Bowl, although they have an outside chance at making the College Football Playoff with some help on Saturday.

Stanford is expected to go to the Holiday Bowl. 



Photo Credit: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Lakers Kyle Kuzma Named West Rookie of the Month]]>Fri, 01 Dec 2017 14:50:13 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Kuzma-Rookie-of-the-month.jpg

On Friday, the NBA announced that Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma had been named Western Conference Rookie of the Month for November, which made the 22-year-old only the second Lakers' rookie to ever receive the award.

Jordan Clarkson won the honor in March of 2014.

Kuzma joined the Lakers with the no. 27 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, which was one of the assets the Lakers acquired in the summer trade that sent D'Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to Brooklyn.

After earning MVP of the NBA Summer League Final, the Flint, Michigan native has hit the ground running. In his first 20 games, Kuzma leads the team in scoring with 16.7 points per game and is shooting 50.4 percent from the field and 37.9 percent from three-point land.

On Friday, the Lakers' Media Relations staff pointed out that Kuzma is the first rookie in NBA history to record at least 330 points, 120 rebounds and 30 made three-pointers in the first 20 games of his career.

What does that obscure statistic mean?

It suggests that Kuzma is a modern power forward with three-point range and is getting enough playing time to hit three-pointers, and that he's not a one-trick pony. The rookie is clearly scoring the ball and also rebounding with a pupose.

On Friday, Kuzma practiced with the team after missing Wednesday's game with back spasms and seemed appreciative of the honor because it was the first month of the season.

"I wish I was Rookie of the Month and we had a winning record, too," Kuzma said at Friday's practice. "That's probably be even better, but it's definitely a great accomplishment."

After completing practice on Friday, Kuzma sounded confident of playing on Saturday in Denver.



Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Brandon Ingram Has Career Night, Lakers Fall in OT]]>Thu, 30 Nov 2017 16:31:28 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-lose-to-Warriors-in-Overtime.jpg

For four quarters, Lonzo Ball outplayed Stephen Curry and Brandon Ingram outplayed Kevin Durant, as the Los Angeles Lakers looked like they may well beat the defending NBA champions on Wednesday night at Staples Center.

Unfortunately for the Lakers, Wednesday's game went to overtime.

Ingram's last second running shot to win at the end of regulation came up just short, and the exciting, evenly-matched contest required a five-minute overtime period to decide a victor.

Curry had been quiet and managed 15 points and missed six of his seven attempts in regulation, so he inevitably came to life and scored the first six points of the extra session. The Warriors' start point guard scored13 points in overtime to finish with 28 points for the game.

Ultimately, the Warriors claimed a 127-123 overtime win.

For a young Lakers' team, simply pushing the Warriors to overtime seemed like a victory, even if the win-loss totals at the end of the night disagreed. The Lakers' pair of 20-year-old no. 2 picks both seemed to take a major step forward.

Ball made three three-pointers in a game at Staples Center for the first time in his young career, and the rookie point guard outplayed his rather high-profile opposite number with a national audience watching for four quarters.

At the end of regulation, Curry had managed 15 points, seven assists and four assists on 1-7 shooting from three-point land and five turnovers to go along with it. Curry was legitimately shooting up air balls from three-point land. Meanwhile, Ball had put up 15 points on 5-11 shooting from the field, to go along with nine assists, two rebounds, a steal and only two turnovers. Eventually, Ball rearned his double-double with 15 points and 10 assists.

The overtime belonged to Curry, of course. For four quarters, though, Ball held his own against the two-time champion, and the rookie finally looked confident shooting from the type of range he comfortably attacked at UCLA.

Even more pronounced than Ball's positive performance on the night, Ingram put on a performance that should have opened eyes nationwide. The 20-year-old went head-to-head and arguably outplayed the player he is most often compared with: Durant.

Ingram scored a career-high 32 points on the night to lead all scorers and got his points more efficiently than Durant got his 29 points. Five rebounds, three assists, three steals and two block shots added to Ingram's memorable night, but seven turnovers seemed high for the 20-year-old. Durant's 29 points, seven rebounds, three assists, one steal also came with six turnovers, as the two lanky forwards cause problems for one another on both ends of the court.

After the game, Lakers coach Luke Walton said, "[Durant] is not only one of the best five offensive players in the league. He's really tough to score on. And Brandon was up for the challenge."

At one point in overtime, Ingram even stole the ball from Durant on one end and won the foot race to the opposite basket. Ingram even manged to draw a foul in the act of shooting by the former Oklahoma City Thunder forward. Had Ingram converted the shot, the Lakers could have potentially tied the game with 15.1 seconds remaining in the extra frame.

That singular play embodied Ingram's aggressiveness and focus on both ends and the floor. In front of a national audience and against the defending champions, the Lakers didn't play like a team incapable of beating the Warriors.

The Lakers' young talent has often been compared to the Warriors' model of building a champion, a comparison that leaped forward significantly after Walton left his assistant coaching job in Golden State to bring a similar playing philosophy to Los Angeles.

On Wednesday night, the Lakers looked closer to catching the Warriors than they had at any point in recent years.

For Golden State, all five starters scored in double figures, and Draymond Green came within one assist of a triple-double. The former Michigan State Spartan scored 15 points, pulled down 11 rebounds and assisted on nine baskets in the victory. The Lakers' version of Green, Julius Randle, made nine of his 13 shot attempts and finished with 20 points off the bench in a positive performance.

Jordan Clarkson also scored 19 points on 9-19 shooting from the field, while Klay Thompson scored 20 points on 6-12 shooting from the field for Golden State.

Apart from the players matching up pretty evenly, the similarities between the Warriors and Lakers were eerie. Both teams finished with 30 assists, converted 47 field goals and had 19 fast break points. After four quarters, both teams had 109 points, too.

Four quarters of basketball could not separate the Lakers and Warriors on Wednesday night, and even the overtime period required a rare miss at the free throw line from Curry, along with a botched rebound off the miss foul shot for the Lakers. Had the Lakers grabbed the rebound, they would have had a chance to tie the game or even win it with a three-point play--conventional or otherwise.

Instead, Curry got fouled again. This time, he hit both foul shots, and that made the game a two-possession contest with not enough time for the Lakers to get two useful possessions.

With the victory, the Warriors improved to 16-6, while the Lakers dropped to 8-13 with the defeat. Next, the Lakers travel to Denver on Saturday.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers vs Warriors: Steph Curry, Lonzo Ball ]]>Wed, 29 Nov 2017 03:32:08 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-vs-Warriors-Lonzo-Ball.jpg

A random deep dive into the past led to Earvin "Magic" Johnson's comeback year, way back to 1995-96 NBA season—the winter before Kobe Bryant joined the NBA and Shaquille O'Neal came to Los Angeles.

After suddenly retiring from the Los Angeles Lakers in November of 1991, Johnson decided he wanted to get up off the couch in the middle of the 1995-1996 season and play NBA basketball again. Medically, the world understood enough to deem the return safe, and Lakers athletic trainer Gary Vitti once famously told the story of how he made sure not to use gloves the first time Johnson got a cut to demonstrate that Johnson was not a health risk to fellow players or fans.

On Jan. 30, 1996, Johnson returned to the Lakers for a home game against the Golden State Warriors and got a standing ovation from the Great Western Forum crowd when he gave Latrell Spreewell a "head and shoulder fake," in Chick Hearn's words. Spreewell nearly fell off the court, while Johnson managed 19 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds in 27 minutes off the bench.

Nearly 22 years later, a couple 20-year-old kids named Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram face those same Warriors, only the Warriors riding into STAPLES Center on Wednesday night bear no resemblance to the team Johnson faced more than two decades earlier. Now, Johnson is a Lakers' executive, and the Warriors play the best basketball on the planet Earth.

One can confidently already label the half decade from 2015 to 2020 as the Warriors' era in the NBA.

So, why would the Lakers have any chance at beating the best team on the planet? Simple, the Lakers have beaten the Warriors at least once every season going back to the 1993-94 season, which well before Ball or Ingram existed on the planet Earth. Even when the Lakers won only 17 out of 82 games and caused eyes damage, like staring at the sun for too long, the record 73-win Warriors still could not sweep the Lakers in a season series.

At 15-6 on the 2017-18 season, the Warriors enter Staples Center on Wednesday with the second best record in the Western Conference. The first-place team is the Houston Rockets, at 16-4, and the Lakers have the unfortunate scheduling of facing the top two teams in the Western Conference five times over the next 10 games. Add in that the Lakers play seven of those 10 games on the road, and Wednesday night begins a stretch that will test the team's character and resolve.

Ball is about to go to point guard university, getting schooled by Stephen Curry, James Harden and Chris Paul. Experienced NBA point guards get embarrassed by those three All-NBA level players. Ball is a rookie about to learn the toughest lessons about life in the NBA. Sprinkle in that Ball will get his first look at his favorite player growing up, LeBron James, during this same upcoming stretch of 10 games, and the NBA is about to get real for the former UCLA Bruin like never before.

While Ball plays it cool and doesn't publicly show added emotion or voice awe about playing against the best players in the modern game, the rookie called Curry the "greatest shooter of all time" at Tuesday's practice. Ball maintained that he had been playing his similar modern style before Curry's emergence, but he acknowledged the two-time champion's importance in bringing the style to the forefront on the NBA level.

Passing the quarter mark of his rookie season on Wednesday, Ball has been better than advertised on the defensive-end and has also surprisingly translated his rebounding ability to the professional ranks without issue. Through 20 games, averaging 8.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 7.1 assists and 1.4 steals per game. On any given night, the 20-year-old is liable to drop a triple-double, and he flirts with that statistical feat about as often as he gets criticized for his poor shooting.

To be fair, Ball is shooting significantly below expectations, especially at STAPLES Center. In the arena the Lakers and Clippers both share, Ball is shooting 14.3 percent from three-point land. When he escapes from LA, Ball shoots 38.0 percent from distance, providing a bizarre discrepancy that will be thoroughly tested when the Chino Hills native hits the upcoming strip of the schedule.

Regardless, the first 20 games have provided enough evidence to suggest that the Lakers have a ball of talent at the point guard position. As Curry suggested, making long term career judgments after 20 games is ill-advised, at best.

"I hope you didn't judge me off my first 20 games in the league, either," Anthony Slater of the Athletic recently captured a video of Stephen Curry responding to a question about Ball at a Golden State Warriors' practice.

"Man, he's a rookie," Curry also said about Ball. "He's going through the ups and downs like every rookie has. Whether you're highly talented or not, it's all a learning experience trying to find your way and be comfortable."

Curry added, "I've already said that he's a great talent. He loves to play basketball, so he'll be able to fight through all that."

Kevin Durant echoed the same sentiment in terms of Ball simply going through the rookie learning process.

With the Lakers facing the Warriors three times over the next three weeks, Ball will get a chance to watch Curry, Durant and the best team on the planet play up close. Though losing may be painful, the experience of seeing the best up close cannot hurt.

In theory, the Lakers should lose every one of these upcoming trio of games, but history suggests otherwise. After all, the Lakers have not been swept by the Warriors since the 1993-94 season, and that was two years before Johnson made that famous mid-season comeback to beat these same Warriors.

On Wednesday, the Lakers and Warriors have a scheduled start time of 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rams Fans in Their Sunday Best]]>Mon, 25 Dec 2017 09:51:45 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*122/AP_17358781323563.jpgCheck out images of some of the Rams' died-hard fans sporting their Sunday best.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Jordan Clarkson Talks Sitting: "It's Tough As Hell"]]>Tue, 28 Nov 2017 01:55:51 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Jordan-Clarkson-frustrated-Lakers-Clippers.jpg

With a shade over five minutes to play in a one possession ball game against the LA Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton sent in Lonzo Ball to replace Jordan Clarkson in a move that went against the coach's consistent messaging about sticking with his best players late in games, regardless of whether they are part of his starting unit or bench unit.

In those final minutes, Ball committed a turnover, took an ill-advised shot from 26 feet and missed a late inconsequential three-pointer. Three points, seven assists, five rebounds and three turnovers with seven missed shots in eight attempts was another one of those forgettable nights for the 20-year-old, and his reintroduction had to be a tough pill to swallow for Clarkson considering his night.

The Lakers' sixth man hit eight of his 12 shots in 25 minutes and scored 17 points to lead the Los Angeles Lakers' bench on Monday night. Clarkson was the Lakers' hottest player in the second half, scoring all 11 points after the intermission and hitting five of his six field goal attempts in the second stanza.

In addition, Clarkson had also been moving the basketball and collected five assists, to go along with eight rebounds. By all accounts, Clarkson was playing well. On a night where Ball clearly didn't have his rhythm, Clarkson seemed like the right player to leave in the game. But when the time game, Walton went with Ball anyway.

Clearly frustrated at his locker following the 120-115 defeat, Clarkson fielded an opening question that had to sting like antiseptic being poured over an open wound: "Where did this game get away?"

Clarkson responded, "Towards the end of the game, they just made plays. That's it. They scored the ball. We just couldn't get a stop."

Of course, Clarkson wasn't in the game at the end. He probably deserved to be, but he wasn't in. Instead, he watched from the bench as Lou Williams climbed up to 42 points, while the Lakers struggled to keep pace offensively. In his stead, Clarkson's replacement couldn't muster a single point.

When the cameras and majority of reporters went away, NBCLA.com pulled the guard aside and asked him what it felt like to watch from the sidelines on a night when he deserved to be on the floor in the deciding minutes.

"It tough as hell, to be honest with you," Clarkson said after a long pause and a deep sigh. "Because I'm a competitor like everybody else in this locker room. You want to be on the floor. It is what it is. I can't control nothing [sic] of what's going on. [Walton] put the guys, he thought, on the floor that are going to win the game for us."

Clarkson repeated, "It is what it is."

At age 25, Clarkson is far from an old veteran whose time has passed, even if he is tied with Julius Randle as the longest tenured Laker on the roster. The former Missouri Tiger, though, has had to sacrifice minutes on the court for the no. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. It's an odd but accepted reality that the fourth year professional has to sacrifice for the youth movement.

"It's been happening all year, so it ain't [sic] no surprise to me," Clarkson continued. "I'm just going out there, competing, trying to help my team win when I'm out there."

Far from looking to stir up controversy, Clarkson simply momentarily allowed his mouth to read out loud the frustration clearly written on his face.

Fair or not, Clarkson understands his current reality: "It is what it is."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lou Williams Scores 42, Clippers Edge Lakers 120-115]]>Mon, 27 Nov 2017 23:11:39 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-at-Clippers-Brandon-Ingram-11-27-17.jpg

Led by 42 points from Lou Williams, the LA Clippers outlasted the Los Angeles Lakers, 120-115, in an exciting, back-and-forth contest at Staples Center on Monday night.

The visiting Los Angeles Lakers missed eight of their first nine shots and immediately trailed by nine points. Thankfully for the purple and gold, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope lit a match and caught fire in the first quarter. Lakers coach Luke Walton noted his shooting guard's hot hand and kept the former Detroit Piston in for the entire first period.

Caldwell-Pope scored 16 points over those first 12 minutes, as the 24-year-old accounted for half of the Lakers' 32 points in the opening quarter. Consequently, the Lakers ended the first quarter only trailing by two points.

Predictably, Griffin played a central role to the Clippers' hot start.

By halftime, Griffin had 15 points, eight rebounds and four assists and looked well on his way to a monster stat line. The Clippers trailed by two points at that stage, and Caldwell-Pope had increased his tally to 20 points, which marked the third straight game of 20 or more points for the Georgia native.

In the third quarter, Caldwell-Pope continued to groove, as he secured a new season high and hit his fifth three-pointer of the night. Caldwell-Pope would end the night with 29 points to lead the visitors in scoring.

Unfortunately for the Lakers, their foul troubles became a central issue. By the end of the third quarter, four different Lakers had four fouls: Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Brook Lopez and Larry Nance Jr.

The second half, though, belonged to Williams. In his revenge game against his former team, the 31-year-old came to life with 15 points in the third quarter alone. The former Laker drew fouls and hit shots to help the Clippers stay within touching distance.

The Clippers only had three players tabbing double figures in points after three quarters: Austin Rivers, Griffin and Williams. After three quarters, the Lakers already had five players that had scored in double figures. The battle of the Clippers' superior, developed NBA skill versus the Lakers' depth and strength in numbers played out in exciting fashion at STAPLES Center on Monday night.

The fourth quarter continued the back-and-forth, exciting contest, as the Lakers opened up an eight-point lead with eight minutes remaining in the contest. From that point forward, Williams took over the game. The 31-year-old passed the 30-point mark for the game and continued to draw fouls and pour in the points.

Approaching the six-minute mark in the fourth quarter, Williams had inspired the Clippers to a one point lead. Back and forth the two co-tenants went with the split crowd joining in at exchanging barbs with chants of "Lets Go Lakers" sounding out from the Clippers' crowd.

With four minutes to play, the Lakers trailed by four points, but a freak play resulted in Rivers falling onto Griffin's leg. The awkward fall left the forward in pain, but he managed to get up and walk it off momentarily. Moments later, though, Griffin went to the locker room and did not return for the remainder of the contest. He finished the night with 26 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.

Even without Griffin, Williams continued to score and was a man possessed. His 40th point gave the Clippers a three-point advantage late. When Brandon Ingram's three-pointer did not drop to level the score, the Lakers had to foul Williams.

Two free throws later, Williams hit 42 points, and the Clippers claimed a 120-115 victory. The win leap-frogged the Lakers in the standings. The Lakers fell to 8-12, while the Clippers improved to 8-11.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers at Clippers on Monday Night]]>Mon, 27 Nov 2017 16:25:46 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-vs-Clippers-11-27-17.jpg

On Monday, the Los Angeles Lakers return from an elongated Thanksgiving break after last taking the court on Wednesday, giving them a rare stretch of four days without a game.

The LA Clippers, who narrowly edged out Sacramento on Saturday, play host to the the Lakers in the second meeting between the STAPLES Center co-tenants this time around.

On Opening Night, the Clippers routed the Lakers as visitors, 108-92.

On that October night, Blake Griffin led the Clippers with 29 points, while DeAndre Jordan grabbed 24 rebounds in a dominant performance. Griffin, Jordan and company went on to win a handful of games before falling apart at the seams. Entering Monday's contest, the Clippers have lost eight of their last 10 games, and even the win over lowly Sacramento required late heroics from Griffin.

With point guards Patrick Beverly and Milos Teodosic both out injured, Clippers coach Doc Rivers will likely continue using Lou Williams and Austin Rivers in the backcourt and ask for big minutes from his starters. Regardless, Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball won't have to deal with Beverly's aggressive defense, which held the former UCLA Bruin to only three points in his NBA regular season debut.

In a distant, foreign reality than what the Clippers living, the Lakers expect to enter Monday's contest fully healthy after Larry Nance Jr. recovered from a fracture in his hand ahead of schedule. The forward missed 11 games due to injury but returns well ahead of schedule. According to Lakers coach Luke Walton, Nance's return will likely result in a return to the starting lineup for the former Wyoming Cowboy.

As such, rookie Kyle Kuzma should return to the bench after deputizing admirably and providing an extra offensive punch to the starting unit. Kuzma's anticipated return to the bench has been met with slight surprise considering the 22-year-old is currently the team's leading scorer at 16.8 points per game, and the former University of Utah standout is averaging 18.4 points and 7.1 rebounds for the month of November during which he started 11 of the 12 games. In particular, Kuzma has been shooting 37.0 percent from three-point land in those 12 games.

Over all, the rookie forward leads the team in three-point percentage at 36.6 percent for the season. The three ball is one key difference between Nance and Kuzma at the power forward position in the starting unit and is the shot that separates Kuzma from both Nance and Julius Randle on the roster.

The domino effect of Nance's return is that Randle will again be in a dog fight for minutes, especially at the end of games when Nance starts well. Nance provides more of a presence defensively and on the glass, evidenced by the forward leading the team in rebounding despite only averaging 23.1 minutes per contest before suffering the injury. The Ohio-native also recorded three double-doubles in eight games before sitting out.

On Monday night, the fully healthy Lakers enter their own home as visitors to face the wounded Clippers in a matchup of two teams sitting outside the Western Conference playoff picture with nearly a quarter of the season complete. At 8-11, the Lakers sit half a game ahead of the Clippers (7-11) and half a game back of eighth place in Conference. With a win on Monday, the Clippers can leap frog the Lakers in the standings.

Tip-off at Staples Center is 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Streak Busters! LA Rams Beat Saints, 26-20]]>Sun, 26 Nov 2017 18:49:05 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/204*120/Rams+Defense+Against+Saints.png

Call them the streak busters.

Jared Goff threw for two touchdowns and the Los Angeles Rams snapped the New Orleans Saints eight-game winning streak with a 26-20 victory at the L.A. Coliseum on Sunday afternoon.

The matchup of first place teams featured the second and third best offenses in the NFL as the Rams and Saints are both top 5 in the league in points-per-game and yards-per-game this season. 

The 62,006 fans in attendance were expecting a good old fashioned shootout, but it was the Rams defense that was the difference on Sunday as defensive coordinator Wade Phillips held Drew Brees and the Saints to just 20 points. 

"Wade and those guys did a good job of keeping us off-balance and playing the run well," said Saints head coach Sean Payton following the loss. "We weren't able to throw it enough to take advantage of it, but there wasn't any wholesale adjustment. As soon as we had a series, we'd get a penalty and we'd be first-and-20."

For the second straight week, Jared Goff, led the L.A. Rams offense down the field for a touchdown on the opening drive. 

Goff capped off a 7-play, 59-yard opening score when he found Sammy Watkins on a slant over the middle for the game's first score. 

A few minutes later, NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year frontrunner, Alvin Kamara, flashed his game-changing speed as he took the handoff from Brees 74-yards to the house for the Saints first touchdown of the game. 

The 74-yard touchdown run was the longest by a rookie in Saints history since Lorenzo Neal in 1993. It was also the longest rushing play of the season for New Orleans.

The Rams extended the lead to 17-7 midway through the second quarter when Goff found rookie wide receiver Josh Reynolds in the back of the end zone for his first career NFL touchdown.

 

Before the score, the drive was punctuated with a 53-yard over the shoulder pass from Goff to another rookie, Cooper Kupp, who caught the ball in stride to set up first-and-goal for the Rams. 

The Saints made it interesting with a last minute touchdown from Brees to Kamara, but Watkins recovered the ensuing onside kick and the Rams held on for the victory.

"We just didn't execute," kamara said after the game. "We didn't execute on third down. That's not our standard. We're going to watch the film and correct it."

Kamara had six catches for 101 yards and a touchdown, in addition to his 87 yards on the ground. 

"He's a playmaker," said McVay of Kamara. "You look at a couple plays that Kamara made and you just say 'hat's off to him.' He's a special player."

Brees was 22-for-32 for 246 yards and a touchdown, but was held mostly in check until the Saints final drive of the game. 

Goff threw for over 300 yards for the third time in his last four games as he went 28-for-43 for 354 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. 

Kupp had a career-high eight catches for 116 yards and Watkins grabbed four balls for 82 yards and a touchdown. 

Todd Gurley finished with 74 yards on the ground as the Rams won their eighth game of the season, the first time they've accomplished that feat since the 2006 season. 

"I think it was the biggest win of the season," said L.A. Rams' head coach Sean McVay. "I think it was the biggest because it's the most recent and it's a very important one because it is against a great team like that, that's won eight in a row."

Greg Zuerlein continued to show why he leads the NFL in field goal percentage and total points as the man known simply as "Leg-a-Tron" converted four field goals including a 50 and 49-yarder. 

The difference in the game was the Rams defense, who despite not recording a turnover, held the Saints to just 14 first downs, and forced them to go 3-for-13 on third down. 

Robert Quinn recorded his fifth career sack against Drew Brees and Aaron Donald and Samson Ebukam also recorded sacks in the game.

"Brees is a Hall of Famer, no doubt," said Quinn after the game. "So if we let him get going early, we know the type of chaos he can cause for a defense. Guys just stayed to our game plan. Once we got to him tried to get him down and just make his day a little hectic."

The Dark McKnight

R&B recording artist, Brian McKnight sang the National Anthem in front of a nearly sellout crowd of 62,006 at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum before the game. (The Rams capped the capacity for the 2017 season at 65,000 despite the fact that the Coliseum fits over 80,000). 

Up Next:

The Rams will travel to the desert to face the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, Dec. 3 at 1:25PM PST.



Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Rams Revealed: Gerald Everett]]>Sun, 26 Nov 2017 03:21:30 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Rams_Revealed_Gerald_Everett_1200x675_1103710275513.jpg

NBC LA Sports Reporter Michael J. Duarte interviews Los Angeles Rams Tight End, Gerald Everett about being the first player from South Alabama to get drafted to the NFL, his love of basketball, and his earliest childhood memory.]]>
<![CDATA[Saints vs. Rams Preview]]>Sun, 26 Nov 2017 03:26:05 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-626149176.jpg

Oh, when the Saints go marching in.

The Los Angeles Rams (7-3) will look to bounce back from last week's loss to the Minnesota Vikings when they host the first place New Orleans Saints (8-2) at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum on Sunday.

Drew Bees and "Who Dat Nation," are the hottest team in the NFL, and enter the game riding a wave of momentum after rallying from a 15-point fourth quarter deficit to stun the Washington Redskins, 34-31, in overtime last week.

New Orleans has won eight in a row after starting the season 0-2, an NFL record. Brees has been revitalized this season, throwing 15 touchdowns to just five interceptions, as the 38-year-old quarterback now has a running game to go with his high potent offense.

Since they traded Adrian Peterson to the Arizona Cardinals, the Saints two-headed monster in the backfield of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara has been a nightmare for opposing defenses.

"They have more threats," said L.A. Rams' All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald. "When they can run the ball, and then you have a Hall of Fame quarterback like Drew Brees who can make plays, it makes it tough for your job trying to stop them."

There's no doubt that the Saints offense is elite, but the Rams offense is no slouch either. Led by sophomore sensation, Jared Goff, the Rams have one of the best scoring offenses in the NFL. 

Running back Todd Gurley is having a bounce back season, and the additions of Robert Woods, Sammy Watkins and Cooper Kupp has made the Rams' receiving corps one of the best in the league.

Woods will miss Sunday's contest with a shoulder injury, and Tavon Austin will have more of a role in his place, as will rookie Josh Reynolds. Look for the Rams to get Gurley more involved in the game early, in order to open up the passing game for Goff.

Everyone knows that this matchup features two of the best offenses in the NFL, but this game will likely be decided by defense. The Rams defense should be able to put pressure on Brees and the secondary defends the pass well.

Donald has vowed to make up for his late-game personal foul call in the Rams loss to the Vikings last week, and should be motivated against the Saints on Sunday.

The Saints and Rams will kickoff at 1:20 PM PST from Los Angeles, CA on Sunday afternoon. The game will air live on CBS and can be live streamed here and on FuboTV.

Fantasy Football Start/Sit: 

Start: Drew Brees, Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Cooper Kupp, Sammy Watkins, Ted Ginn, Greg Zuerlein, Will Lutz.

Sit: Tavon Austin, Pharoah Cooper, Josh Reynolds, Brandon Coleman, Tyler Higbee, Coby Fleener, Rams Defense, Saints Defense.

Betting Odds (Courtesy of Bovada):

Saints: +1.5 (Even)
Rams: -1.5 (-120)
O/U: 53.5 

Prediction: 30-24 Rams.

Each and every week, NBC LA reporters Michael J. Duarte and Nick Hamilton bring you an NFL podcast entitled, "Bolts by the Horns," as the writers breakdown what's going on inside the worlds of both Los Angeles based football teams including; insider information, interviews with players and experts, latest injury updates, previews, predictions, betting odds, fantasy advice and more. 

Give it a listen below:





Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Expect to Start Larry Nance Jr., Send Kuzma to Bench]]>Sat, 25 Nov 2017 14:27:07 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Larry-Nance-Jr-Return-Starter.jpg

After breaking a bone in his left hand, Los Angeles Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. underwent surgery on Nov. 3rd with an expected recovery timetable of four to six weeks.

Three weeks and one day later, he went through a full contact practice with his hand wrapped and his return imminent. If Nance gets through Sunday's practice without incident, the team expect the forward back available to play on Monday against the LA Clippers. That would still beat the four-week minimum recorvery time table initially outlined.

"I was pulling and begging for 2 and a half weeks, but these guys pulled me back a little bit," Nance said following Saturday's practice in El Segundo. "And I'm thankful they did because I feel great today."

Nance went through a complete practice without incident.

"I felt great," the forward continued. "I did everything with full contact. It was probably one of our better, longest, hardest practices of the year. I felt great, did every drill, competed in every minute of it."

Nance said he felt deflections, blocks and every other type of impact without any pain or issue. At one point, he even hung on the rim after a dunk a little too long, and the 24-year-old made a mental note at that point not to go out of his way to test his hand. While he'll continue to wear a wrap as a "mental" safety blanket, Nance feels confident that his hand is healed. 

"It's great," Nance said. "There's nothing that's going to happen to it now."

The fast healing forward could potentially have made an early comeback, but Lakers coach Luke Walton and his training staff tried to ease the eager Ohio native back.

"I want to ease him back into it, which is what we did by keeping him out and letting him practice these days," Walton said about Nance on Saturday. "But if he's good to go and cleared and ready, I don't see any reason to not put him back in the starting lineup."

Nance's injury forced a lineup shuffle, and Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma got the starting nod in the interim. The rookie forward quickly acclimated to his new role. Including the game where Nance injured his hand, Kuzma is averaging 18.4 points and 7.1 rebounds in 35.0 minutes per game.

In addition to Kuzma's dramatic elevation, backup forward Julius Randle also found his rhythm in a role that seemed more defined and slightly less competitive with one less forward in the rotation.

With Walton seemingly giving Nance the nod to return as a starter, the team will likely go back to a system of Kuzma coming in for Nance, with Randle playing on the second unit as a power forward and small-ball center. Kuzma will likley have to slide back into the small forward role more often, again. At the end of games, Walton will choose between Kuzma, Randle and Nance on a gut feeling with none of the three guaranteed closing minutes.

"I thought, offensively, we looked awesome," Nance assessed the team during his time on the sidelines. "I think I'll help on the rebounding end a little bit and get our defense back to where it once was, but overall, I thought we looked really good."

Walton also echoed Nance's thoughts on rebounding, and the return should improve the team's defense. Nance is widely considered one of the best defenders on the team. In terms f being ready to return, the former Wyoming Cowboy admitted that getting into NBA game shape may take one or two games, but he had been doing his part to stay atop the team's rankings when it came to conditioning.

"I've almost been working harder injured than I was playing, making sure I stay in shape: treadmill work, weight room work, just whatever I could to make sure that if this first game back (Walton) needed to throw me back for 48 (minutes), he could do that, but that's Luke (Walton)'s call at the end of the day," Nance said.

He added, "Kuzma's been playing awesome. Like I said, that's Luke (Walton)'s decision."

Seemingly, Walton's has decided: he expects Nance to return on Monday, as a starter.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chargers' Mike Williams Avoids Season Ending Injury]]>Fri, 24 Nov 2017 17:11:46 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/chargers-mike-wms.jpg

On a warm Thanksgiving afternoon the Los Angeles Chargers captured their second straight dominating victory over  the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.

Rookie wide receiver Mike Williams left the game early in the first half with a right knee injury. At the conclusion of the game, Williams was seen in the locker room on crutches with a knee brace on his right leg.

On Friday, Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said the team received "very encouraging news" that Williams did not sustain an ACL injury.

"We have ruled out an ACL injury, so that's good news for Mike," Lynn told reporters. "He's meeting with doctors and trainers. We'll see where it goes from here ... but the ACL has been ruled out. I think we can deal with the rest."

Williams leading up to the game against Dallas, recorded nine receptions for 84 yards. Williams showed real signs of progress after missing the entire offseason, and five regular season games due to a severe back injury.

More updates to come on Mike Williams when they are made available.

The Chargers return to action on Sunday Dec. 3 against the Cleveland Browns at Stub Hub Center.



Photo Credit: Jae C. Hong/AP]]>
<![CDATA[This Thanksgiving, Chargers Thankful for Win Against Cowboys]]>Fri, 24 Nov 2017 03:05:37 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*120/GettyImages-878078738.jpg

Keenan Allen and Hunter Henry individually had outstanding games, leading the Los Angeles Chargers to a 28-6 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday afternoon.

Allen finished with 11 receptions for 172 yards and one touchdown on the day.

"We had a great play call. I had a corner route," Allen explained about 42-yard touchdown catch and run. "The two men, they're playing inside and I'm outside. Obviously, that's a good play. Philip [Rivers] threw a great ball. After that, gotta make them miss and get into the end zone. I just know the safety was coming. Once I felt the safety, I broke out I had to get up field really fast. It was a matter of making those guys miss."

Desmond King intercepted a pass intended for Cole Beasley, and ran it back for 90 yard touchdown that sealed the deal in front of 93,015 fans at AT&T Stadium.

The Chargers (5-6) came off an impressive 54-24 win over the Buffalo Bills last Sunday at Stub Hub Center. On a short week, the Chargers traveled to AT&T Stadium and faced the Cowboys (5-6), a team that has struggled offensively without suspended running back Ezekiel Elliott. Alfred Morris is the Cowboys' primary running back, and averaged 6.2 yards per carry on the year. Morris had 17 carries a week ago for 91 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles.

At one point in the season the Chargers had the second-worst run defense in the league. That stat was before the return of Denzel Perryman, who debuted in Jacksonville against the Jaguars with 8 tackles.

After a solid opening debut for the Chargers defense, quarterback Philip Rivers kept the opening drive alive with a 46-yard pass to Travis Benjamin for a crucial 1st down. Unable to continue the drive in the end zone, Chargers kicker Nick Novak missed a 35-yard field goal attempt.

Later in the opening quarter, Rivers found Keenan Allen for two bail-out catches, along with Hunter Henry's dynamic catch that kept the drive alive. With Novak out for two series due to a back injury, Los Angeles was unable to convert in the red zone on fourth down.

Outstanding defense by the Bolts allowed the offense to have one more chance before halftime to put points on the board. Rivers, in a series of passes to Allen and Henry, allowed them into the red zone for the third time, which proved to be the charm. The Bolts settled for a 22-yard field goal by Novak for the 3-0 lead late in the second quarter.

The first half was filled with penalties from both the Cowboys and Chargers and a highly contested defensive battle between both teams. Prescott was sacked twice and never got the Cowboys past midfield.

It was the first time the Cowboys have been shut out in the first half in five seasons.

Rivers found Austin Ekeler for a 38-yard catch that set off the drive. Two plays later Rivers found Allen on a skinny post route for the hard-fought first down. Eventually Rivers found Henry in the back of the end zone for the 3-yard touchdown pass and the 9-0 lead midway through the third quarter.

It was Henry's first touchdown since Oct. 8, as Los Angeles is 4-1 this season when Henry gets at least five targets, and 0-5 when he doesn't.

Dak Prescott ran for a touchdown, but it was called back due to a holding penalty by left tackle Tyron Smith. The Bolts defense buckled down and forced Dallas to punt on that drive.

Late in the third quarter, Rivers with great field vision found a sprinting Tyrell Williams for a 27 yard touchdown.

The Cowboys offense looked putrid for three quarters, as the Chargers defense continued to break their spirits. The only bright spot for the Cowboys was a 2-yard touchdown run up the middle by Rod Smith. However, they failed to score on the two-point conversion where Dallas still trailed 16-6 early in the final quarter.

The Cowboys (0-2) are one of three teams (excluding the Chargers) never to beat Philip Rivers, along with the 49ers & Giants (each 0-3).

Philip Rivers completed 27 of 33 passes for 434 yards and three touchdowns in the win. Hunter Henry finished with five receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown.

Hunter Henry finished with five receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown.

"We want Hunter involved every week like that," Rivers said. "It just didn't happen on a consistent basis. He was big today, especially early. Everybody contributed. It was a team effort. It's exciting."

Dak Prescott completed 20 of 27 passes for 179 yards and two interceptions in the loss. Morris finished with 9 carries for 36 yards.

The Chargers return home to face the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 3 at Stub Hub Center.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Roggin's Heroes Thanksgiving 2017]]>Thu, 23 Nov 2017 20:48:36 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/roggins+heros+2017+photo.JPG

They’re the best of the best. Roggin’s Heroes Thanksgiving is back to count the many blessings of Southern California’s top high school football stars.

For the first time, one of our alumni has reached the NFL, making it even more realistic that a future pro could be sitting at this year’s table.

One of our top recruits is San Clemente’s Jack Shippy. He’s a model athlete and a model student. And he just happens to be … a model. 

It’s an unusual occupation for a high schooler. It’s even more unusual when you hear how he landed the job.

Some of these players are former teammates. Some are enemies on the field, even bringing their trash talk to the table.

One has been an actor in commercials, another’s dad is a former star for the LA Rams.

Our group forms a unique football family, gathering for a festive feast at the Four Seasons Westlake Village.

They come from diverse backgrounds but they’re all in search of stardom.

That’s something Olaijah Griffin has dealt with his whole life since his dad, Warren G, is a multiplatinum rapper. Olaijah has certainly emerged from his father’s shadow, growing into one of the top prep prospects in the country.

Admittedly, these young men have plenty to learn. Parents have helped prepare them for the next level where coaches will continue to guide their steps.

But it always helps to have mentors along the way. And tonight, we’ve brought a friend to dinner to share some words of wisdom they’ll remember for a lifetime.

He’s one of the newest inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Chargers legend LaDainian Tomlinson shared his knowledge in hopes of helping these high school stars succeed in college and beyond.

They have plenty to be thankful for on Thanksgiving. And you’ll be grateful after settling in for this second helping of Roggin’s Heroes Thanksgiving.



Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Chargers vs. Cowboys Thanksgiving Preview]]>Thu, 23 Nov 2017 13:35:10 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-876415546.jpg

If the Chargers want to take the next step towards making the NFL Playoffs, it all starts on Thanksgiving Day in the "House That Jerry Built." 

The Chargers (4-6) will face the Dallas Cowboys (5-5) in a pivotal game that could catapult the victor to the postseason, and the loser, looking forward to the NFL Draft.

"We are still in the hunt," said Chargers' quarterback Phillip Rivers after his team started the season 0-4. "We're still right there in the division and the wild card which is a good thing."

L.A. is riding high after an impressive 54-24 blowout win over the hapless Buffalo Bills last Sunday at StubHub Center. However, after just three days of rest and preparation, they traveled across the country to face the reeling Cowboys.

Dallas is coming off a 37-9 blowout loss to their NFC East rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles and is still coming to grips with the six-game suspension to star running back Ezekiel Elliot.

In his place, Alfred Morris and Rod Smith have stepped up, combining for 102 yards on 25 carries in the loss to the Eagles. 

On Thursday, the Cowboys will have to skip the mashed potatoes and try and carve through the Chargers defense, which is one of the best in the NFL. 

Led by linebackers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, the Chargers defense will put tremendous pressure on Cowboys' quarterback Dak Prescott throughout the day. The bookend linebackers have a combined 19 sacks on the season.

"They have a good quarterback," Chargers' cornerback Casey Hayward said about Prescott. "But we will go in there and play our game [on Thursday]." 

The Chargers and Cowboys will kickoff at 1:30 PM PST from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. The game will air live on CBS in front of a national Thanksgiving audience. They game can be live streamed here and on FuboTV.

Fantasy Football Start/Sit:

Start: Dak Prescott, Phillip Rivers, Dez Bryant, Melvin Gordon, Alfred Morris, Keenan Allen, Nick Novak, Chargers Defense.

Sit: Terrance Williams, Tyrell Williams, Mike Williams, Hunter Henry, Antonio Gates, Jason Whitten, Dan Bailey, Cowboys Defense. 

Betting Odds (Courtesy of Bovada):

Chargers: -1 (-115)
Cowboys: +1 (-105)
O/U: 47.5 

Prediction: 28-20 Chargers

Each and every week, NBC LA reporters Michael J. Duarte and Nick Hamilton bring you an NFL podcast entitled, "Bolts by the Horns," as the writers breakdown what's going on inside the worlds of both Los Angeles based football teams including; insider information, interviews with players and experts, latest injury updates, previews, predictions, betting odds, fantasy advice and more.

Give it a listen below:





Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Sink in Sacramento 113-102]]>Wed, 22 Nov 2017 22:25:19 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-vs-Kings-Julius-Randle.jpg

On Thanksgiving Eve, the Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Sacramento Kings, as Willie Cauley-Stein and Zach Randolph dominated the paint and handed the Lakers their 11th loss of the season, 113-102.

Cauley-Stein took advantage of the Lakers' smaller lineups to the tune of 26 points, which was a new season high for the Kings' backup center. Randolph, meanwhile, did most of his damage in the first half and eventually finished the night with 22 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

On the second night of a back-to-back and on the road, the Lakers let this game get away from them early when they came out cold in the first quarter and allowed their poor shooting affect their defense.

Sacramento finished the first quarter on a 13-3 run and led by 12 points after 12 minutes. From that point forward, the Lakers got stuck chasing the Kings for the remainder of the night and never got close enough to threaten the home team.

Entering the night, all eyes were on De'Aaron Fox and Lonzo Ball, as the two rookies had history in the NCAA Tournament. Ball finished the night with 11 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds, to go along with four turnovers and one steal. Fox, meanwhile, finished with 13 points, four rebounds, three assists and five turnovers.

Head-to-head, Ball seemingly won the matchup of lottery picks, but of course, Fox's team collected the win on the night.

Notes: Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma finished with 17 points, while Kings rookie Frank Mason III tabbed 11 points, seven assists and five rebounds off the bench.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Pull Off 19-Point Comeback, Beat Bulls]]>Wed, 22 Nov 2017 03:10:46 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-vs-Bulls.jpg

It was the worst of halves, and then, it was the best of halves.

On Tuesday night at Staples Center, the Los Angeles Lakers erased a 19-point deficit and overcame one of the ugliest halves of basketball in recent memory. The Chicago Bulls enjoyed a 56-42 lead at the intermission after the Lakers had committed 13 turnovers in the first two quarters and trailed by 18 points a their lowest point of the first 24 minutes.

LA would commit only one turnover over the final 24 minutes and outscore the Chicago Bulls 61-38 to win by a final count of 103-94.

Everyone in attendance won tacos at the end of the night, and that ugly, putrid first half faded into memory for the smiling Staples Center crowd as it exited to "I Love LA" and streamers falling from the rafters.

From the Lakers' standpoint, the less said about the first half, the better.

"I thought we were pretty bad in that first half," Lakers coach Luke Walton said after the game.

Walton added, "I was shocked we were only down 14 points at the half, to be honest. I said, 'We are lucky to be down 14 right now the way we played and the good news is we have plenty of time to come back.'"

The Lakers turned the game around in the third quarter but only after the team came out of the locker room flat, dug the ditch deeper to 19 points and Walton called a timeout only 96 seconds into the second half.

Following the timeout, the Lakers went on to a 30-14 run and entered the fourth quarter miraculously only trailing by three points. The atmosphere inside the arena had changed, the ball game had changed, and the momentum appeared to be entirely on the Lakers' side.

Julius Randle, in particular, had energized the crowd and brought electricity to the court, as the backup forward scored his first eight points of the game in the third quarter. Randle would finish with 10 points and 10 rebounds to claim a double-double on the night, but the bulk of the 22-year-old's contribution arrived in the second half and in that vital momentum-shifting third quarter. In the second half, Randle's net rating was plus-22 points.

In the fourth quarter, the Bulls initially jumped out to a five-point lead, but the Lakers came back to level the game at 80-80 on a Josh Hart layup set up by Randle. Hart, who is a rookie, also played valuable minutes in the third and fourth quarters and earned due praise from his teammates and coach after the game.

The Bulls, however, went on to score the next seven points, as Walton struggled to make substitutions with only one timeout in the coach's pocket. After Walton made his changes on a dead ball foul, the Lakers immediately went on a 9-2 run and tied the game at 89-89.

From that point forward, the Lakers never looked back.

They went on to win the fourth quarter by a final count of 31-19, as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 11 points in the final period to lead the team down the stretch. At one point, Caldwell-Pope scored eight straight points for the Lakers. The Lakers' shooting guard finished with 21 points on the night.

Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball struggled to find his shot in the first half but hit two of his four three-point attempts in the second half. The Lakers' point guard finished with eight points, four assists and 13 rebounds in the victory and was one of the players substituted in when the Lakers made their final push to level the game and ride away to victory.

Fellow rookie Kyle Kuzma scored 22 points on the night to lead all scorers, but Kuzma scored 18 of those 22 points in the first half and deserved credit for keeping the Lakers close enought to even attempt a second half comeback. Lukily for the the Flint, Michigan native, his teammates came to life in the second half.

For the Bulls, Denzel Valentine scored 17 points to lead six Bulls scoring in double figures, but Chicago struggled to find any sort of offensive rhythm following the halftime break. The Bulls shot 28.9 percent from the field and 18.2 percent from three-point land in the second half after shooting 46.9 percent from the field and 50 percent form beyond the arc in the first half.

For both teams, Tuesday night at Staples Center truly was a tale of two halves.

"It is a learning opportunity for the guys to be down 20 and realize you don't need hero shots," Walton put the comeback in context for the young team. "You just need to tighten down on what we are doing, and you can get back in the game."

With the victory, the Lakers improved to 8-10 on the season and are eighth in the Western Conference. Next, the Lakers travel to Sacramento to face the Kings on Wednesday night before enjoying a Thanksgiving lay-off until Monday, Nov. 27 when the team hits the "road" against the LA Clippers.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lonzo Ball, Lakers Host Bulls on Tuesday]]>Tue, 21 Nov 2017 12:00:56 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-vs-Bulls-11-21-17.JPG

Following up on his second career triple-double on Sunday, Lonzo Ball returns to Staples Center on Tuesday night when the Los Angeles Lakers host the Chicago Bulls.

The Bulls are bad.

Chicago has started the season with only three wins in 14 games, including only one win in eight road games. However, rookie Lauri Markkanen leads Tuesday's visitors in points, 15.6, and rebounds, 8.0. The 7-footer is averaging 7.0 attempts per game from beyond the three-point line, and the 20-year-old is shooting a team-best 36.7 percent from distance.

"He's really good," Lakers coach Luke Walton, who attended the University of Arizona as an undergraduate, said about Markkanen on Tuesday morning. "One, he's a really intelligent player because he went to (the University of Arizona), so he makes good decisions. But it’s impressive for a rookie to be able to put up numbers that he’s putting up right now and to shoot the NBA three normally takes a little bit of time to get used to, and he's shooting that thing pretty well and consistent right now."

Walton added, "He's going to be a handful for us tonight."

While Markkanen represents the new brand of big man of the NBA, Bulls starting center Robin Lopez still sits in the paint. Lakers center Brook Lopez, who has transformed into a three-point shooting center over the past couple years, is due to reunite with his twin brother on Tuesday night at Staples Center, which always makes for interesting drama.

In addition, the Bulls also feature former Laker David Nwaba, who earned his fairytale call up to the Lakers and the NBA at the tail-end of the 2016-17 season. Nwaba, who is an LA-native, has not featured for the Bulls' past six games and has been sidelined with lingering ankle soreness.

At the moment, the Bulls are starting third-year point guard Jerian Grant alongside Justin Holiday in the backcourt, with Denzel Valentine, Markkanen and Robin Lopez in the front court. Second-year point guard Kris Dunn, though, has claimed the majority of the point guard minutes in each of the Bulls' previous two games despite not starting.

For the Lakers, Tuesday night should be a victory over a team that is head deep in the rebuilding process after trading away Jimmy Butler to Minnesota over the summer. With a victory over the Bulls, the Lakers can improve to 8-10 on the season, which would be good enough for the no. 8 seed in the Western Conference with over one-fifth of the 2017-18 season complete.

Like most rookies, Ball has had an up and down start to his NBA career, but the former UCLA Bruin has already started re-writing history books becoming the youngest player to record a triple-double and the youngest player to record multiple triple-doubles in the NBA. Considering the opposition, Ball recording his third career triple-double on Tuesday would not be shocking. It would still be impressive, though.

Along with Ball, rookie Kyle Kuzma has gained a following and claimed cult status in the team's fan base and even on a national level. At 16.5 points per game, Kuzma leads the team in scoring, and the 21-year-old has recorded four double-doubles in nine games since moving into the starting-five due to a Larry Nance Jr. hand injury.

For the month of November, Kuzma is averaging 18.2 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. Nance, though, is due to return sooner rather than later, as Walton shared that the injured forward returning on Monday against the LA Clippers sounded "reasonable." Whether Nance's return pushes Kuzma back to the bench remains to be seen, but the rookie has done more than adequately during his time in the starting lineup.

Along with Ball and Kuzma, forward Julius Randle continues to make the most of his limited minutes on the court. For the month of November, Randle is averaging 12.7 points and 7.7 rebounds in only 21.9 minutes on the court. Against Denver, Randle got extra run and played a season-high 32 minutes on the court, which helped the former University of Kentucky Wildcat to a new season high of 24 points, to go along with seven rebounds and five assists.

On Tuesday night, Randle, Kuzma and Ball should again play vital roles for the Lakers, as they look to get their eigth win of the 2017-18 season and move up in the standings. The Lakers and Bulls tip-off at 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time.



Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Roggin's Heroes Are Thankful: 2017]]>Mon, 20 Nov 2017 16:07:02 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/HEROES_THANKFUL_FOR_1200x675_1100196419614.jpg

Southern California's top high school football players share what they're thankful for on this holiday. Part of the sixth annual Roggin's Heroes Thanksgiving special originally aired November 23, 2017.]]>
<![CDATA[Coming Soon: Roggin's Heroes Thanksgiving 2017]]>Mon, 20 Nov 2017 16:03:16 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/RH_THANKSGIVING_DIGITAL_PROMO_1200x675_1100194883528.jpg

They're the best of the best and they're back to make this year's annual tradition the best we've ever had. Roggin's Heroes Thanksgiving gathers the top high school football players in southern California for a night of fun, family and football. Bring your family together and join ours Thursday night after the Giants vs. Redskins.]]>
<![CDATA[Lonzo Ball Gets Triple-Double, Lakers Beat Nuggets 127-109]]>Mon, 20 Nov 2017 00:14:02 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lonzo-Ball-triple-double-Lakers-7-19-17.jpg

On Sunday, Lonzo Ball collected his second career tripled-double with 16 rebounds, 11 points and 11 assists, along with two blocks, as the Los Angeles Lakers routed the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center, 127-109.

Only eight days earlier, Ball had become the youngest player to ever achieve the statistical achievement, but a poor performance in front of a national audience had pundits declaring the rookie point guard a bust and even suggesting that he may need to lose his starting spot or go develop in the G-League.

Against the Nuggets on Sunday, though, Ball looked like he belonged in the NBA and looked like the player the Lakers ordained the future of the franchise at his unveiling. By halftime, Ball was clearly tracking for the triple double. The Chino Hills native went to the locker room with nine points, eight rebounds and seven assists to his name.

The Lakers also led by 22 points at the break, as the Nuggets had failed to find any rhythm in the first half. Compounding the visitors' woes, Nuggets coach Mike Malone and Nikola Jokic, arguably the Nuggets' best player, both got ejected from the game for arguing calls with the referees.

When four-time All-Star forward Paul Milsap didn't return from the locker room for the second half, the writing was on the wall.  The Nuggets would not be mounting a comeback, and the Lakers went on to cruise to their seventh victory of the season in 17 games.

Ball's 16 rebounds, incidentally, also set a new high mark for most rebounds by a rookie from the class of 2017. As a reminder, Ball is a point guard, but his rebounding has come into greater focus in recent days.

Along with Ball's special night, Lakers forward Julius Randle also scored a season-high and put in his finest performance of the young season. Randle had only appeared for 16 minutes against the Phoenix Suns on Friday. By halftime of Sunday's game, Randle had already logged 17 minutes, during which time the Lakers had outscored the Nuggets by 26 points.

Randle finished with 24 points, seven rebounds and five assists in the victory and shared locker room honors as the most discussed player for the winning side.

Lakers coach Luke Walton said about his athletic, strong forward, "When he plays like he did tonight, he's as good as anyone in this league."

With the win, the Lakers improved to 7-10. Next, the Chicago Bull come to Staples Center on Tuesday night.

Quote of the Night

Walton answering a question on whether he'd seen the type of media scrutiny Ball faces for any player at his age:

"Not at this young of an age. I played, obviously, with (Kobe Bryant) and it was a zoo everywhere we went. When I coached with the Warriors, it was a zoo everywhere that we went. But never with a young man that is his age have I seen…I mean, he got a haircut and I fielded three questions"



Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Chargers Keep Playoff Hopes Alive With Win Over Bills]]>Sun, 19 Nov 2017 16:46:13 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/197*120/AP_17324015609675.jpg

The Chargers destroyed the Bills 54-24 in front of 25,015 fans at Stub Hub Center on Sunday afternoon.

Backup running back Austin Ekeler burned through the Bills defense for the 21-yard touchdown, which proved to be the nail in the coffin for Buffalo.

For the Chargers every win is now a must win in order to have an opportunity at the playoffs this season. The Chargers returned home after a crushing 20-17 overtime loss against the Jaguars in Jacksonville last Sunday.

Thursday afternoon quarterback Philip Rivers was medically cleared by an independent specialist to start on Sunday against the Bills. Rivers is most equipped to get the ball into the hands of the offense’s best players — including tight end Hunter Henry. Protecting the football was a key to victory against a Bills tough secondary that is part of authentic turnover defense.

Bills rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman developed a keen offensive flow early in the opening quarter. As Peterman moved the Bills down the field, he threw a costly pass that was intercepted by Korey Toomer who took it 59 yards down the sidelines for a touchdown. On the next drive Peterman threw another interception under pressure to Casey Hayward who returned the ball for seven yards. Unfortunately the Chargers blew a golden opportunity to put more points on the board, as Rivers was unable to move the offense forward on the drive. Nick Novak missed a key 46 yard field goal, as the Chargers still led 7-0.

Peterman was promoted as the starting quarterback by head coach Sean McDermott over quarterback Tyrod Taylor earlier in the week.

The Bills responded back in a major way, as running back LeSean McCoy on two plays was responsible for Buffalo's tying touchdown.

Los Angeles continued to struggle to find their way in the endzone, as they settled for a Nick Novak 34-yard field goal that gave them the 10-7 lead. Novak missed a previous 46-yard field goal attempt earlier in the opening quarter.

Rivers finally found his stride as he connected with a speedy Keenan Allen down the right side for the 21-yard touchdown and 17-7 lead in the second quarter. Casey Haywards second interception of the day, eventually lead to Rivers who found Allen on a hot route for a 2-yard touchdown. The Bolts were far from done, adding insult to injury with a 10-yard Melvin Gordon touchdown run for the 37-7 halftime lead.

The Bills allowed 37 points in the first half were the most Buffalo has allowed, since they gave up 42 to the Seattle Seahawks in 1977.

Novak knocked in a pair of field goal, one just second before halftime, and another early in the third quarter for the Bolts. Benched quarterback Tyrod Taylor entered the game midway through the third quarter hoping to jolt some type of spark in the Buffalo offense, however the Bolts defense shut them down like an old Public Enemy song. Buffalo had to settle for a Stephen Hauschka field goal, as they trailed 40-10 in the third quarter.

The Bolts defense locked in as Joey Bosa sacked Taylor and forced the fumble for Melvin Ingram to score on the 39-yard return for a touchdown.

The only bright spot for Buffalo occurred early in the fourth quarter, as Taylor found a sprinting McCoy on the left side of the endzone for the 2-yard touchdown. McCoy finished with two touchdowns on the day.

Bills quarterback Nathan Peterman finished 6-for-14 for 66 yards passing and five interceptions. Tyrod Taylor completed 13-for-22 for 154 yards passing, and two touchdowns in the loss. Taylor sent a strong message to his head coach regarding his second half performance.

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers completed 21-for-33 for 250 passing yards and two touchdowns in the win.

Gordon entered week 11 against the Bills with 2,191 career rushing yards. The total ranked him 12th all-time on the Chargers list. After finishing with 2,271 rushing yards on Sunday, Gordon cracked the top-10 passing Gary Anderson's total of 2,250 rushing yards. Gordon has nine touchdowns on the season.

The Chargers will travel to Dallas to face the Cowboys on Thursday afternoon at 1:30 PM PT on CBS.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Kupp's Mistakes Cost Rams in Loss to Vikings]]>Sun, 19 Nov 2017 17:36:30 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/172*120/GettyImages-876308234.jpg

The Rams scored on their first drive of the game.

They would not score again.

Latavius Murray ran for two touchdowns and the Minnesota Vikings snapped the Los Angeles Rams four-game winning streak, 24-7, on Sunday afternoon at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Vikings' quarterback Case Keenum got revenge on his former team as he alluded defenders all day long, keeping plays alive with his legs, as he refused to get sacked a single time against one of the best defenses in the NFL.

Keenum played two seasons with the Rams in 2015 and 2016, but was benched by then head coach Jeff Fisher exactly one-year ago in favor of rookie Jared Goff. 

On Sunday, the mentor got the best of his former protégé as Keenum outplayed Goff, throwing for 280 yards and a touchdown. 

After back-to-back games with 300+ yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, Goff struggled against the Vikings stifling secondary, completing 15-of-25 passes for 225 yards and no touchdowns in the loss. 

Despite his stats, Goff was impressive, standing in the pocket and delivering dimes under pressure from the Vikings devastating defensive front that put pressure on him all afternoon.

The Rams started faster than the speed of light, as they opened the game on a nine-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off by a 6-yard touchdown run from Todd Gurley. 

Minnesota answered to open the second quarter as Latavius Murray bust up the middle for an 8-yard touchdown run that tied the game at 7-7.

The Rams had a chance to take the lead before the half, but wide receiver Cooper Kupp fumbled the ball on the 1-yard-line, and Vikings' safety Anthony Harris recovered, ending the Rams threat just seconds before they were about to score.

Murray put the Vikings up 14-7 when he opened the fourth quarter with his second touchdown of the day. Murray finished with 95 yards and two touchdowns as the Rams stellar defensive front allowed over 170 yards on the ground.

Once again, the Rams had a chance to tie the game on the ensuing drive, but Kupp dropped a wide-open pass on third down that would have put the Rams inside the red zone. 

Five plays later, Keenum threw a screen pass to receiver Adam Thielen who blew past cornerback Dominique Hatfield and run untouched 65-yards down the field for the score.

Hatfield, a backup for the Rams, only has one tackle on the season, and was only in the game because of a thigh injury to starting cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman.

Theilen led all receivers with a game-high six catches for 123 yards and a touchdown. 

Santa Monica kid, Kai Forbath, missed not one, but two field goals for the Vikings before finally converting a 39-yarder that sealed the victory late in the fourth quarter.

The Vikings improved to 8-2 on the season and have now won six consecutive games as they take a stranglehold on the NFC North.

The Rams fall to 7-3, and will likely fall into a first place tie with the Seattle Seahawks who host the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football, for first place in the NFC West.

It was the first loss for the Rams on the road this season as they fall to 4-1 away from the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.

Up Next:

The Rams will return home to the Coliseum next Sunday where they will host the leaders of the NFC South, the New Orleans Saints. Kickoff is 1:25PM PST on CBS.



Photo Credit: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Rams Revealed: WR Robert Woods]]>Sun, 19 Nov 2017 06:03:17 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Rams_Revealed_Robert_Woods_1200x675_1099291203517.jpg

NBC LA Sports Reporter Michael J. Duarte interviews Los Angeles Rams Wide Receiver Robert Woods about playing for his hometown team, his days at USC, and who would play him in the Hollywood movie about the Rams.]]>
<![CDATA[USC Defeats Crosstown Rival UCLA]]>Sat, 18 Nov 2017 23:22:30 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/179*120/USCvsUCLA2017.png

Two teams. One City. One champion.

Ronald Jones II rushed for two touchdowns and Sam Darnold ran for one of his own, as the No. 11 USC Trojans defeated crosstown rival, UCLA, 28-23, in the Battle for Los Angeles at the Coliseum on Saturday.

The highly anticipated rivalry featured two of the nation's top quarterbacks in sophomore sensation Darnold and junior Josh Rosen for UCLA.

In front of dozens of NFL scouts, the two quarterbacks did not disappoint as Rosen threw for 421 yards and three touchdowns, and Darnold threw for 264 yards and ran for a touchdown.

"We're not technically battling against each other, because I'm going against their defense," Darnold said. "But I think it's awesome to be able to battle against a great player like Josh."

Darnold, a sophomore from Capistrano, CA, is widely considered by analysts as the consensus No. 1 pick in the NFL draft should he opt to leave USC and declare for the pros.

After the game, Darnold and Rosen met at the 50-yard-line for a hug and a handshake, and then the USC quarterback climbed the ladder to lead the Trojans marching band, sword in hand, as the student section chanted, "One more year!"

"I'm not going to say anything about that," Darnold said when asked what he thought about the students chant. "But it's so cool whenever I get the opportunity to lead the band. Not every college has that kind of tradition." 

USC struck first when they perfectly executed a misdirection play on a punt by the Bruins. UCLA punter Stefan Flintoft kicked the ball down the Trojans sideline, but returner Velus Jones Jr. fooled everyone on the field as he pretended to catch the ball at the 30-yard-line.

Meanwhile, Michael Pittman Jr. actually caught the ball with not a single Bruin player around him as he ran untouched down the sideline for the 72-yard touchdown return.

"That's something we practice each and every year," said USC coach Clay Helton after the game. "I thought Coach Baxter and our punt return team had it set up perfectly and all we needed was a good kick. It was executed well and that gave us an early spark in that game. Really well done by Michael Pittman."

The Bruins responded on the ensuing drive as Rosen picked apart the Trojans' defense, finding Jordan Lasley open in the end zone to complete a seven-play, 80-yard drive that tied the game at 7-7.

Lasley led all receivers in the game, catching 10 passes for a career-high 204 yards and three touchdowns.

The back and forth battle continued as the Trojans answered right back on their next possession. Sam Darnold found Deontay Burnett for a 15-yard strike that put the ball on the UCLA 2-yard line, and USC punched it in one play later when running back Ronald Jones II rushed up the gut for the touchdown.

Jones II had a game-high 25 carries for 122 yards and two touchdowns.

Darnold put the Trojans in front by two touchdowns when he called his own number in the third quarter, and rushed to the left for the score.

Once again the Bruins responded right away as Rosen found Lasley wide open in the end zone to cap off a 79-yard touchdown drive.

After a UCLA field goal cut the lead to 21-17, the Trojans put the game away when Jones II rushed up the middle for his second touchdown of the game.

Rosen kept the game close as he found Lasley again for the duo's third touchdown of the game as the Bruins cut the lead to 28-23. 

"I really thought we won this game," said Rosen who set a new school record with his seventh 300-yard passing game of the season. "We executed how we want. We were even making field goals. Missed a field goal, two turnovers -- that's what, nine points right there? We lost by five. Another touchdown called back for a chop [block]. It's just frustrating."

After a failed two-point conversion, and a missed onside kick, USC ran the clock out to secure the victory--the third consecutive against the rival Bruins and 16th consecutive win at the Coliseum overall.

The G.O.A.T.

Los Angeles Lakers Legend Kobe Bryant was at the game.

Up Next:

The UCLA Bruins will host Cal next Friday at the Rose Bowl with a potential Bowl Game berth on the line. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30PM PST.

The Trojans will have the next week off as they await their opponent in the Pac 12 Championship game at Levis Stadium on December 1st



Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[USC and UCLA Face Off Tonight at the Coliseum]]>Sat, 18 Nov 2017 15:29:15 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/210*120/la-coliseum-torch-2.jpg

The USC and UCLA football teams will meet at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Saturday night with the Trojans seeking their second consecutive 10-victory season and the Bruins trying to become bowl eligible.

USC (9-2, 7-1 Pac-12 Conference) clinched a berth in the conference's championship game last Saturday with a 38-24 victory over Colorado. A victory over UCLA would give them sole ownership of the South Division title.

The Bruins (5-5, 3-4) need either a victory over the Trojans or Friday over California in the regular-season finale for their sixth victory to become bowl eligible. UCLA, which was 4-8 last season and failed to qualify for a bowl, has not missed going to a bowl game in consecutive seasons since 1989 and 1990.

USC has won 15 consecutive home games, the nation's second-longest current home winning streak behind Alabama, which has won 18 consecutive home games. The Bruins have lost eight consecutive road games.

Both teams will wear their home jerseys, a tradition that began in 1949, was interrupted twice and revived in 2008 and continued continuously since then with the exception of 2011. The Trojans will wear their cardinal jerseys and UCLA blue.

USC leads the series, 46-31-7, not including victories in 2004 and 2005 that were vacated due to NCAA penalties. The Trojans were 36-14 winners last year. The Bruins have won only four times in the last 18 meetings dating to 1999.

This will be the 12th time in the series 87 games, and seventh time in the past nine years, the game has started at 5 p.m. later.

The start time was determined by ESPN selecting it to air on ABC's "Saturday Night Football," which begins at 5 p.m. PST/8 p.m. EST. ESPN and ABC are both owned by the Walt Disney Co. ESPN is among the three rights holders for Pac-12 football games, along with Fox Sports and the Pac-12 Network.

The game will be the final game at the Coliseum for 13 Trojan seniors.

They will be introduced individually prior to the opening kickoff as they run onto the field through the Heritage Tunnel comprised of former USC players.

Those seniors will be joined by three former players turned undergraduate student assistant coaches -- Kenny Bigelow Jr., Kevin Carrasco and Jonathan Labonty -- and possibly some redshirt junior walk-ons who do not plan on returning in 2018.

The game was approaching a sellout as of Friday afternoon, USC Sports Information Director Tim Tessalone told City News Service.

The winning team will be awarded the Victory Bell, a 295-pound bell originally hung atop a Southern Pacific freight locomotive.

The bell was given to the UCLA Alumni Association in 1939. In 1941, it was taken by a group of USC students who hid it in a variety of locations for more than a year.

Following an intervention by school administrators, the student body presidents of both schools signed an agreement in 1942 providing that the winner of the football game would keep possession for the next year, a tradition that has continued, along with painting the bell's carriage in the school color of the winner.

]]>
<![CDATA[Kyle Kuzma Scores 30 Points, Lonzo Ball Walks Past Fight]]>Sat, 18 Nov 2017 21:53:35 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Kyle-Kuzma-Lakers-Suns.jpg

Rookie Kyle Kuzma scored 28 of his career-high 30 points in the second half of Friday's game against the Phoenix Suns, but that still wasn't enough for the Los Angeles Lakers to come away with a victory at Staples Center.

"It's cool, but I'm a winner," Kuzma said about his career-high after the game. "I like to win. Stats really don't matter to me. I just try to play hard, and I want to win."

The Lakers dropped to 6-10 for the 2017-18 season after Phoenix won by a final count of 122-113 in a sloppy game featuring 34 turnovers with LA responsible for 19 of those giveaways. Kuzma tabbing a career-high for the second game in succession provided a silver lining, but five losses in their past six games had to have the Lakers worried about starting a skid that could be difficult to stop, especially considering a cold December schedule waiting in the wings.

For the visitors, Devin Booker scored 33 points to finish as the high scorer in the game, but the shooting guard had help from his point guard and the bench. Tyler Ulis scored 15 points and handed out seven assists, while Alex Len scored 17 points and pulled down a monstrous 18 rebounds off the Suns' bench. Also, Dragan Bender hit three of his four three-point attempts off a productive Suns' reserve unit.

For the home team, Brandon Ingram came out aggressive for the second game in a row, but the 20-year-old forward finished with 17 points after scoring 12 in the first quarter alone. Foul trouble hampered the North Carolina native in the first half, but the second-year forward didn't seem to find his spots with as much regularity past the first 12 minutes.

Lakers center Brook Lopez tabbed a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds, and fellow frontcourt mate Kuzma also tabbed a double-double with 10 rebounds to accompany his team high 30 points. For the rookie, Friday marked the fifth career double-double of the season and fourth time he's hit that statistical mark in the past eight games. Since becoming a starter in Larry Nance Jr.'s absence, Kuzma is 50-50 to record a double-double and 100 percent to score in double figures.

Lonzo Ball, who came into the night sporting a new haircut, finished with six points, six rebounds, six assists, five steals and a block in 38 minutes on the court. Ball made three of his seven shots on the night, and one of his missed shots appeared to be a goal-tending call the refs missed and another miss was a layup that rimmed out.

All-in-all, Ball had a decent night at the office and certainly a better night than two days earlier against Philadelphia, when the rookie missed eight of his nine shots, scored two points and got benched for the entire fourth quarter.

In the closing moments of the game, a small skirmish erupted near the scorers' table and involved several Suns and Lakers' players. Three players earned technical fouls for the pushing and shoving. Meanwhile, Ball earned a fair amount of criticism for looking over at the pushing and shoving, wiping the sweat from his brow and casually walking away from the action, rather than helping his teammates.

"It's the NBA," Ball said when asked about the incident. "People ain't really going to fight, so I ain't trying to get no tech."

Only 16 games into his NBA career, the loss to Phoenix will likely be best remembered as the night Ball learned about his unwritten obligation to stand up for his teammates. If nothing else, Friday's Lakers' loss came with a lesson.

Correction: This article has been corrected to state that Brandon Ingram is a North Carolina native, not a Georgia native.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rams and Chargers: Week 11 Preview and Predictions]]>Fri, 17 Nov 2017 18:29:56 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-873383992.jpg

The City of Angels has two NFL teams, and they're both headed in opposite directions.  

The Los Angeles Rams are 7-2 and currently riding a four-game winning streak as they sit perched atop the NFC West. After a dominant, 33-7, victory over the Houston Texans, the Rams now have their sights set on old friend Case Keenum and the Minnesota Vikings. 

Keenum is third in the NFL in QBR rating this season and he's out for revenge against the team that famously benched him in favor of rookie Jared Goff exactly one year ago.

Meanwhile, Goff has also excelled this season, and has posted back-to-back games of 300+ yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Despite not ranking in the top 10 in the league for QBR rating, Goff still has the best QBR improvement over any other quarterback from last season.

Both offenses are rolling right now, but it’s the defenses that will make the biggest impact on Sunday's game at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings and the Rams are both ranked in the top 5 in the NFL in points per game allowed by their opponents at 18.3 and 18.0, respectively.  

This should be a close game throughout as the Rams put their undefeated road record (4-0) on the line against the Vikings who have won their last five games overall. Something has to give on Sunday as the immovable object meets the unstoppable force on the gridiron. 

The Rams and Vikings will kickoff at 10:00 AM PST from U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The game will air love on FOX and can be live streamed on NFL.com and FuboTV.

Fantasy Football Start/Sit: 

Start: Jared Goff (only if you don't have a better option), Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Todd Gurley, Greg Zuerlein, Rams Defense.

Sit: Sammy Watkins, Tavon Austin, Tyler Higbee.

Betting Odds (Courtesy of Bovada):

Rams: +2 (+115)
Vikings: -2 (-135)
O/U: 46 

Prediction: 24-21 Vikings

The Chargers limp home to Los Angeles this weekend after a stunning loss to the Jaguars, 20-17, in Jacksonville last Sunday.

Rookie running back, Austin Ekeler, had two touchdowns in the game, and the Chargers led, 17-14, with the ball in their hands and under two minutes left in the game on two separate occasions, but were unable to seal the victory.

After a fumble by Ekeler and an interception by Phillip Rivers in overtime, the Jaguars busted through the door that the Chargers left open for them, and stole the victory at home, sending Los Angeles to a record of 3-6, and a steep climb ahead in the AFC Playoff picture. 

Rivers announced on Monday that he suffered a concussion in the game, and did not practice all week as he went through the NFL's concussion protocol.

However, the team announced on Friday afternoon, that Rivers would indeed start against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, extending his consecutive games started streak to 195 (including playoffs).

Rivers has not missed a start since 2006, and that's bad news for the Bills who made a controversial quarterback change of their own this week as they benched starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor, in favor of rookie Nathan Peterman. 

Taylor has only thrown three interceptions in nine starts this season, and led the Bills to a record of 4-2 before losing in blowout fashion in the team's last two games. 

After throwing for just 57 yards and no touchdowns through three quarters in a 47-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints last Sunday, Taylor was benched in favor of Peterman who subsequently led the Bills down the field for their only touchdown drive of the game.

New Orleans rushed for nearly 300 yards in the game, so look for the Chargers to hand the ball off early and often to All-Pro running back Melvin Gordon, as they look to gain most of their yards on the ground.

The Chargers have the worst rushing defense in the league, but linebackers Denzel Perryman, Melvin Ingram, and Joey Bosa know how to get after the quarterback and will be licking their chops at the sight of Peterman behind center.

The Chargers have won four of their last five head-to-head matchups with the Bills.

The Bills and Chargers will kickoff at 1:05PM PST from StubHub Center in Carson, CA. The game can be watched live on FOX, and live streamed on NFL.com and FuboTV

Fantasy Football Start/Sit:

Start: Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry, Chargers Defense.

Sit: Phillip Rivers, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin, Mike Williams, Nick Novak.

Betting Odds (Courtesy of Bovada):

Chargers: -6
Bills: +6
O/U: 41 

Prediction: 24-20 Chargers

Each and every week, NBC LA reporters Michael J. Duarte and Nick Hamilton bring you an NFL podcast entitled, "Bolts by the Horns," as the writers breakdown what's going on inside the worlds of both Los Angeles based football teams including; insider information, interviews with players and experts, latest injury updates, previews, predictions, betting odds, fantasy advice and more. 

This week's guests on the show were Rams' wide receiver Robert Woods and Chargers' rookie running back, Austin Ekeler. Give it a listen below:



Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kobe Bryant Looks to Take Animation World by Storm]]>Fri, 17 Nov 2017 19:05:44 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/uspresswire-lakers-kobe-bryant.jpg

Thursday night future NBA Hall of Famer and former Lakers guard Kobe Bryant unveiled another brick from the house of Kobe Inc., an animated feature "Dear Basketball" during the Animation Expo in Los Angeles.

Bryant teamed up with former Disney animator Glen Keane to bring Bryant's letter written to fans before his last NBA game to life. The nearly seven minute animated feature is narrated and executive produced by Bryant, and scored by legendary music leader John Williams.

The film first premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April, and now looks to be among the Oscar nominations for animated short films. Bryant wanted the film to be unique, therefore meeting several times with Keane as they discussed it being drawn by hand rather than the use of a computer. Bryant wanted everyone to see that greatness was not an overnight process, but developed in time. Keane's famous for his work at Disney where he personally animated characters like "Aladdin," "Pocahontas" and more. The 38-year animator Keane left Disney in 2012 to form Glen Keane Productions.

After Keane called the making of "Dear Basketball" "the most difficult thing I've animated in a long while," likely because of the essence of black-and-white sketches, highlighted only by slight clashes of purple and gold, which are the Lakers' colors. The film magnificently draws you into the mind of the Black Mamba in a refreshing way that allows you to relive his entire career in a matter of moments.

The collaboration of Bryant's vision and Keane's artistry behaves seamlessly as one unit throughout the project. The film is enhanced by the genius scoring of Williams, who Bryant ironically met in 2014. Bryant was intrigued by Williams' dedication to music while capturing every mood of a film. The two developed a great relationship, and one day as a favor to Bryant, Williams took two weeks off from working on "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" to score "Dear Basketball."

It was the first traditionally animated film that Williams has scored in his career. One of the most memorable moments for Bryant was during the process of the making of this film, when he received a surprised call in March 2017 from Williams. Williams happened to be at the Hollywood Bowl one evening conducting his orchestra, and asked Bryant to join him on stage for a live narration of "Dear Basketball." Once Bryant arrived and nearly overcome with emotion, he could not believe his project would be heard before thousands of people.

The experiment was a success, and in true Black Mamba form Bryant rose to the occasion gracefully and closed the deal like a last-second shot on an NBA court.

As one of the greatest basketball players we've ever seen, Kobe Bryant looks to embark on a new chapter, conquering the worlds of tech and film — one project at a time.



Photo Credit: CSNPhilly.com
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<![CDATA[Walton: Lonzo Ball is Lakers' Starting Point Guard]]>Fri, 17 Nov 2017 04:12:45 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/212*120/Lonzo-Ball-Lakers-starting-point-guard.png

Lonzo Ball isn't going to the bench, and he's sure as heck not going to the G-League.

"He's our starting point guard," Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton almost struggled at the thought of being asked about Ball possible going to the bench to ease the immense pressure the rookie has been under. "There're no talks as of now of moving Lonzo to the bench."

Walton repeated, almost laughing off the thought, "He's our starting point guard."

As point guards have a habit of "yoyo-ing up and down," Ball's young career has already hit historic highs and bounced off the hardest of wood floors. Ball ended the past week by becoming the youngest NBA player to ever record a trouble-double. Less than a week later, a dud in a nationally televised performance had suggestions floating about sending the kid to the G-League or stripping his starting spot.

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Lakers' rookie point guard missed eight of his nine shots and sat the entire fourth quarter as his team fell short in a close game and lost 115-109 to another promising young team in the rebuilding process, the Philadelphia 76ers.

Due in part to Ball's forgettable night but more so to do special performances by Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, the Sixers' process has seemingly advanced past the Lakers' rebuild. While Embiid was posting pictures of Ball stumbling, though, the former UCLA Bruin was already apparently aggressively working on his game.

When Walton turned up at the facility for practice on Thursday, Ball had already arrived early. The coach soon learned that the no. 2 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft had visited the Lakers' facility to shoot the lights out after Wednesday's game and then came back early on Thursday to shoot the lights back on. Evidently, Ball didn't sleep well following the poor outing, and the experience may have changed him.

"His energy seemed a little, not the same playful, joyful Lonzo that he normally is," Walton said on Thursday. "But that could be a good thing, that he's frustrated or mad a little bit."

If fans were disappointed by Ball's performance, his actions suggest no one cared more than the 20-year-old. That, however, does not mean that Ball's confidence is shaken or should be shaken according to his coach.

"I'm not worried about his confidence, no," Walton answered. "He's a confident young man, as he should be. He's very good at the game of basketball. What he's already accomplished in these games, getting a triple-double, average rebounding the way he is against these bigs in this league and the assists he's putting up, that's really impressive for a 20-year-old point guard to do."

Fellow rookie Kyle Kuzma, who is seemingly living an inverse existence of entering the league with no expectations and looking like one of the five best players in the draft, shared his support for Ball following the tough night.

"The media and everybody in the county want him to be a Hall-of-Famer right now, or wants to be an All-Star right now, but he's still a rookie," Kuzma stood up for the fellow member of the Class of 2017. "It's tough to play at this level for anybody. There are 10-year vets that play way worse than he does, and nobody talks about it."

When posed with a question inquiring about the impact of the extra pressure that Ball's family publicly welcomed and sought, Kuzma offered an interesting response:

"Could you want through his shoes? Everybody thinks it's easy, but nobody can walk through his shoes, unless you ask him. It's tough. He's in a tough situation, but he's level headed. He even keel, comes in and works every day, so I'm not worried."

When Ball struggled on Wednesday, Jordan Clarkson finished the game for the Lakers. On Thursday, Clarkson offered the soberest of reminders that Ball is only a month into his first NBA season. In fact, the Lakers played their season opener on Oct. 19, so Friday's Nov. 17 game against Phoenix comes less than one month since the rookie played his first NBA game.

Then, Clarkson offered his unique veteran-status wisdom: "You've got to give him some time."



Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[What the 'Hekk' Is Going On With the Rams?]]>Thu, 16 Nov 2017 06:35:08 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/181*120/GettyImages-457182872.jpg

The Los Angeles Rams sit atop of the NFC West at 7-2, and although many praise the defense, Jared Goff and the rest of the offense, there is one player that is truly the MVP.

Punter Johnny Hekker is one of the most influential kickers in the NFL, a great teammate, a fan favorite and a humble player that doesn't give himself enough credit. Hekker is a three time Pro-Bowl player, coming off the best year of his young career that allowed him to be the highest paid position player.

In 2016, Hekker punted 43 times in the first eight games, 55 in final eight. He averaged over 47 yards per kick. This season, he has only 27 punts and is averaging 47 yards per kick.

Hekker has a unique vibe that connects him with not only his teammates, but Rams fans at games and various Rams community events around Los Angeles.

"I'm just really thankful for the fans and everybody that has stuck with me and supported me throughout the years," a smiling Hekker said. "A guy has some free time enough to interact with fans on twitter, just be a person in the community and show support. To get the notoriety is cool, but I'm just so thankful to my teammates for the production I've had on the field. My teammates are helping me get great production on Sundays. I'm just enjoying the process."

A man that is focused on his craft, was rewarded last September with a huge deal, as general manager Les Snead called Hekker the best punter the league has seen. Running back Todd Gurley refered to Hekker as "clutch," and said "when we need him, he's always there for us."

Hekker goes about his business, appreciative for the compliments, but remains locked in on his job at hand this season.

"I feel my career is young, and I think you have to put in over a decade of work to be considered one of the greats," Hekker explains. "There are a lot of guys around the league that have produced a ton that I look up to. I just do the best I can to enjoy the time with my teammates because those are the guys who help me. Punting is not an individual sport, you don't get attention if you're doing great, you're team has to be doing great also."

A visionary of how to execute the right punt, along with watching hours of film, enables Hekker to seek the right place to aim the ball on Sundays with his leg.

Hekker has been active as the holder for place-kicker Greg Zuerlein, who has made 26 of 27 field goals and leads the NFL with 100 points.

Side Note: Hekker is also a big Kanye West fan, though he admits, West needs to return to the "808s and Heartbreaks" album style of production and rap.

He has a important pre-game ritual, praying with his family for himself and his team. Through hard work, dedication, and being a man of faith, we could see Hekker and the Rams in the Super Bowl sooner than later. 

The Rams face the Vikings (7-2) in Minnesota this Sunday at 10:05 a.m. PT.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Embiid Scored 46, Lakers Fall 115-109 to Sixers]]>Thu, 16 Nov 2017 01:35:42 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/215*120/Joel-Embiid-career-high-46-points.jpg

In the wake of the Los Angele Lakers losing 115-109 to the Philadelphia 76ers, Lakers coach Luke Walton sat at the post game podium deep in the bowels of Staples Center.

"He's a problem," Walton said, referring to Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, who had just put on a career performance in front of the stars sitting courtside and the millions watching the nationally televised game at home.

Embiid scored 46 points, which was a new career-high, pulled down 15 rebounds, handed off seven assists and tabbed seven blocks in 34 and a half breathtaking minutes on the court.

While the talk entering the night may have been about rookies Ben Simmons and Lonzo Ball, Embiid's dominating performance overshadowed everything and everyone else. Simmons ended the night with 18 points, 10 assists, nine rebounds and five steals, nearly notching a triple-double. Normally, that stat line would have earned the no. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft the headlines. On this night, though, Embiid owned the court and the evening.

Along with Simmons, Embiid's special night also drafted career nights for Lakers forwards Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma. Both starts scored career highs. Ingram finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds in the defeat on 11-18 shooting from the field, while Kuzma scored 24 points and pulled down seven rebounds in only 31 minutes on the court.

Ball, though, struggled mightily in front of a national audience yet again. The 20-year-old rookie point guard missed eight of his nine shots and all six of his attempts from three-point land.

"He was having an off night," Walton said about Ball after the game.

Walton added, "He's 20 years old, and he plays the toughest position in the NBA. Ten-year All-Stars have off nights, so of course, our young players are going to have off nights."

Normally, Ball tends to contribute in other areas when his shot isn't falling, but this night, his shot seemed to affect the other parts of his game, and Walton opted to go with Jordan Clarkson to finish the first half and, later, to finish the game.

"Usually, I won't let it affect me," Ball said about his poor shooting after the game. "But tonight, I did. I missed layups, just had a bad night."

Immediately, Ball added that the quick turnaround and a game on Friday offered an opportunity to bounce back and leave this game as a distant memory in the rear view.

With the defeat, the Lakers dropped to 6-9 on the season, while the 76ers improved to 8-6. If Embiid can stay healthy and Simmons can continue to excel at point forward, the Sixers should be a playoff team and a tough out in the postseason.

Next, the Lakers host the Phoenix Suns on Friday night. The Lakers have beaten the Suns in both meetings this season, but Friday will be the first time Phoenix plays the Lakers in LA.

Notes: The Lakers, who are one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the NBA, made 22 of 27 foul shots. Also, the Lakers only turned the ball over nine times to Philadelphia's 16 turnovers. Neither team shot especially well from three-point land, as the Lakers made 3-27, while the Sixers hit 7-32 from three-point land.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Will Philip Rivers Be Cleared to Play Sunday Against Bills?]]>Wed, 15 Nov 2017 21:07:57 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/170*120/GettyImages-873362830.jpg

On Wednesday afternoon, the Los Angeles Chargers and head coach Anthony Lynn delivered an update on Philip Rivers concussion protocol status.

On Monday,  Rivers self reported his health status to the team, a day after the Bolts suffered a tight 20-17 overtime loss to the Jaguars in Jacksonville.

Lynn seemed to be encouraged thus far on the status of Rivers, with the decision on him being cleared to play resting on him passing a series of test.

"He’ll practice today. He'll be limited. And as he gets better, his workload will increase," Lynn said.

Lynn will be given updates on the status of Rivers throughout the week but will leave the decision up the doctors and medical staff.

"I just let the doctors handle it," Lynn said. "And, Philip will be brutally honest with us. I told him to be honest about this injury. He has been so far, and that’s all you can go on."

Backup quarterback Kellen Clemens understands and admires Rivers courage to come forth regarding his injury.

"Concussions, especially the light that’s been shone on it the last 10 years, head injuries and things of that nature need to be taken seriously," Clemens said. "So I admire him for the way that he handled it.”

The Chargers return home to Stub Hub Center to face the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at 1:05PM PT.



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Inside the Numbers: Lakers Host Sixers Wednesday]]>Wed, 15 Nov 2017 12:02:10 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-vs-Sixers-Inside-the-Numbers.jpg

After Wednesday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Los Angeles Lakers will be nearly 20 percent through the 2017-18 NBA season, so we thought this was as good a time as any to take a deep dive and launch the first "Inside the Numbers" of the 2017-18 season.

97.2 – The Los Angeles Lakers have an offensive rating of 97.2, which is most easily described as the Lakers average 97.2 points per 100 possessions. That places the Lakers as the third worst offensive team in the NBA. Of course, Lonzo Ball's shooting troubles and the team's overall lack of three-point shooting has contributed to the poor offensive start to the season.

99.7 – While the offense may be far from smooth, the Los Angeles Lakers rank fourth in the NBA in defensive efficiency. The purple and gold have a defensive rating of 99.7, which means the team allows 99.7 points per 100 possessions. While the offensive struggles have been a bit head scratching, the improved defense is probably even more surprising than the offensive struggles. Considering the attention paid to defense in training camp and multiple members of the team stating that the team's focus is on the defensive end of the court, the Lakers ranking ahead of teams like the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs on the defensive side of the ball deserves recognition. The coaching staff believes the offense will smooth out over time, but the strong defensive start has the team believing it will have a chance to compete on a nightly basis no matter the opposition.

30.2 – The Los Angeles Lakers rank dead last in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage at 30.2 percent. Thankfully, the team's defensive improvement, though, also lists the Lakers as the no. 1 team in the NBA when it comes to opponents' three-point shooting percentage, 31.3 percent. Seemingly, the Lakers know they're not a great outside shooting team, as the Lakers average only 24.1 three-point attempts per game, which is the fourth fewest of any team in the Association. The Lakers are dead last in three-pointers made per game at 7.3. For comparison's sake, the Houston Rockets lead the NBA with 44.5 three-point attempts per game and 15.1 three-pointers made per contest. Yes, the Rockets average more than twice as many three-point makes per game as the Lakers. However, the Lakers seem to understand this weakness and instead lead the NBA in points in the paint with an average of 53.9 points in the paint per game.

17.6 – The Lakers rank second in the NBA in turnovers, which is not a compliment. Only the Philadelphia 76ers turn the ball over with greater frequency, at 17.9 turnovers per game. Wednesday's game at Staples Center may be a festive occasion and feature several of the top young talents in the NBA, but the numbers suggest it will be far from the cleanest game of basketball ever played. As a point of explanation, the Lakers and Sixers have two of the three youngest rosters in the NBA. The youngest team belongs to Phoenix, and anyone who watched the Lakers beat the Suns on Monday should understand how young teams can get sloppy.

The Los Angeles Lakers host the Philadelphia 76ers at Staples Center with the official start time listed as 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time and an expected tip-off time of 7:40 p.m. Pacific Time.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dave Roberts Finishes 2nd for N.L. Manager of the Year]]>Tue, 14 Nov 2017 15:33:02 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-859551736.jpg

Dave Roberts won't go back-to-back for the Dodgers. 

The Los Angeles Dodgers sophomore manager, Dave Roberts, finished second for the National League Manager of the Year Award as announced by the Baseball Writers Association of America on Tuesday. 

Roberts was the reigning National League Manager of the Year winner after winning the award in 2016, and was looking to become the first back-to-back winner since Bobby Cox with the Atlanta Braves in 2004-2005.

Roberts led the Dodgers to the best record in baseball at 104 wins and took them to Game 7 of the World Series where they lost to the Houston Astros.

Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo won the award for the first time, receiving 18 first place votes. Lovullo became the fourth straight N.L. Manager of the Year to win the award in his first season with the team.

Roberts finished second with 5 first place votes, 8 second place votes and 6 third place votes. Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black finished third.

Ironically, Roberts and Black, were together during the announcement ceremony. The two N.L. West managers live close to each other in San Diego, and Roberts invited Black over to his home for the announcement. 

Paul Molitor of the Minnesota Twins won the award in the American League.



Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Clarkson's 25 Points Helps Lakers Burn Suns 100-93]]>Mon, 13 Nov 2017 21:05:55 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-at-Suns-11-13-17.jpg

On Monday night, Jordan Clarkson's season-high of 25 points helped the Los Angeles Lakers win, 100-93, in Phoenix and claim their season sweep of the Talking Stick Resort Arena.

Devin Booker scored 36 points and TJ Warren added 23 points, while the Lakers relied heavily on a deep bench showing to finish off the four-game, six-night road trip with a win in Arizona. Two of the Lakers' five scorers in double figures came off the pine, while Julius Randle finished with eight points and eight rebounds in only 19 minutes on the court.

When the game started with the Phoenix Suns scoring the first nine points of the contest, all signs pointed to the four-game road trip ending with a flat performance from the visitors and a blowout defeat penciled into the schedule. Instead, the Lakers scored nine of the next 11 points in the game and ended the first quarter leading by one point, 21-20.

Lakers coach Luke Walton took an early gamble, matching the size of Alex Len with Andrew Bogut, and thankfully for the Lakers, the coach's gamble paid off. Bogut grabbed his 6,000th rebound during an impressive first half contribution that helped the Lakers limit the home team in the paint and on the boards.

As the low score suggested, neither team looked sharp early on, and it was a sloppy first half with the exception of sharp offensive performances by Booker for Phoenix and Clarkson for LA. At the intermission, Booker led all scorers with 22 points, half of Phoenix's 44 tally at the break. Meanwhile, Clarkson had poured in 14 points off the bench in limited minutes.

In the second half, both teams increased the scoring rate, and the Lakers and Suns entered the fourth quarter with the score board flashing a one-point game, 75-74.

With the game winding down, Walton made a second vital decision to stick with Clarkson's hot hand and leave in veteran Corey Brewer, who was having arguably his best game of the season. Brewer eventually finished with 13 points on 5-7 shooting from the field, as the small forward played a slashing game that led to easy and timely buckets on one end and energetic defense on the other.

Riding their bench, the Lakers managed to open up an eight-point lead after Brewer made a three-pointer with just about five minutes remaining in the ball game. Booker and company would battle to cut down the difference down the stretch, but a Clarkson lay-up with 2:43 remaining in the game push the Lakers' lead to 10 points and effectively put the game in the refrigerator.

From that point forward, Brewer stepped up and made two free throws to ice the game, but LA held on for a comfortable seven-point victory. With the victory, the Lakers move up to 6-8 on the season.

Coming Up

Next, the Philadelphia 76ers make their annual pilgrimage to Laker Land on Wednesday, with the Suns bringing their special brand of basketball to Los Angeles on Friday.

If the Lakers win both those games, they would return to .500 on the season with a chance at a winning record on Sunday against the Denver Nuggets on Staples Center. LA will complete its four-game home stand on Tuesday, Nov. 21 with another easily winnable game against the rebuilding Chicago Bulls.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers' Cody Bellinger Wins NL Rookie of the Year Award]]>Mon, 13 Nov 2017 18:53:16 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/cody-bellinger-GettyImages-699492340.jpg

It was unanimous.

Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger was named the 2017 National League Rookie of the Year Award winner on Monday, as voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Bellinger received all 30 first-place votes, becoming the fourth Dodger in franchise history to win the award unanimously, joining Mike Piazza (1993), Raul Mondesi (1994), and Cory Seager (2016).

The award gives the Dodgers back-to-back Rookie of the Year Award Winners, and 18 total in franchise history, nine more than any other team in baseball.

Bellinger played 32 games with the Dodgers this season after he was called up to the Majors on April 25. Bellinger batted .267 with 87 runs scored, 26 doubles, four triples, 39 home runs, 97 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 132 games.

His 39 home runs were the second most in the National League behind only Giancarlo Stanton (59), and the most ever by a rookie, surpassing Wally Berger (1930) and Frank Robinson (1956) who each hit 38.

Bellinger also recorded six multi-home run games, which according to Stats, LLC, were the most ever by a rookie in Dodger history and the third most all-time, trailing just Mark McGwire (1987) and AL Rookie of the Year winner Aaron Judge (2017), who each collected seven multi-homer contests.

Including his record breaking home run season, Bellinger also set Los Angeles (since 1958) single-season rookie records in slugging percentage (.581) and OPS (.933), while ranking among the all-time club rookie leaders in runs (4th), doubles, (T-4th), RBI (2nd), batting average (10th) and on-base percentage (4th).

Bellinger beat out Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Josh Bell and Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong in winning the award. New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge was the unanimous winner in the American League.

Bellinger also won the Sporting News NL Rookie of the Year Award and the MLB Players Choice NL Rookie of the Year Award last week.

Bellinger became the first Dodgers position player to be named to the All-Star Game in his first season, and also participated in the Home Run Derby, losing to eventual winner, Aaron Judge. 

Bellinger was selected in the fourth round of the 2013 MLB Draft out of Hamilton High School in Arizona by the Dodgers.  



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Wrap Up Road-Trip in Phoenix]]>Mon, 13 Nov 2017 10:29:21 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-vs-Suns-11-13-17.jpg

Entering Monday night's game in Phoenix on a three-game losing streak should come as no surprise, as the Los Angeles Lakers drew a bad hand from schedule-makers.

Starting out a road trip in Boston, against a team that had won nine games in a row, did not bode well for LA. Following that up with a game in Washington D.C. the next night, against a team that had blown a late lead at Staples Center two weeks earlier, promised to be a tough challenge. A third game in a third different city in only four nights would be tough enough under normal circumstances, but facing the "Greek Freak" and the Milwaukee Bucks on the road spelled out three losses in four nights and a 5-8 overall record for the purple and gold.

After Saturday's defeat in Wisconsin, the Lakers traveled to Arizona and are on the final leg of their road trip, deseperate not to return home winless.

Returning home with four defeats in four road games would be tough to rationalize, even if rookie point guard Lonzo Ball became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double on the road trip. Incidentally, when the Lakers played the Phoenix Suns on Oct. 20, Ball tabbed up 29 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in what was only his second NBA game. He missed the triple-double by one assist in what went down as the point guard's first NBA victory.

Considering the opposition and the history, Ball could conceivably record back-to-back triple-doubles, which would further cement his already impressive achievement.

The Suns fired their coach one game after the Lakers won that October meeting, and Phoenix went on to win four of five games immediately after the change. However, the new coach bump seems to have settled down with the Suns losing five straight games before finally recording a win over Minnesota on Saturday.

Interim coach Jay Triano has had a notable impact on the Suns' effort levels. With Earl Watson on the bench, the Suns opened the season with a 48-point home loss, and Watson's final game in charge was a 42-point defeat. With Triano, the Suns have won five of 11 games and have not suffered even a 20-point defeat. Clearly, Phoenix is better equipped to compete with its new interim coach guiding the team into battle.

Similarly, Lakers coach Luke Walton has his young team playing energetic defense and exhibiting a competitive spirit that has resulted in the purple and gold being fun to watch. More importantly, the Lakers look like they have a chance to win nearly every time out. The Lakers have not suffered a 20-point defeat through the first 13 games of the 2017-18 season, and the worst blemish of the season came via a 16-point Opening Night loss to the LA Clippers.

While Devin Booker leads the Suns in points and assists, a player to keep an eye on is fourth-year forward TJ Warren. Warren scored 35 points in Saturday's win over Minnesota, and the former member of the NC State Wolfpack scored 40 points in Phoenix's penultimate win. If Warren has a big night, the Suns' chances of getting a win seem to sky rocket. Against the Lakers in October, Warren tabbed 24 points, eight rebounds and four assists in a game the visitors won by a narrow margin, 132-130.

While Ball deserves his due for leading the Lakers in assists, the Lakers' bench scoring has been an impressive and often overlooked component of the team's competitive start. Jordan Clarkson is averaging 14.8 points per game in only 21.0 minutes off the pine. Clarkson is shooting 50.3 percent for the season and 39.5 percent from three-point range. Considering the limited run Clarkson is getting, his numbers deserve attention.

Also, Julius Randle has been a positive contributor in limited minutes after taking a couple of games to adjust to his new bench role. The bulky forward is shooting 60.4 percent from the field to average 11.8 points and 5.4 rebounds in only 19.8 minutes per game. Randle's new role seems to require greater use of energy in shorter shifts, but considering his production, one cannot help but wonder how Walton can work to consistently get the former University of Kentucky forward more minutes on the court.

With Larry Nance Jr. out injured, rookie Kyle Kuzma has jumped into the starting lineup and is averaging 37.6 minutes per game over the past five games. Over those same five games, Randle is averaging 20.8 minutes per game. Yes, Kuzma is in the neighborhood of averaging twice as many minutes as Randle on the court. While that balance may seem a bit off, Kuzma has been a bright spot and consistent contributor for the purple and gold early in the season.

Against Milwaukee, Kuzma logged 42 minutes, scored 21 points and pulled down 11 rebounds.

Desperate not to return home empty handed, the Lakers wrap up their four-game road trip on Monday evening in Phoenix with a 6 p.m. Pacific Time tip-off.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[LA Rams Postgame 11.12.17]]>Sun, 12 Nov 2017 17:58:00 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/LA_Rams_Postgame_11.12.17_1200x675_1094451267525.jpgLos Angeles Rams' players Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley, and Robert Woods discuss the team's 33-7 win over the Houston Texans at the Coliseum on Sunday, November 12, 2017.]]><![CDATA[LA Rams Get Revenge on Houston]]>Sun, 12 Nov 2017 18:27:02 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-873360430.jpg

Houston, now you have a problem. 

Jared Goff threw three touchdowns and the Los Angeles Rams avenged the Dodgers World Series loss to the Astros, by defeating the Houston Texans, 33-7, on Sunday afternoon at the LA Memorial Coliseum. 

After a defensive battle in the first half, the Rams (7-2) blew the game open in the second half as Goff threw touchdown passes on three possessions in the third quarter.

The former No. 1 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, finished the game 25-for-37 with a career-high 355 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. 

Goff, joined Kansas City’s Alex Smith and New England’s Tom Brady as the only three quarterbacks in the NFL this season with multiple games passing for at least 300 yards, three passing touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Goff also became the only quarterback in Rams franchise history to accomplish that feat in back-to-back games. 

All Pro lineman Aaron Donald set the tone early for the Mob Squad as he sacked Texans' starter Tom Savage on the team's opening drive, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Matt Longacre on the Houston 20-yard line.

"I just got a one-on-one, I won my one-on-one, and I got to the quarterback," Donald said of his strip sack to start the game. "That's my college quarterback. It's important to give the ball back to the offense and let them keep rolling."

Greg Zuerlein put the Rams on the board with a field goal, and then converted two more in the second quarter to put the Rams up 9-7 at halftime.

Houston's only score in the game came on a 26-yard pitch-and-catch as Savage found Bruce Ellington over the middle and the Texans' receiver scampered 26-yards into the end zone for the score.

"Bruce ran a good route on that," said Savage of the play. "He's been running good routes all season, I wanted to give him a shot. But we lost. So, our performance today was bad."

One week after finding Sammy Watkins open for a deep 67-yard catch in New York, Goff delivered a dime to Robert Woods to start the third quarter as the Rams scored their longest touchdown of the season, and third longest in franchise history, on a 94-yard bomb. 

"I heard the play call, I looked up and checked the coverage and saw a one-on-one matchup," Woods said of the big play. "I ran my route, I felt like I beat the guy, and Jared put the ball on the money. I was able to catch it and run, I saw the end zone and just raced to the end zone."

Following back-to-back three and outs by the Rams defense, Goff found Sammy Watkins on a quick screen, and the former Clemson receiver did the rest, as he ran down the sideline for a 17-yard touchdown.

On the ensuing Texans possession, Savage once again fumbled and the Rams recovered deep in Houston territory.

Faster than you can say "Holy Veteran's Day, Batman!" Goff found Woods again on a dump off out of the backfield, as the former USC Trojan ran 12 yards for his second touchdown of the game.

"When they come they come in bunches," joked Woods of his back-to-back games with two touchdowns. "Back-to-back two touchdown games. Credit to my teammates. We've just been clicking so far."

Woods led all the L.A. receivers for the second straight week, finishing with eight catches for 171 yards and two touchdowns in the win. 

Todd Gurley did not find the end zone on Sunday, but he did finish with 68 yards on the ground along with six catches for 68 yards.

"We made some adjustments at halftime," Gurley said of the offense in the second half. "We were a little sluggish, but we found some energy in the second half. Everybody was doing their job and that's what it's all about."

Savage finished 18-for-36 for 221 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions in his third start of the season for the Texans. 

"Sure," Texans head coach Bill O'Brien said when asked if he felt his quarterback played well. "I haven't done a good job coaching this team this year and that was my message to the team. I have to figure out how to coach this team better and try to get them to play better."

The Rams defense shut out the Texans in the second half, sealing the deal with a late fourth quarter interception by Blake Countess, as L.A. won their fourth consecutive game and first at home since Week 1. 

Kick It Into Gear:

The NFL's leading scorer, Greg Zuerlein finished with four field goals, and set a new career high with 28 field goals on the season and there's still seven weeks to go. Zuerlein has only missed one field goal all year. 

Up Next:

The Rams will travel to Minneapolis next week where they will meet old friend Case Keenum and the Minnesota Vikings in a showdown of NFC powerhouses. Kickoff is at 10:00AM PST.



Photo Credit: Getty Images/Harry How
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<![CDATA[Jaguars Claw Back to Stun the Chargers]]>Sun, 12 Nov 2017 18:20:41 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/172*120/GettyImages-873361742.jpg

The Chargers are still the Chargers. 

Phillip Rivers threw a backbreaking interception in overtime, and Josh Lambo kicked the game-winning 30-yard field goal moments later, as the Jacksoville Jaguars clawed back to stun the Los Angeles Chargers, 20-17 at EverBank Field on Sunday afternoon. 

After forcing the Jaguars to punt on their first possession of overtime, Rivers was intercepted on third down by A.J. Bouye, and the cornerback returned it down to the 2-yard line, setting up the game-winning field goal by Lambo. 

Lambo's kick was tipped at the line of scrimmage, but the ball still had enough to just barely sail over the uprights, giving the Jaguars the victory.

Before the the dramatic finish, the Chargers appeared to have secured the victory late in the fourth quarter when Tre Boston intercepted Blake Bortles with 1:48 left in the game. 

One play later, Austin Ekeler fumbled the ball and Jaguars' defensive tackle Malick Jackson recovered it and ran all the way to the end zone for the touchdown. However, after a replay review, Jackson was ruled down after recovering the fumble, negating the touchdown, but setting up Jacksonville nicely on the Chargers 36-yard-line.

As fate would have it, Bortles was again intercepted by Tre Boston three plays later and for the second time in less than a minute, it appeared as if the Chargers defense had stepped up to seal the victory. 

However, Jacksonville still had all three of their timeouts and after forcing the Chargers to punt on a three-and-out, they got the ball back near midfield with 1:08 remaining in the ball game. 

This time, Bortles drove the Jaguars down the field (with some help from a Joey Bosa penalty) and Lambo connected on a 34-yard field goal that sent the game to overtime, ending a wild two-minute sequence in regulation. 

Bortles finished the game 28-for-51 for 273 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, as the Jaguars have won 3-in-a-row for the first time since 2013.

Rivers finished the game with 235 yards and two touchdowns, but his lone interception proved to be the difference in the game. 

Both Rivers touchdowns went to rookie running back Austin Ekeler who finished with five catches for 77 yards and two scores, the first running back to have two touchdowns of 20 or more yards since Jamaal Charles in 2013. 

Corey Grant scored the first touchdown of the game for the Jaguars on a fake punt that he took on a direct snap and ran for 56-yards for the score. 

Former USC Trojans receiver Marquis Lee caught a 6-yard touchdown in the third quarter and then completed the two-point conversion one play later to tie the game at 14-14. 

Coming off their bye week, the Chargers knew they were in for a daunting task facing the NFL's number one ranked defense in Jacksonville. 

Entering the game, the Jaguars were allowing a paltry 14 points per game and featured one of the best secondaries in the league. 

However, the Chargers also have a top 10 defense, and led by former Jaguars coach and current defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, the Bolts kept the vaulted Jacksonville running attack in check, as they held rookie Leonard Fournette, Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon to just 45 yards combined. 

Bradley was fired by the Jaguars just 11 months ago after going 14-48 as head coach. Before the game, many of Bradley's former players and assistants greeted the coach in a reunion on the field. 

Injury Update: 

The Chargers received good news earlier in the week that middle linebacker Denzel Perryman was cleared to play and returned to action on Sunday. Perryman led the game with eight solo tackles. No one else in the game had more than five.

Jaguars receiver Allen Hurns left the game with a right leg injury.

Up Next: 

The Chagers will host the struggling Buffalo Bills next Sunday at StubHub Center as head coach Anthony Lynn faces his former team for the first time. 



Photo Credit: Logan Bowles/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lonzo Ball Becomes Youngest Player To Record Triple-Double]]>Sat, 11 Nov 2017 20:34:56 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lonzo-Ball-triple-double-youngest-player-NBA-ever.jpg

On Saturday night in Milwaukee, Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball made history by becoming the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double at 20 years and 15 days, which beat the previous record held by LeBron James at 20 years and 20 days.

Ball started the game by making his first two three-point shots after missing 17 of his previous 20 attempts from distance, which had led analysts nationwide to question his strange shooting stroke. Ball started the season shooting horrendously, but the early makes hinted at a special Saturday night brewing in the beer capital of America for the former UCLA Bruin.

By halftime, Ball already had 11 points, 10 assists and six rebounds, and a first-career triple-double seemed imminent. In addition, the no. 2 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft swiped two steals and recorded a block shot before heading to the locker room. Perhaps most impressively, Ball only had one turnover to his name during the break.

By the end of the third quarter, Ball increased his tally to 13 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds.

Before a single minute elapsed in the fourth quarter, though, Ball made history when he collected an air ball tossed up by Thon Maker. With the rebound, Ball officially became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double.

The Lakers' previous record for youngest player to record a triple-double was Earvin "Magic" Johnson at 20 years and 75 days, accomplished by the Lakers' legend in 1979. Ball beat Johnson's record by 60 days.

Eventually, Ball finished his historic night with 19 points, 13 assists and 12 rebounds, to go along with three steals and three blocks in 38 minutes. When James, who was Ball's favorite player growing up, recorded his historic triple-double, the Cleveland Cavaliers forward was in the second half of his second season in the NBA. 

Meanwhile, Ball had his record night in only his 13th game as a professional.

Though Ball's net rating was a plus-10 against the Milwaukee Bucks on the night, the Lakers lost to the Milwaukee Bucks 98-90. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 33 points and 15 rebounds in the win, but this night will likely be remembered for Ball's historic performance far longer than it will be remembered for the Bucks' winning on an early Saturday night in November.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Trojans Punch Ticket to Pac-12 Championship]]>Sat, 11 Nov 2017 17:13:04 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-873000108.jpg

Do you know the way to San Jose?

Sam Darnold tossed two TD passes and ran for another , Ajene Harris intercepted two passes, including one he returned for a score, and No. 15 Southern California beat Colorado 38-24 on Saturday to wrap up the Pac-12 South title.

Darnold threw for 329 yards as he improved to 18-3 as a starter. Tailback Ronald Jones II had 142 yards to surpass Mike Garrett for sixth place on the Trojans' all-time rushing list.

Southern Cal (9-2, 7-1 Pac-12, No. 11 CFP) led 27-0 in the third quarter, but needed to weather a late Colorado comeback. The Trojans blocked two field goals to move to 12-0 against the Buffaloes (5-6, 2-6).

Juwann Winfree had a big day for Colorado by hauling in TD passes of 79 and 57 yards. Steven Montez threw for 376 yards.

A pivotal play in the game was when Colorado tried to get something going with about a minute left before halftime and down 14-0. Montez forced a pass to the outside that Harris stepped in front of, tip-toed along the out-of-bounds line and headed into the end zone.

Harris had another interception in the fourth quarter that nearly went for a score. As he was being tackled, Harris pitched the ball to Marvel Tell III, who took it about 27 yards for a TD. The replay booth took a look and ruled that Harris' knee was down before the pitch.

THE TAKEAWAY

USC: This should please coach Clay Helton — the Trojans turned in big plays on offense, defense and special teams. This should not — a blocked punt that set up a short score by Phillip Lindsay to make it 27-14 in the third quarter.

Colorado: They Buffaloes remain a win away from reaching bowl eligibility for a second straight season.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

USC will be trending up after turning in a dominant first half and something less than that in the second.

A NICE RING

Colorado linebacker Trent Headley trotted out to the field on senior day, dropped to a knee near his cheerleader girlfriend and asked her to marry him . She said yes.

THIS & THAT

The temperature at kickoff was 59 degrees. The last time the Trojans played a game in the snow was Nov. 30, 1957, at Notre Dame. ... Trojans PK Chase McGrath missed a 40-yard field goal and an extra point. ... The last time USC blocked two field goals in a game was Nov. 4, 2011, against Colorado.

UP NEXT

USC: Closes out the regular season against UCLA at the Coliseum next Saturday.



Photo Credit: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rams and Chargers: Week 10 Preview and Predictions]]>Fri, 10 Nov 2017 18:10:42 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/198*120/Bolts+and+Horns+Week+10.png

The Los Angeles Rams are back.

This is meant both figuratively and literally. After a month-long road trip including a visit to London and a bye week, the Rams return to the L.A. Memorial Coliseum on Sunday in sole possession of first place in the NFC West. 

At 6-2, the Rams will look to extend their winning streak to a season-high four games as they welcome the Houston Texans to Tinseltown.

For L.A. based sports fans, the Sunday afternoon game offers a chance at revenge against the city of Houston after the Dodgers were dealt a heartbreaking blow by the Astros in Game 7 of the World Series on Nov. 1.

The Texans are limping into Los Angeles with season-ending injuries to former Defensive Player of the Year, J.J. Watt, and presumed Rookie of the Year, DeShaun Watson. Week 10 won't be easy for new starter Tom Savage, as the NFL's 9th ranked defense will be waiting for him.

On the other side of the ball, sophomore quarterback Jared Goff is coming off a career-best game against the New York Giants and leads the best scoring offense in the NFL with 32.9 points per game.

The Texans and Rams will kickoff at 1:05 PM PST from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Southern California. The game will air on CBS and can be live streamed on NFL.com and FuboTV

Fantasy Football Start/Sit:

Start: Jared Goff, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Todd Gurley, Tyler Higbee, Greg Zuerlein, Rams Defense.

Sit: Sammy Watkins, Tavon Austin.

Betting Odds (Courtesy of Bovada):

Texans: +11.5 (+450)
Rams: -11.5 (-700)
O/U: 45.5

Prediction: 28-17 Rams

Meanwhile, the City of Angels "other team," is headed to Florida this Sunday where the Chargers will face the number one ranked defense in the NFL in the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Led by shutdown corner Jalen Ramsey, the Jaguars allow just 14 points per game, so Phillip Rivers, Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen will have their work cut out for them if they want to escape the Sunshine State with a victory. 

On the bright side, the Chargers will have middle linebacker Denzel Perryman back on the field for the first time this season. Perryman will lineup alongside Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, adding ammunition to the team's already stout defense.

The Chargers and Jaguars will kickoff at 10:00AM PST from EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida. The game can be watched on CBS, and live streamed on NFL.com and FuboTV.

Fantasy Football Start/Sit:

Start: Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry

Sit: Phillip Rivers, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin, Mike Williams, Nick Novak, Chargers Defense.

Betting Odds (Courtesy of Bovada):

Chargers: +4.5 (+190)
Texans: -4.5 (-230)
O/U: 41 

Prediction: 27-24 Jaguars

Each and every week, NBC LA reporters Michael J. Duarte and Nick Hamilton bring you an NFL podcast entitled, "Bolts by the Horns," as the writers breakdown what's going on inside the worlds of both Los Angeles based football teams including; insider information, interviews with players and experts, latest injury updates, previews, predictions, betting odds, fantasy advice and more.

Give it a listen below:



Photo Credit: Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Can't Get Over Wizards, Wall]]>Thu, 09 Nov 2017 18:56:25 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/Lakers-lose-to-Wizards.jpg

On Thursday evening, the Los Angeles Lakers gave up nearly 70 points in the first half, as John Wall, Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards raced out ahead and never looked back to claim a 111-95 victory in the nation's capital.

Wall finished the night with a game-high 23 points to go along with eight rebounds, six assists, two steals and three blocks, while Beal finished with 22 points, six assists and five rebounds in the victory.

Lonzo Ball flirted with becoming the youngest player to ever record a triple-double, but the 20-year-old came up short when his night ended with 10 points, eight assists and eight rebounds in 29 minutes on the court. Ball committed four turnovers and even air-balled a three-pointer late, so this didn't seem like the right time to record a first career triple-double. To help balance the turnovers, Ball did also have two steals on the night.

Still, the Lakers were trailing by about 20 points when Ball would have possibly hit the historic mark, so it would have been odd to celebrate history in the face of overwhelming defeat.

While the Lakers did not give the game away in the first quarter like they did a night earlier in Boston, they did give the game away in the first half. Sixty-nine points in the first half gave the Lakers a mountainous task to come away with their first win of the road trip. Add in that it was the second night of back-to-back for the Lakers, and a second half comeback never seemed likely.

In addition to Wall and Beal, Otto Porter Jr. added 20 points and 11 rebounds, as the Wizards' starting lineup did most of the damage on Thursday night. Starting forward Markieff Morris completed the double-digit scoring log for the Wizards with 16 points. In all, the Wizards' starters accounted for 89 of the 111 points.

The Lakers, on the other hand, finished with seven players scoring in double figures, including all five starters. Usual suspects Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson reached the double-figure mark off the bench, with Clarkson sharing team-high honors with Brook Lopez. Both players scored 15 points, though neither player featured for more than 22 minutes in the game.

With the defeat, the Lakers dropped to 5-7 on the season, while the Wizards improved to 6-5 on the year. Next, the Lakers play in Milwaukee on Saturday, while the Wizards are due to host the Atlanta Hawks on that same evening.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers' Bellinger, Kershaw and Roberts BBWAA Finalists]]>Thu, 09 Nov 2017 17:53:50 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*160/BellingerKershawRoberts.jpg

The Dodgers didn't bring home the trophy this season, but they will add some hardware to their shelves this offseason.

The Baseball Writers' Association of America announced all the finalists for their end of the year Awards this week, and three prominent Dodgers are among the finalists.

Cody Bellinger (Rookie of the Year Award finalist), Clayton Kershaw (Cy Young Award finalist) and Dave Roberts (Manager of the Year Award finalist) all have the opportunity to take home some coveted hardware next week.

One year after shortstop Corey Seager won the award, the Los Angeles Dodgers have a chance to go back-to-back in the Rookie of the Year Award race as first baseman/outfielder Cody Bellinger is the heavy favorite to win the prize.

On Wednesday, Bellinger took home the award for Outstanding Rookie in the National League as voted on by his peers, the MLB players. If that award was any indication, Bellinger should easily defeat Pirates' rookie Josh Bell and Cardinals' infielder Paul DeJong for the BBWA award.

Bellinger belted 39 home runs in 2017 and 97 RBI, the most among all rookies in the National League.

Clayton Kershaw is the betting favorite to win his fourth career Cy Young Award, just ahead of 2016 winner Max Scherzer.

Despite missing two months of the season, Kershaw led the N.L. in wins with 18, and had the lowest ERA in baseball at 2.31. Another thing in Kershaw's favor is that another Washington National, Stephen Strasburg is also a finalist, possibly splitting the vote amongst East Coast voters. 


Finally, Dodgers' manager Dave Roberts is the reigning N.L. Manager of the Year and will look to win his second straight trophy in the category. 

This year's finalists feature all N.L. West managers as Roberts joins Colorado Rockies' manager Bud Black and Arizona Diamondbacks' Torey Lovullo as the favorites this season.

After falling two wins shy of the World Series last season, Roberts led the Dodgers to a Los Angeles franchise record 104 wins, and the best record in baseball in 2017. He guided the Dodgers to Game 7 of the World Series, but lost in heartbreaking fashion in the final game of the season to the Houston Astros.


The 2017 BBWAA Awards will be announced live on MLB Network Monday-Thursday of next week starting at 3:00PM PST. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Dodgers Say Goodbye to Ethier, Keep Forsythe]]>Thu, 09 Nov 2017 16:24:50 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/195*120/Andre+Ethier+Last+at+bat.png

When one door closes, another one opens.

It's been less than a week since the Los Angeles Dodgers lost Game 7 of the World Series to the Houston Astros, but the front office is already making plans for the future.

Those plans began earlier this week, when the Dodgers declined the 2018 option on veteran outfielder Andre Etheir, making him a free agent after spending the last 12 years of his career in Los Angeles.

Now before you grab your pitchforks and torches and gather a mob outside Dodger Stadium, fans need to understand that the reason why the team declined the option on the fan-favorite Ethier was strictly for financial reasons only. 

Ethier was set to make $17.5 million for the 2018 season, despite playing in just 38 total games the last two seasons. Ethier's buyout was just $2.5 million, saving the Dodgers $15 million to either re-sign Ethier at a lower price, or go after big name free agents in the offseason like current starter Yu Darvish, free agent Jake Arrieta, or Japanese sensation Shohei Otani.

As much as Dodger fans love the player they affectionately call "Dre," Ethier has been a shell of his former self over the last two seasons, missing the first five months of both the 2016 and 2017 season with injuries.

First, Ethier broke his tibia during spring training in 2016 after he fouled a ball off his shin in a preseason game. Nearly a year later, Ethier missed the first five months of the 2017 season with a herniated disc in his back as well as ankle injuries.

Relegated to rehabilitation for the better part of the last two seasons, Ethier has taken on more of a leadership role in the clubhouse, mentoring Rookies Cody Bellinger and Andrew Toles among others.

On the bright side, despite being riddled with injuries, Ethier made the postseason roster in each of the last two seasons and was a valuable pinch-hitter off the bench.

The 35-year-old left-hander went 8-for-34 with two home runs and four walks in the final month of the regular season, and batted .308 with a home run in 15 plate appearances in the playoffs.

Ethier also drove in the only Dodgers' run with a pinch-hit RBI single in Game 7 of the World Series in what could be his final at-bat in Dodger blue.

If it was his last at-bat as a Dodger, Ethier finishes with a .285/.359/.463 slash line during his 12 years in Los Angeles. Over that time, the outfielder appeared in two All Star Games, won a Gold Glove, and hit 162 home runs.

Ethier's future is now entirely in his own hands. He could return to the Dodgers on a less expensive one-year deal, he could opt for a DH role with an American League team, he could sign with the his hometown team the Arizona Diamondbacks, or he could opt for retirement after injuries shortened his last two seasons.

One player that will be returning to the Dodgers for the 2018 season is second baseman Logan Forsythe. One day after declining the option on Ethier, the team exercised their option on Forsythe.

Forsythe will return for $9 million in 2018 and is projected to be the starting second baseman for the Boys in Blue.

Forsythe had an up-and-down season with the Dodgers in 2017, batting. 224 with 37 home runs, 57 doubles and a career-high 69 walks.

Despite his regular season struggles, Forsythe shined in the postseason, slashing .297/.435/.351 with nine runs scored and nine walks in 14 playoff games. 



Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ball Looks to Find Shot Vs. Wall, Wizards on Thursday]]>Thu, 09 Nov 2017 09:34:26 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-at-Wizards-11-9-17.jpg

After a sloppy start in Boston, the Los Angeles Lakers launched their four-game road trip with a defeat. Thankfully, the Lakers get back on the court the very next night with a trip to the nation's capital on Thursday.

The Washington Wizards should have Thursday's game circled on their calendars because the Lakers handed Scott Brooks' team its first loss of the season in an overtime thriller at Staples Center. Since then, the Wizards have proceeded to lose four of their next six games and settled on a 5-5 start to the season.

The Lakers are at 5-6 after the defeat in Boston, and staying within touching distance of .500 would be a welcome sight for Luke Walton and his staff considering the Lakers are currently starting two rookies and a 20-year-old in Brandon Ingram.

After facing Kyrie Irving on Wednesday night, Lakers rookie point guard Lonzo Ball has the unenviable task of picking up John Wall on Thursday. The NBA is relentless, especially for guards, and Ball's education is currently in hyper-drive.

Unfortunately, Ball has been unable to find any shooting rhythm and enters Thursday's game shooting 22 percent from the field and 12 percent from beyond the three-point line over his last four games. Plainly, Ball has been awful from a shooting stand point, especially from distance. On Wednesday in Boston, Ball missed four of his five three-point attempts, meaning the rookie has only converted two of his last 17 attempts from distance entering Thursday's game.

Of course, Ball is not a one-dimensional player, evidenced by the last time the Lakers played the Wizards. In that meeting, Ball missed all five of his three-point attempts and only finished with six points on 2-11 shooting, but the former UCLA Bruin managed 10 assists, eight rebounds, one steal, one block and only one turnover in the overtime victory.

While the assists, rebounds and defense stand out as positives for the rookie, the fact that Ball is not egregiously turning the ball over is probably the most promising sign that the rookie is not in over his head. Over his past five games, Ball is averaging only 1.0 turnover per game, and the Lakers have been competitive in all five of those games.

Wall, who is considered one of the best point guards in the NBA, averages nearly four turnovers per game and is only shooting 28.6 percent from three-point land for the 2017-18 season. So, while Ball's shooting struggles are worth monitoring, perhaps they're a little overblown considering the 20-year-old is only 11 games into his rookie season.

Along with Wall, the Wizards offer a scoring assassin in Bradley Beal. Beal leads the Wizards with 25.4 points per game and scored a game-high 28 points when the Wizards were in LA. The 24-year-old is coming off a series of hot shooting performances that have the no. 3 pick in the 2012 draft averaging 34.3 points over the first four games of November.

On the second night of a back-to-back, the Lakers look to get back to .500 against a .500 team with an early tip-off. The Lakers and Wizards tip-off on Thursday evening at 4 p.m. Pacific Time.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Denzel Perryman's Return Bulks Up Chargers Defense]]>Fri, 10 Nov 2017 13:24:12 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/AP_23102806359.jpg

The Los Angeles Chargers officially announced on Tuesday that middle linebacker Denzel Perryman has been activated from injured reserve.

Perryman will start in his first regular season game of the 2017 season this Sunday in Jacksonville against the Jaguars. He started the regular season on injured reserve, and has been out since suffering a left ankle injury in the Chargers preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks in August.

The injury required surgery and a vigorous rehab assignment in order for Perryman to return on the field this season. Throughout the process, this man of hard work, determination, and faith was supported by his family, friends, and most importantly his daughter.

"My daughter used to tell me every time, 'Daddy, be careful with your leg. Be careful with your leg,'" Perryman said. "That just took my mind off the injury, period."

Perryman being the hard-hitting run stopper, gives the defense more depth in stopping the run along with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram pushing the line hard. It's something defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, gladly welcomes with open arms especially against his former team.

Like Kendrick Lamar, Perryman has loyalty and royalty inside his DNA, and he'll bring all of it on Sunday for his teammates. The Chargers will start him at weakside linebacker, keeping Hayes Pullard in the middle of the defense.


His return will spark the defense, yet it's unknown if he'll be on a snap count this week. Eager to make his return, it's expected that Perryman will improve a Chargers run defense allowing 135 rushing yards a game.

"I may be a little winded for maybe a day," Perryman said. "I give it a day, but I'll be right." 



Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Lakers Can't Complete Comeback in Boston]]>Wed, 08 Nov 2017 21:00:07 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-vs-Celtics.jpg

Kyrie Irving led the Boston Celtics to a 107-96 victory after the Los Angeles Lakers came out flat, fell behind by 21 points in the first half, fought back to within four points in the second half but ultimately could not complete the comeback on the Celtics' famous parquet floor.

The Lakers started the night sloppy, and it killed them.

The Lakers turned the ball over nine times in the first 12 minutes. Two of those nine turnovers belonged to Andrew Bogut, who got the nod ahead of Julius Randle with the second unit. The gamble did not pay off, as the Lakers had a net rating of minus-10 in Bogut's six minutes on the court.

To his credit, Walton adjusted his rotation in the second half after Randle had carried the Lakers back into the game with 10 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal in the second quarter.

Bogut did not get off the bench in the second half.

In the third quarter, Brandon Ingram came to life by attacking and scoring the basketball. Ingram had 18 points and four rebounds by the end of three quarters, and the Lakers only trailed by six entering the final 12 minutes in Boston. Unfortunately, Ingram would not score a single point in the fourth quarter, as the Lakers got into a defensive slug-fest down the stretch.

Over the final 12 minutes, the Celtics outscored the Lakers 20-15 with Irving helping finish off the game for the home team. On the night, the 2016 NBA Champion finished with 19 points, only second to stand-in center Aron Baynes, and five assists.

Baynes got the start in place of Al Horford, as the for regular Celtics' center recovered from a concussion. Baynes, who was born in New Zealand and attended Washington State, nearly doubled his previous season high with 21 points on 8-12 shooting in only 23 minutes on the court. The Celtics' center also had three assists and eight rebounds in those impressive minutes when the Lakers were pushing to level the game.

At one point in the third quarter, it seemed like Baynes personally answered every big Lakers' bucket with a score of his own.

Lonzo Ball continued to struggle with his shot, as the rookie missed four of his five three point attempts on the night and failed to hit the target on seven of his 10 other attempts from the field. However, the 20-year-old appeared to grow into the game and finished with nine points, six assists, five rebounds, four blocks, one steal and only two turnovers in 38 minutes.

The Lakers' other promising rookie, Kyle Kuzma, struggled for the majority of the first half but seemed to find a bit of a rhythm before the break, when he finally broke his duck. Kuzma finished with 10 points and six rebounds on the night and also played better in the second half than the first.

One notable difference from recent games was Brook Lopez's three-point shot. The center missed all four of his attempts from distance, and the Lakers missed 19 of the 24 three-pointers they attempted on the night. Boston only shot 38.8 percent from the field and won the game, so this was hardly a beautiful game, but it was entertaining on the whole.

Randle deserved a great deal of that credit. The former Kentucky Wildcat eventually finished with 16 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and a steal in only 21 minutes on the court. Randle finished the night as the only Lakers' player with a positive net rating.

Jordan Clarkson also continued his hot start to the season, as the longest tenured Laker alongside Randle scored 18 points. Clarkson has now scored in double figures in 10 of 11 games this season, quickly becoming a consistent offensive threat off Walton's pine.

With the victory, the Celtics claimed their 10th victory in a row with Irving getting an early tip for the NBA's Most Valuable Player award. The Lakers, meanwhile, fell to 5-6 on the season with the second night of a back-to-back waiting in Washington D.C. on Thursday night.

Tip-off for the Wizards and Lakers is even earlier than Boston's rivalry game. The Lakers at Wizards tips-off at 4 p.m. Pacific Time.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kings Win an OT Thriller in Ill-Tempered Freeway Faceoff]]>Wed, 08 Nov 2017 05:56:06 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/190*120/AP_17312185382742.jpg

Nick Shore scored on a pass from Dustin Brown with 1:09 left in overtime, and the Los Angeles Kings rallied from a two-goal deficit for a 4-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night in the first Freeway Faceoff of the season.

Brown also scored the tying goal early in the third period for the Pacific Division-leading Kings, who surged to an 11-2-2 start with an exciting victory in their local derby with the five-time defending division champion Ducks.

Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe also scored for the Kings, and rookie Alex Iafallo had two assists. Jonathan Quick made 33 saves and got an assist on Shore's game-winner.

Rickard Rakell had a goal and an assist for the Ducks, who have lost four straight.

Jared Boll ended a 61-game goal drought and Sami Vatanen scored his first of the season for the injury-plagued Ducks in their first game since captain Ryan Getzlaf had surgery on a broken cheekbone, sidelining him for up to two months.

John Gibson made 30 saves for Anaheim before his mask was knocked off by a blow to the head, forcing backup Ryan Miller into the game with 6:53 left in regulation. Miller made nine saves, including a point-saving stop on Tyler Toffoli with 90 seconds left in regulation.

The local rivals played their usual bad-tempered game filled with big hits of questionable legality and several ensuing scrums. Quick even got into it with agitating Ducks forward Corey Perry, trading shoves in a prolonged scuffle that led to roughing penalties for three players.

Kings defenseman Kurtis MacDermid was given a game misconduct for the worst hit, an open-ice shot that sent Ducks forward Ondrej Kase to the dressing room in the first period with an upper-body injury.

Vatanen scored immediately after the ensuing five-minute power play ended, putting Anaheim up 2-0. After Kopitar scored his team-leading eighth goal, Rakell popped the water bottle off Quick's net with a goal that ramped off Iafallo's stick in the second period to make it 3-1.

Kempe kept it close with his seventh goal in 10 games off a sweet pass from Tanner Pearson. Brown evened it with 14:11 left in regulation, converting Iafallo's setup for the revitalized former Los Angeles captain's seventh goal of the season.

Brown appeared to put the Kings ahead five minutes later after converting a beautiful backward pass from Drew Doughty, but the goal was wiped out when video review determined Doughty had been offside. Los Angeles had yet another goal waved off moments later when Gibson's helmet came off during play, forcing the goalie into the dressing room.

NOTES: Boll opened the scoring by converting a rebound of Brandon Montour's shot for his first goal in 59 games with the Ducks over two seasons. The goal was just the 28th of the hard-nosed enforcer's NHL career, and his first since March 20, 2016, with Columbus. ... The Ducks scratched D Jaycob Megna with Francois Beauchemin returning from a one-game absence. ... Los Angeles swapped Swedish defensemen in its lineup again, scratching Christian Folin and dressing Oscar Fantenberg.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma - Lakers' Yin and Yang]]>Wed, 08 Nov 2017 14:14:19 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/211*120/Lakers-Lonzo-Ball-Kyle-Kuzma.jpg

At the conclusion of Monday's Los Angeles Lakers practice, the final session ahead of the team's four-game road trip to the East Coast, a local camera man got on the phone. Likely talking to his producer about the video he would be feeding back to the station, the camera man said, "We got Kyle Kuzma and Luke Walton, and I don't know who the first guy was."

That "first guy" was Lonzo Ball.

The "Lonzo Ball era" of the Los Angeles Lakers may require an addendum because right now, it is also the "Kyle Kuzma era" for the purple and gold. At the moment, both names come up in nearly every conversation involving the team.

Twins by NBA birth, Kuzma and "Zo" sit next to each other in the locker room, though that decision came from higher up. The age difference between Kuzma and Ball is two years, three months and three days, but their NBA lives began on the same day, so their experience from Las Vegas to training camp is a shared journey into the unknown.

Notably, the age difference between Ball and Brandon Ingram is a mere one month and 25 days and one extra locker at Staples Center, but Ingram's full season of experience makes him an elder in many ways. Slight as that separation may be, Kuzma and Ball sit on the same eye level and haven't looked back since hitting it off at NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

Yin And Yang

The two rookies fit together. One is a guard. The other is a forward.

One is a naturally gifted passer leading the teams in assists, while the other is a naturally gifted scorer ranking second on the team despite only making two starts. One passes; the other scores. Undoubtedly, both belong on the NBA court, and both have the Lakers giddy with excitement. Something about Kuzma and Ball fits almost perfectly.

"I just think it's his character," Ball says when asked why he thinks he gets along with Kuzma so well. "Off the court, he's a great person. So, on the court, you know he's going to play hard. You put those two together and [get a] great teammate. Like I said, it started in Summer League and just picked up from there."

Ball expands on why Kuzma is easy to get along with, "He gets along with everybody, including the staff, as well. He's easy to coach. That's why all the coaches like him. He plays hard. That's why we all like him."

Walton echoed the same points about Kuzma almost verbatim a few nights earlier to such an extent that it almost seems like the Ball and Walton took turns reading a scene.

"His personality allows him to kind of fit in," Walton had said about Kuzma. "Vets really enjoy him. Young players get along great with him. He works so hard (that) all the coaches think very highly of him, so I think everyone just likes him and wants him to succeed. He plays really hard all the time. It's an easy way to earn the respect of everyone when you do that."

While both Ball and Kuzma have built strong fan bases inside the Lakers' facility and inside the locker room, they have a competitive relationship that goes beyond the required interaction. The two regularly play out a half court shooting competition after practices, and Tuesday offered rare footage of Kuzma and Ball playing one-on-one behind closed doors.

The trash talk is genuine and clearly nothing new. It's serious, yet friendly. Clearly, these two have a healthy, cocky competition ongoing, filled with talking junk and laughs.

"His answers are short, stout," Kuzma takes that friendly competition in front of cameras and microphones in the team's last public availability before jetting for the duo's first real NBA road trip. "I'm pretty sure you guys don't like his answers...Yea, they're ok, but they're boring."

While Kuzma is far from ebullient himself, the 22-year-old adds another friendly jab at his fellow rookie when assessing his own interview style, "More vibrant than his."

Competing with Ball on a daily basis, though, means striving for greatness. Team president Earvin "Magic" Johnson heralded Ball's arrival by playfully begging the rookie not to take all of his records. If those expectations seem unreasonable, Kuzma's self-imposed expectations appear to have the same goals of finding a home with the basketball gods on Mount Olympus.

"I don't really focus on rookies," Kuzma responds when asked if he compares his stats to his peers in the Class of 2017. "My focus is, one, winning. Two, I try and focus on the top players in the league because that's where I want to be. So, I don't think rookies are a stick point for me to battle with."

Kuzma adds with a matter of fact tone, "I look at guys like (Giannis) Antetokounmpo, LeBron (James) and those guys because, eventually, that's where I want to be."

The former University of Utah Ute is averaging 15.4 points per game, along with 6.3 rebounds per game, but those statistics are flawed, already. Kuzma started the season as a scorer with the second unit, so the forward only pulled down 10 rebounds once during his first eight games of the season. Since moving to the starting lineups, Kuzma has two double-doubles in two starts, as his role requires more attention to the defensive end and the defensive glass.

"We just try to hit you in waves and keep on coming and keep on pressing," Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. described the assault of having three power forwards the caliber of Julius Randle, Nance and Kuzma all available and playing regularly in terms that would make Rza from the Wu-Tang Clan proud.

Nance recently broke his hand and expects to miss a month, which is the reason Kuzma jumped into the starting lineup well ahead of schedule—and ahead of Randle. Now, Kuzma is playing with both the starting unit and the second unit, as the 22-year-old is becoming the first starter substituted off by Walton in order to have the rookie come back and play with the second unit at the start of the second and fourth quarters.

"Obviously, defense is probably where we're going to miss me the most," Nance put on his analyst cap when giving his post-surgery press conference in the hallway leading to the locker room at Staples Center.

Nance added thoughtfully, "If there's a position that we have super depth in, it's the power forward spot."

At this point, one should remind everyone that the rookie got the starting nod over Randle, who has effectively been transformed into an energy player off the bench. Considering Randle is a restricted free agent in the upcoming summer and the team has its sights publicly set on attracting two maximum salary-type players, the likelihood that Randle will still be on the Lakers in one year's time should be considered remote.

As such, trade rumors were due to blossom throughout the cold winter regardless of Kuzma's emergence, but Kuzma likely holding the starting spot for the upcoming month should begin that trade rumor buzz. While Luol Deng told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne that he'd like to be traded on Monday, the market for Deng and his eggregious salary has never existed. The market for Randle, though, does exist and should continue to grow over the next month of consistent minutes with a thinned out field at power forward.

The combination of Randle's contract, his energetic and improved play in a bench role that should appeal to a playoff team and Kuzma's emergence could force trade talk into a frenzy about the time Nance is due to return from injury in December. Since Kuzma is the guy Lakers president Earvin "Magic" Johnson drafted with Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, the kid from Johnson's home state is likely here to stay.

Before drafting Kuzma with the no. 27 pick in the draft, the Lakers only saw two workouts. The forward had one outstanding workout in Chicago, and his agent quickly shut down the prospect to likely keep interest high. Then, the Lakers got another look at the kid from Flint, Michigan at their facility, and that workout mirrored the performance at the Draft Combine in Chicago.

"The two workouts we saw were better than any film I saw on him," Walton said about Kuzma immediately after giving the rookie his first start. "We interviewed him in Chicago—loved him. He seemed like a tough, tough kid that had a good energy about him. We were looking for someone that could stretch the floor for us a little bit and put him in the development program and grow him slowly."

Walton added, "Obviously, he's been a lot better than, I think, any of us anticipated, but as a group, we were very excited when he was still there and we had our pick."


Ball's path to the Lakers may seem different from a spotlight and exposure stand point. Ultimately, though, the Lakers also only saw Ball work out twice before drafting him with the no. 2 overall pick: once at the Lakers' facility and once during the home visit to Chino Hills.

Through his first 10 games, Ball is shooting 30 percent from the field, 23 percent from the three-point line and 54 percent at the foul line. Without a doubt, Ball is starting his NBA career with an awful shooting record, but the former UCLA Bruin isn't regularly committing an abnormally high number of turnovers, nor is he failing to impact the game in a positive manner. Ball has three total turnovers over the past four games, and the Lakers have won three of those four contests with Ball having an aggregate plus-minus of plus-50 over those four games. Simply put: the Lakers are better with Ball on the court.

As a reminder, the lone loss was due to Damian Lillard hitting a deep last second three-pointer over the outstretched flag pole arms of Brandon Ingram. Though Ball was nationally scorned for only attempting two shots and being passive in that game in Portland, the rookie seemed content to serve the ball to Lopez and jump start the center's season. Ball was a team-high plus-10 in Portland, and Lopez scored 27 points, which has led to three straight games of the big man leading the team in scoring.

Outside of being able to read a game at a level beyond his years, Ball has been better than advertised on the defensive end of the floor. Ball's defense is an improvement at the position over the previous couple years. Related to that point, the Lakers rank seventh in the NBA in defensive rating after ranking dead last the previous two years and second from last the year before that. That improvement is not all due to Ball, obviously, but his strong defense has helped keep the rookie on the floor at least as much as his passing.

Offensively, the Lakers' style has been significantly impacted by Ball's passing "genius," to quote Walton on the day of the 2017 NBA Draft in June. The Lakers' intentions are to play stifling defense and immediately push the ball on the break. Through 10 games, the Lakers rank third in the NBA in pace and average about five more possessions per game than they did a season ago. Currently, the Lakers play at a faster pace than the Golden State Warriors.

Ball is a genius when it comes to making the early pass and finding the point man to set off a fast break, but his true talent is being a 20-year-old able to contribute to the game by controlling pace, rebounding, defense and setting up scoring opportunities to such an extent that the Lakers can still win against an in-form Memphis team despite the point guard missing seven of his eight three point attempts in the game.


In the win over the Grizzles, a brick-laying Ball craftily managed a net rating of plus-10 in 35 minutes on the court. The Lakers won by five.

Given his athleticism, Kuzma can often be the first man down the floor, and Ball's touchdown throwing ability proved to be deadly during the Summer League. Defenses have adjusted to take away the long ball, but the greater adjustment has come with Kuzma's shift to the starting lineup.

Lopez may be a 7-footer, but the center only averaged 5.4 rebounds during the 2016-17 season in Brooklyn. Lopez has dropped that average to 4.7 rebounds per game through the first 10 games of the 2017-18 season with the Lakers. Assuming Nance's role requires Kuzma to clean up the defensive glass and cover the shot challenging Lopez, which is best illustrated by the rookie power forward pulling 11 of his 12 rebounds off the defensive glass against the Memphis Grizzlies and all 13 of his rebounds off the defensive glass against Brooklyn in his first start.

Like Ball, Kuzma has already displayed an ability to adjust his game in order to have an impact in multiple facets of the game. That's impressive. Even more promising, the rookie forward is shooting 64 percent over the past four games and 47 percent from beyond the three-point line during that same stretch. What makes Kuzma different from Randle and Nance is the forward's shooting ability, which was on full display when Kuzma caught the eye of just about every fan, scout and analyst in the desert en route to being named NBA Summer League Final MVP.

While Summer League is a weird stop in between college and the NBA, both Kuzma and Ball are already showing they belong on the NBA court. Simply, both understand and know how to play the game.

For the Lakers, if 2017 is the start of the "Lonzo Ball era" at Staples Center, it may just as well be the start of the "Kyle Kuzma era" in LA, too. The pair arrived together, fits together and now looks set to stay together for the long haul.

The first multi-city road trip offers a bonding experience for any NBA rookie, and Wednesday's ice cold reception in Boston should be the first of many wintery trips to Beantown for the duo. For Ball and Kuzma, the bond should only grow with time and experience on the court and off it, but the foundation is built on the shared desire to be great and experiencing the work that goes into making that desire into a reality.

"I think it just starts off the floor," Kuzma gives his explanation of why he and Ball connect so naturally. "I feel like if you're close off the floor and you can relate off the floor, it's easier on the court because you can understand where people are coming from and the goals that we each have are pretty similar. So for me and him, we want to be great."

Kuzma adds, "On the court, it's like Yin-Yang pretty much. We have a vibe that goes together."



Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Win Again, Beat Grizzlies 107-102]]>Mon, 06 Nov 2017 00:55:42 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-beat-Grizzlies-11-5-17.jpg

On Sunday night, the Los Angeles Lakers built up a 22-point lead before nearly blowing it and beating the Memphis Grizzlies 107-102 to claim the team's third win in the past four games. The Lakers improved to 5-5 on the season and are in a four-way tie for the eighth seed in the Western Conference, though one should keep in mind that the 2017-18 NBA season is not even a month old.

"We're happy with where we're at right now," Lakers coach Luke Walton said after the game. "To me, the most impressive thing is the effort we're getting right now every single time we play the game."

Brook Lopez led the Lakers' scoring with 21 points, as the center has become a focal point of team's recent run. On this night, the big man hit four of his six three-point attempts and also contributed five assists and two blocks in the victory.

"It's a team thing," Lopez said after the game. "We are moving the ball very well, playing super unselfishly. You see that in our number of assists and our guys putting in double figures. It's really spectacular."

Lopez's five assists hinted at the sharing nature of the Lakers, as the team assists on 25 of 40 made field goals. Lonzo Ball tabbed a game-high nine assists to lead the way. Ball also managed nine points and five rebounds in the victory, but the 20-year-old still struggled to find his range and missed seven of his eight three-point attempts.

With the rookie point guard embodying the Lakers' sharing culture, six different Lakers finished scoring in double figures, with Ball the only starter not to hit the 10-point mark.

Fellow rookie Kyle Kuzma made his second consecutive start in place of the injured Larry Nance Jr., and Kuzma recorded his second straight double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds in 38 minutes on the court.

"I play hard, I rebound and of course, I score, so it's pretty natural," Kuzma confidently stated when asked about his double-doubles.

Kuzma's fellow frontcourt mate, second-year forward Brandon Ingram, had a big first half with 18 points, but the 20-year-old former Duke Blue Devil drew a bit more attention in the second stanza. Consequently, Ingram finished the night with 20 points and seven rebounds.

Perhaps, the most impressive performer of the night was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who made a couple big, game-winning plays after the Grizzlies had rallied from 22 points down to cut the gap to only three points with 42.5 seconds remaining.

The Grizzlies had the ball after a flagrant foul was called on Lopez, but Caldwell-Pope came up with a hugh steal before going down on the other end and draining a 19-foot jump shot. The Grizzlies went from possibly leveling the game to trailing by five points, and now, the game clock had wound down to 19.1 seconds.

In effect, Caldwell-Pope's strip and score sealed the Lakers' victory.

"They did have a lot of momentum," Caldwell-Pope admitted after the game. "But that play right there (the steal) and the bucket on the other end slowed that momentum down, and we finished the game up.

The Grizzlies would cut the deficit to three points after a made layup, but Lopez iced the game after he was intentionally fouled.

Grizzlies Stars

Marc Gasol finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in the loss, nearly tabbing a triple-double. Meanwhile, Tyreke Evans led all scorers with 26 points. Mike Conley finished the night with 23 points, five rebounds and three assists, with 11 of those points coming in the fourth quarter comeback.

Quote of the night: "He's been watching Disney Channel a lot. Maybe his favorite shows have been coming on." - Lonzo Ball on why he thinks Brook Lopez has been playing so well recently.




Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[L.A. Rams Rout Hapless Giants]]>Sun, 05 Nov 2017 13:55:08 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/215*120/Rams+Rout+Giants+.png

Don't look now but the L.A. Rams are for real. 

Jared Goff threw a career-high four touchdowns, and the Los Angeles Rams routed the hapless New York Giants, 51-17, in a rainy game at Met Life Stadium on Sunday.

The contest was a classic tale of two teams headed in opposite directions, as the revamped Rams won their fifth game in their last six, and are off to their best start since 2011 at 6-2.

Meanwhile, the G-Men have lost seven of their last eight games and find themselves in the cellar of the NFC East, a whopping six games behind the first place Philadelphia Eagles.

Goff threw three touchdowns in the first half, finishing with 311 yards passing in arguably his best game as a pro. 

Todd Gurley ran for two second half scores as the Rams easily blew out the defenseless Giants on their home turf to move into first place in the NFC West. 

The Rams new and improved offense scored on eight of their first nine possessions, starting with a Goff touchdown to tight end Tyler Higbee after All-Pro lineman Aaron Donald strip-sacked Eli Manning on the Giants first drive of the game. 

Higbee's touchdown made him the ninth consecutive tight end to score against the Giants defense, setting a new NFL record for futility.

After that, the Rams ran away with the game, completing big play after big play, starting with a 52-yard touchdown on a screen pass from Goff to Robert Woods that took place on a 3rd and 33.

On the next Rams possession, Goff unloaded on a deep 67-yard touchdown bomb to Sammy Watkins that put the visiting team up 24-7 halfway through the second quarter.

Rams' place kicker Greg Zuerlein continued his excellent season going a perfect 9-for-9 on kick attempts, including three field goals and six extra points. 

Eli Manning threw for 220 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception in the loss. The lone bright spot for the Giants was an 11-yard touchdown catch by rookie Evan Engram late in the game.

Manning's future in New York could be in peril as the Giants are heading towards a top 5 draft pick this offseason, and a massive rebuild that could take place without head coach Ben McAdoo, who's job is in jeopardy despite leading the team to the playoffs last season. 

Up Next:

After a long road trip that saw stops in Jacksonville, London and New York, the Rams will return home to Los Angeles next Sunday where they will host the Houston Texans at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum at 1:05PM PST.



Photo Credit: AP Photo/Bill Kostroun]]>
<![CDATA[USC Runs Away From Arizona Late ]]>Sun, 05 Nov 2017 11:16:40 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*127/GettyImages-870372260.jpg

Ronald Jones II scored two fourth quarter touchdowns, and the No. 17 USC Trojans ran away late from No. 21 Arizona, 49-35, on Saturday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Jones II finished with 194 yards and three touchdowns and John Houston Jr. intercepted Wildcats' quarterback Khalil Tate to seal the victory in front of 70,225 fans on Homecoming night.

After struggling in the first half, Tate and the Wildcats exploded in the second half as they erased a 22-point deficit, scoring 29 points in the second. Tate finished the game with 146 yards and two touchdowns through the air, and 161 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

His counterpart, Sam Darnold, was 20-for-26 for 311 yards and two touchdowns, as he put the Trojans in the pole position atop the Pac 12 South with the win. USC now only needs one victory in their final two games against Colorado and UCLA to clinch the South, and guarantee a berth in the Pac-12 Championship Game at Levys Stadium on December 1st.

UCS led 21-6 in the first half before Tate sparked a second half surge for the Wildcats that evened the score at 35 after a Zach Green touchdown and 2-point conversion midway through the fourth quarter.

But Jones II responded with reckless abandon as he scampered for 96 yards in the final quarter, scoring the go-ahead touchdown with 5:37 remaining, and another insurance touchdown with 3:09 left in the game. Jones surpassed 1,000 yards on the season in the game, and became the first Trojans' running back since LenDale White in 2004 and 2005 to reach the millenium mark in back-to-back seasons.

The Trojans scored a special teams touchdown early in the game, when USC's Jalen Greene returned a blocked punt to the endzone for the game's first score.

Tyler Vaughns and Steven Mitchell Jr. each caught receiving touchdowns in the second quarter as the Freshman Vaughns led the team with four catches for 59 yards.

Despite recording five sacks on Tate, the Trojans' defense struggled with the mobile quarterback, especially late in the game.

Up Next:

The Trojans will travel to Colorado next week where they fill face the Buffaloes in frigid temperatures with a chance to secure their second ever Pac 12 South Title. 



Photo Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[World Series Memes: Astros vs. Dodgers]]>Sat, 04 Nov 2017 14:13:06 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/197*120/World+Series+Memes+Dodgers+Funny.png

Now that we've all had time to digest the Los Angeles Dodgers devastating loss in Game 7 of the World Series, it's time to look back, reflect, and laugh at one of the most epic and thrilling Fall Classic's in recent memory.

From Chris Taylor's leadoff home run on the first pitch he saw from Dallas Keuchel, to the Astros comeback in Game 2, to the 15-round heavyweight fight that was Game 5, the World Series was a rollercoaster ride for the ages.

After the dust settled, the Houston Astros were champions, winning the first World Series title in their 55-year franchise history. 

Meanwhile, the Dodgers 29-year drought will extend to 30 next season as Los Angeles will look to rebound from a heartbreaking defeat in order to bring Tinseltown a trophy.

Throughout the entirety of the seven-game series, fans took to Twitter to share their favorite moments, jokes, and memes with the rest of the world.

So sit back, relax, grab a cold drink and kick your feet up, as we relive the 2017 World Series between the Dodgers and Astros through memes. 

 

 

 

 

 



Photo Credit: AP Photo/Alex Gallardo
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<![CDATA[Kyle Kuzma, Brook Lopez Blaze Nets 124-112]]>Fri, 03 Nov 2017 23:16:21 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Kyle-Kuzma-Lakers-rookie-starter.jpg

On a night when D'Angelo Russell's return to LA dominated the pregame discussion, it was the two pieces that the Los Angeles Lakers got back in the trade for Russell that stole the show and helped carry the Lakers to a 124-112 victory at Staples Center.

Los Angeles Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma, who the Lakers selected with the no. 27 pick that previously belonged to the Brooklyn Nets, scored 17 points and pulled down five rebounds before the halftime intermission in the forward's first start for the Lakers.

Kuzma eventually finished with 21 points on 8-11 shooting and 13 rebounds in the victory.

With Larry Nance Jr. fracturing his hand a night earlier in Portland and set to miss roughly 4-6 weeks, Kuzma got the call to start from his coach, and the 22-year-old forward looked more than up for the challenge. So impressive was his performance that one can imagine the Flint, Michigan native becoming the long-term starter for the purple and gold in the front court.

Along with Kuzma, the Lakers also acquired Brook Lopez in the trade that sent Russell and center Timofey Mozgov to Brooklyn, and Lopez took the revenge game narrative and ran with it, murdering his former team from beyond the arc. Lopez made five of his first six shots from distance, and followed up on his 27-point night in Portland a night earlier with 34 points and 10 rebounds against the Nets on Friday night.

"Some of those threes, I was yelling at my coaches, 'Why is he shooting that?'" Lakers coach Luke Walton said about Lopez, who finished 6-9 from distance, after the game.  "He made them, so we left him in."

Russell finished with 17 points on 8-24 shooting from the field to go along with seven rebounds and seven assists, but the former Laker simply could not find his range from distance. Russell missed seven of his eight shots from beyond the arc.

Allen Crabbe scored 25 points off the visitors' bench and helped Brooklyn rally in the fourth quarter, but Brandon Ingram seemed to step up late and help put the game to bed. Like his fellow front court starters, Ingram recorded a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds and also shot better than 50 percent from the field.

The Lakers' new starting front line of Kuzma, Ingram and Lopez combined for 73 points on 59.6 percent shooting from the field and 9-14, 64.3 percent from beyond the three-point line.

"I thought the front court did a good job of being aggressive on both ends of the court," Walton said about the new-look front line.

The coach added, "There was a good chemistry out there, surprisingly, with the lineup change happening and getting back at 2 in the morning."

Notes: Rookie Lonzo Ball followed up on his scoreless night with six points, on 3-15 shooting, seven assists, five rebounds, two steals and had a game-high plus-22 points. Ball looked to be forcing his shot early in the contest, but the point guard still managed to take care of the ball and committed no turnovers in 29 minutes on the court on the second night of a back-to-back.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[The Vault: Dodgers 1988 World Series Parade]]>Thu, 02 Nov 2017 21:12:20 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/VAULT_88_PARADE_1_1200x675_1087638083753.jpg

We're still awaiting the next parade. So we're here to bring Dodgers fans back to the championship days of 1988 with some of the best moments from the World Series celebration.]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Come Up Just Short in Portland 113-110]]>Thu, 02 Nov 2017 22:30:42 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-at-Blazers-11-2-17.jpg

On Thursday night, the Los Angeles Lakers came back from 18 points down in the unfriendly confines of the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon, but ultimately, Damian Lillard's late, deep three-point shot sunk LA 113-110.

Lillard finished with a game-high 32 points after hitting his game-winning shot with only 0.7 showing on the game clock. Long-armed Brandon Ingram had forced the Blazers' point guard to about 30 feet away from the basket, but the Oakland native made the incredibly difficult shot look easy.

Lakers coach Luke Walton managed to get rookie Kyle Kuzma a clear look at a potential game-tying three pointer, but the forward's shot came up just short. Kuzma finished with 22 points on 10-17 shooting from the field on the night, which was the 22-year-old's best offensive outing as a professional. He's only played eight games, so one would expect Kuzma will break that record in days, rather than weeks or months.

Related to that point, starting forward Larry Nance Jr. broke his hand during Thursday's game, as reported by the team. Hands play a rather important role in basketball, so Nance expects to miss time, and Kuzma's start to the season makes him the most obvious candidate to assume a starting role for the Lakers. The 27th over all pick in the 2017 NBA Draft is widely conidered the steal of the summer, and a start at this stage of his career could turn permanent if Kuzma continues to show maturity well beyond his experience.

In the defeat, center Brook Lopez also had his best game as a Laker with 27 points on 9-15 shooting, as the Lakers' big man had a field day against Portland's smaller line ups. 

In terms of game flow, the visitors fell behind early and trailed by 16 points at the end of the first quarter after giving up 41 points over those first 12 minutes. However, LA picked up its defense and managed to cut the deficit to only four points by halftime, showing inspired fight back in front of a national television audience.

About three and a half minutes into the second half, the Lakers had managed to level the score at 68-68. Three minutes later, the Lakers led by six points, but the Blazers and Lakers stayed within touching distance for the remainder of the contest until Lillard's impossible shot dropped with 0.7 seconds remaining in the game and Kuzma's shot hit the front of the rim at the buzzer.

Next, the Lakers return home for a Friday night date with D'Angelo Russell and the Brooklyn Nets.

Notes: Lonzo Ball only attempted two shots in 28 minutes, as the rookie went scoreless and only managed four assists and three rebounds. While Ball did not have a poor game, as he only committed one turnover and played hard defense evidenced by his two blocks and one steal, he definitely did not have a great game.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Los Angeles Reflects on an 'Incredible Season']]>Thu, 02 Nov 2017 08:27:33 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-869170328.jpg

Members of the Los Angeles Dodgers thanked fans for their support during a season to remember that ended Wednesday in disappointment.

The Dodgers dropped Game 7 of the World Series to a talented Houston Astros team in a dramatic post-season match-up between baseball's two best teams.

Below, a look at how players and other members of the Dodgers organization thanked fans, who will be looking ahead to spring training. 

Other Los Angeles teams joined in, congratulating the Dodgers on their historic season.

Even an old rival had some kind words.



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Dodger Blues: Fans Watch as Dreams Turn to Game 7 Nightmare ]]>Thu, 02 Nov 2017 07:12:53 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-869193854.jpgDodgers fans waited for the Game 7 comeback, but it never happened. The thrill of a World Series turned to nine innings of frustration Wednesday Nov. 1, 2017 at Dodger Stadium as the Houston Astros ended up celebrating in front of a deflated crowd.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[After Season of Magic, the Wait Continues for Dodgers Fans]]>Thu, 02 Nov 2017 12:19:20 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-869217282.jpg

Instead of a parade, Dodgers fans will have to turn their thoughts to another spring training at the end of a season that was supposed to be LA's year.

And, it was -- right up until the early innings of Game 7. There would be no comeback, which seemed entirely possible in a post-season full of surprises and dramatic back-and-forth thrill-ride games.

The boys in blue, who had the best record in Major League Baseball, never threatened Wednesday in a Game 7 World Series loss to the Houston Astros.  Houston jumped on starter Yu Darvish, acquired at the trade deadline for just this situation, and left the home side frustrated.

Fans who thought they would be watching a parade through the city streets this week will have to turn their thoughts to next spring, again. On a day the team's fans thought they would finally get the sweet taste of 1988, the last time the Dodgers won a World Series, they instead got the bitter taste of 1978, the last time they lost it.

"I'm more heartbroken over this loss than I was over my last relationship," Dodger fan Jess Bishop said.

"Heartbroken" was a word that came up constantly in the Dodger corners of Facebook and Twitter after the 5-1 loss.

Some fought back real tears.

"Houston deserves this," said Rene Lopez of Pomona, choking up. "It was a great baseball series and that's all I can wish for."

Fans did their best to stay optimistic but the Dodgers made it hard, falling behind 5-0 in the opening innings and never getting close.

"I smell a comeback!" one person shouted during the fifth inning at Tom's Urban, a sports bar in downtown LA.

But the comeback never came.

Sasha and Ryan Mendeville from nearby Torrance were still glad they got tickets and went to the game.

"We don't regret it," Sasha said. "This is history and we're huge Dodger fans."

Joanne Lopez-Rojas, 71, said she was going to "cry and stop on the way home and have a drink."

She and her husband Delfino Lopez-Rojas, 71, are retired restaurant owners from Ventura who watched the game at Tom's Urban.

Joanne had her face painted. One side was white with colorful flowers painted in celebration of the Day of the Dead -- the Mexican holiday where people celebrate loved ones who have died -- but her right cheek had the Dodgers logo: the linked blue letters LA.

Now both cheeks were likely to be streaked with tears.

It was a far cry from Wednesday afternoon, when the city was buzzing with excitement and bursting with joy at the thought of a Game 7 in town.

In the city's Solano Canyon neighborhood, which leads into Dodger Stadium, houses had shed their Halloween decorations overnight in favor of Dodgers signs, flags and other memorabilia for Tuesday's game.

Public relations professional Ross Goldberg of Westlake Village flew his 22-year-old son, Josh, out from the East Coast, where he recently graduated from Georgetown University, to see the game.

"Tonight is the biggest game in the history of baseball in Los Angeles," said Goldberg. "It's not just a matter of waiting 29 years. You don't know if this will ever happen again."

On Wednesday night, the city desperately hoped it would, someday, happen again.

"I'll survive," Lopez-Rojas said. "They'll be back. They'll be back. I'll be a fan forever."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers Discuss World Series Defeat]]>Thu, 02 Nov 2017 04:47:01 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Dodgers_Raw_Interview_1200x675_1086941251556.jpg

It was a devastating loss for the Los Angeles Dodgers as they were defeated by the Houston Astros 5-1 on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017 in the 2017 World Series. After a roller coaster ride through the season to the series, Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, Chris Taylor and Justin Turner discuss the team's defeat and where they will go from here.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers Postgame After World Series Loss to Astros]]>Thu, 02 Nov 2017 00:32:20 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Dodgers_Postgame_After_World_Series_Loss_1200x675_1086832195680.jpgLos Angeles Dodgers players Clayton Kershaw, Cody Bellinger, Brandon Morrow, Chris Taylor, and Kenley Jansen discuss the devasting Game 7 loss to the Houston Astros at Dodger Stadium in the World Series.]]><![CDATA[Dodgers Dealt Crushing Defeat in Game 7 of World Series]]>Thu, 02 Nov 2017 00:33:07 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-869166702.jpg

It seemed like it was destiny.

Game 7. Winner take all.

Hosted at Dodger Stadium for the first time in history.

Yu Darvish on the mound, ready for redemption.

Everything seemed like it was preordained to end the 29-year World Series drought for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

There was just one problem and it wasn't Houston who had it.

Darvish allowed five runs in the first two innings and the Los Angeles Dodgers lost the World Series to the Houston Astros, 5-1, on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium.

No, the Dodgers didn't win the World Series. They didn't exorcise the demons that have hovered over Chavez Ravine since 1988.

But they did provide the backdrop for a magical season, filled with impossible moments and indelible memories, the lasting of which, will hurt the longest, that of the Houston Astros celebrating on the field at Dodger Stadium. 

Maybe that's a good thing.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals remember all too well how it felt to lose a Game 7 of the World Series on their own field and they used those images as fuel to inspire a spectacular 2015 season that ended in a World Series title.


It's an understatement to call Game 7 anything else than what is: a crushing disappointment for a team that came so close to climbing the mountain top, but on the flip side, it's hard to hate the Houston Astros.

Houston's wait for a World Series championship was longer than that of Los Angeles.

Entering the game, the Astros had the third longest championship drought in baseball at 55 years long. They had never won a World Series title in their franchise history.

So as the tears flowed on the faces of thousands of fans who watched the game from Minute Maid Park in downtown Houston, it was hard not to reflect on what that city has been through since Hurricane Harvey ravaged it at the end of August.

As the Dodgers quest for a title now enters into its 30th season, they can find solace in losing to a worthy opponent that was every amount their equal on the field of play, in one of the most epic World Series we've ever seen.

When it's all said and done, we'll remember baseballs disappearing at a record pace, Cy Young Award winning pitchers dissolving under the bright lights, managers twisting and turning with every decision they made, and 55,000 hungry Dodger fans screaming, their faces turned pale after another postseason disappointment.

Some of the Dodger players stood on the rail of the dugout and watched the postgame ceremony for the Astros on the field. After the seven-game series they just went through, it's hard to fathom how they could still stand, let alone watch something so heartbreaking.

In a solemn locker room hours after the season ended, there were hugs and handshakes, goodbyes and farewells, as well as vows to return to the game's biggest stage.

The Dodgers thirty-year thirst for a title will remain, at least for one more year, but for fans in Los Angeles there are silver linings to look at as your heart takes time to heal from this painful defeat.

This team showed heart throughout the entirety of the postseason. When they fell behind early, they fought back. When they looked down for the count, they got off the mat and punched back.

After losing leads in Games 2 and 5, they never relented, fighting until the final out, battling until the bitter end, until the world finally came crashing down around them.

This rollercoaster ride of a World Series was difficult, it was emotional, it was gut wrenching, but one thing is for certain.

The Dodgers will be back. 



Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Eerie Silence Falls Over Dodger Stadium After Defeat]]>Thu, 02 Nov 2017 01:32:11 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Eerie_Silence_Falls_Over_Dodger_Stadium_After_Defeat.jpg

An eerie silence fell over Dodger Stadium as the Boys in Blue were defeated by the Houston Astros for the 2017 World Series title. Kim Baldonado reports for the NBC4 News at 11 on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Darvish, McCullers to Duel in Historic Game 7]]>Wed, 01 Nov 2017 09:56:10 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP_17301804812280.jpg

The Los Angeles Dodgers will face the Houston Astros at Dodger Stadium Wednesday night in a Game 7 that will decide what has been a thrilling World Series that provided home runs, close games and comebacks.

The Dodgers are seeking their first World Series win since 1988 -- which was also the team's last World Series appearance. The game marks a significant moment in Dodgers history as the only Game 7 ever played at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers defeated the Minnesota Twins in seven games in the 1965 Series, but that deciding game was played at Metropolitan Stadium south of the Twin Cities. 

Sandy Koufax pitched a three-hitter in that game, striking out 10, in a 2-0 victory over the hosts. 

In a fashion typical of this year's series, the Dodgers tied the best-of-seven series at three games a piece Tuesday with a 3-1 victory as four relievers shut out the Astros over the final 4 1/3 innings, limiting them to two hits, and Joc Pederson hit a solo homer in the seventh inning for an insurance run.

Yu Darvish will pitch for the Dodgers Wednesday against fellow right-hander Lance McCullers Jr.

McCullers was the winning pitcher and Darvish the loser in Houston's 5-3 victory in Game 3 Friday at Houston. McCullers allowed three runs and four hits in 5 1/3 innings, striking out three and walking four, before being relieved by right-hander Brad Peacock, who held the Dodgers hitless over the final 3 2/3 innings.

The 24-year-old McCullers, seen throwing in the Dodger Stadium outfield after Tuesday night's game, said he "wasn't very sharp" Friday.

"I knew that early, though, so I knew it was going to be a grind for me pretty much the whole outing, which it was," McCullers said. "This is a very good-hitting team. They're patient but yet they'll make you pay for mistakes. So I have to go out there and ... just execute my game plan and I need to execute a little better in certain spots."

McCullers spent the 2014 season, his third as a professional, with the Lancaster JetHawks of the California League, then an Astros Class-A affiliate. McCullers was 3-6 with a 5.47 ERA for Lancaster. He made his major league debut the following season, going 6-7 with a 3.22 ERA for Houston.

McCullers' father, Lance Sr., pitched for four teams in the majors from 1985-92.

Darvish allowed four runs and six hits in 1 2/3 innings, the shortest outing in his major league career, which began in 2012.

If it was the regular season, I probably would've (kept) going," Darvish said through a translator. "I wouldn't say it was the worst outing I ever had."

The Dodgers lost three Game 7s in best-of-seven series when they were based in Brooklyn, all to the New York Yankees. The Dodgers defeated the Yankees, 2-0, in Game 7 of the 1955 Series on Johnny Podres' eight-hitter to win their only World Series championship when they were in Brooklyn.

This will be the 39th time a best-of-seven World Series has been extended to a final game, including 1912, when eight games were played because of a Game 2 tie. The home team has an 18-20 record in Game 7, but has won nine of the past 11, beginning with the St. Louis Cardinals 6-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers in 1982.

This will be the third time a World Series will conclude at Dodger Stadium. It happened previously in 1963, when the Dodgers swept the Yankees, and in 1978, when the Dodgers lost to the Yankees in six games. This will be the first time either team has played in November. This is the sixth Series to extend into November, including each of the last two.

Tuesday marked the second Game 6 to be played at Dodger Stadium. The other was in 1978 when the Yankees defeated the Dodgers 7-2 to win their second consecutive World Series title. The Dodgers swept the 1963 Series from the Yankees, their only World Series sweep.

It was the first time the Dodgers have played a World Series game on Halloween and the fifth all-time.



Photo Credit: AP Photo/Matt Slocum]]>
<![CDATA[Special Coverage: Dodgers Return to World Series]]>Thu, 02 Nov 2017 05:37:06 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/parallax-GettyImages-8660330941.jpg

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers Fans React to Devastating Loss in World Series]]>Thu, 02 Nov 2017 01:37:51 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Dodgers_Fans_React_to_Devastating_Loss_in_World_Series_1200x675_1086851139736.jpg

Game 7 of the 2017 World Series left Dodgers fans stunned, sad and disappointed. Although some fans were sharp-tongued and voiced concerns over certain players, many remained hopeful and look forward to next year. John Cádiz Klemack reports for the NBC4 News at 11 on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[True Blue Dodgers Fans in Photos]]>Thu, 02 Nov 2017 03:35:51 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/true-blue-dodger-fans.jpgDodger fans are partying like it's 1988, when the team last played in a World Series. Click here to see how fans are celebrating the team's historic season and postseason run.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Luis Zavala Tapia]]>
<![CDATA[This Astros Fan Got It Right]]>Wed, 01 Nov 2017 06:21:34 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Astros_Fan_at_The_Pantry_Dodgers_World_Series.jpg

Whatever happens in Game 7, Dodgers and Astros fans can agree it has been one a heart-pounding and thrilling World Series. Jonathan Gonzalez reports for Today in LA from The Pantry in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday Nov. 1, 2017.]]>
<![CDATA[The View From the Owners' Seats at Dodger Stadium]]>Wed, 01 Nov 2017 05:56:38 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/The_View_From_Owners_Seats_at_Dodger_Stadium.jpg

Owning a Major League Baseball team comes with perks, like really good seats. Mario Solis reports for Today in LA on Wednesday Nov. 1, 2017.]]>
<![CDATA[Thanks to a Rules Change and 104 Wins, LA Is Home for Game 7]]>Wed, 01 Nov 2017 05:36:56 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-868777338.jpg

All you fans who hated the rule that linked the All-Star Game to home-field advantage in the World Series, guess what?

This is your year.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are set to host the Houston Astros in Game 7 on Wednesday night, thanks to a change that went into effect this season.

Now, teams earn the right: Los Angeles posted the most wins in the majors, so the all-or-nothing matchup is at Dodger Stadium.

"The home-field advantage, having the last at-bat, it's definitely huge. Especially in this Series, you see how many times it's gone back and forth, so to be able to have that last at-bat is huge," Dodgers star Justin Turner said.

No more giving home field to the league that wins the All-Star Game. This summer, in fact, the AL won 2-1 at Miami on Robinson Cano's home run in the 10th inning -- under the old rules, this Game 7 would've been at Minute Maid Park, home of the Astros.

It was a concept that drove many fans crazy. Any method would be better, they argued -- alternating sites like the old days, best interleague record, coin flip, anything.

But that's the way it had been since a 2002 fiasco in Milwaukee when the AL and NL both ran out of pitchers after 11 innings and the game was declared a 7-7 tie.

In that span, the American League went 11-3 in All-Star play. The edge and the ability to use the designated hitter helped a little, maybe -- of those 11 times they had home field, AL clubs won six titles.

Before this season, that provision was scrapped. As part of the new labor deal between owners and players, World Series home field goes to the team that wins the most games in the regular season.

The Dodgers won 104, including a major league-high 57 at home, and those victories added up to a final game at their place. Houston won 101, and matched Cleveland for the most road wins with 53.

"We feed off the crowd, for sure. Especially at home," Los Angeles leadoff man Chris Taylor said. "We feel we have a huge home-field advantage."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California



Photo Credit: Photo by Harry How/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Larry Nance Jr. Talks NBA Tanking Culture]]>Thu, 02 Nov 2017 16:03:10 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/212*120/Larry-Nance-Jr-tanking.jpg

Larry Nance Jr. has had an odd start to his NBA career, to say the least.

The recently engaged 24-year-old, who dressed up as a Wyoming Cowboy on Halloween by simply sporting a gray sweatshirt paying homage to his college days, decided to open up about the experience of being on an NBA team addicted to the tank, i.e. losing on purpose for draft picks—commonly referred to as "Tanking."

"You know, we kind of knew, hovering over us was, 'We have a top pick. We kind of...no, we really want to keep that,'" Nance answers when asked the what he thinks the biggest difference between the 2016-17 Lakers and the 2017-18 Lakers is. The Lakers had just dropped the hammer on the Detroit Pistons to the tune of a 113-93 demolition job, and Nance is a thoughtful speaker when provided a topic of interest.

"Now this year, we don't have a pick, so we have nothing to lose, nothing to fall back on," Nance continued the talk. "So, it's all out, see how many wins we can get."

Of course, Nance is quick to deny any thought of throwing games or losing on purpose. No, the tanking culture is far more nuanced and perverted than that.

"It's weird. You know what I mean?" Nance says, as he begins to explain what he, in fact, means. "Because as competitors, you try to win, you want to win every single time on the court, but meanwhile, in the back of your mind, every time you're off the court, every time you see on Twitter, every time we won, people are like, 'What are you doing! You're messing up our...we need Lonzo (Ball)!' And it's like 'What? This is so reversed from what it's supposed to be.' It just makes it really hard to kind of focus on the task at hand when that's hanging above you."

What is sad, of course, is that Nance entered the NBA in 2015, along with no. 2 pick D'Angelo Russell. Their first season in the league was Kobe Bryant's final season and, historically speaking, the worst season the Lakers' franchise has ever witnessed—Minneapolis or Los Angeles. As a reminder, that 60-point game was only the Lakers' 17th win out of an 82-game season.

That season cost Byron Scott his coaching position with the team, and in came Luke Walton to man the sidelines.

"First year, I was trying to learn Byron's system. And then the next year, I was trying to learn Luke's system. This year, it's my first year of a set system," Nance says with comfort in his tone. "I kind of know what I'm doing. 'B.I.' (Brandon Ingram) kind of knows what we're doing. And obviously, Julius (Randle) and 'JC' (Jordan Clarkson), those guys have been here longer than I have."

It is at this point that one cannot help but be slightly alarmed that Nance views 25-year-old Clarkson and 22-year-old Randle as the veterans because they are currently the longest tenured Lakers, going way back to 2014.

Over the most recent summer, the new Lakers' front office of Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Rob Pelinka got lucky in the lottery and secured the pick that landed Ball and made Russell history. With the Lakers losing their no. 1 pick regardless of their record in the 2018 NBA Draft, Nance is in his first year playing for a team where fans don't openly scold victories and celebrate losses.

"This is the first year I'm out of it!" Nance exclaims gleefully. "So, I can't wait. My attitude is great. I'm loving this new style of, 'Hey, let's win these games and let's not have a lottery pick.' I love it!"

Nance elongates the middle word, as he repeats, "I love it."



Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers Postgame World Series Game 6]]>Tue, 31 Oct 2017 23:38:06 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Dodgers_Postgame_World_Series_Game_6_1200x675_1085968963963.jpgLos Angeles Dodgers players Justin Turner, Austin Barnes, Clayton Kershaw, Charlie Culberson, Cody Bellinger, Tony Watson and Yasiel Puig discuss the Dodgers Game 6 win in the World Series to force a Game 7 at Dodger Stadium.]]><![CDATA[Lakers Beat Pistons on Halloween]]>Wed, 01 Nov 2017 00:48:55 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-beat-Pistons.jpg

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Lakers played on the same night as the LA Dodgers for the third time during the World Series, and finally, both of LA's teams won on the same day.

The Dodgers secured Game 7 with a 3-1 Game 6 victory at the start of the second half of the Lakers versus Pistons' game, and a loud roar went through the arena as the in-arena scoreboard announced the Dodgers' victory at Staples Center. Lakers owner Jeanie Buss dressed in a Dodgers' jersey exemplified that the heart of LA's sports fan was about three miles away at Dodger Stadium, and so, the Dodger victory finally cleared the nerves to focus on the Lakers' lead. 

By the time the Dodgers clinched a Game 7, the Lakers led by 13 points due to an impressively balanced offensive performance against a team that had beaten the LA Clippers and Golden State Warriors before entering Staples Center. A win over the Lakers would have resulted in a clean sweep of the Pistons' Pacific Division road trip.

When the confetti finally settled at Staples Center with the Lakers claiming a convincing 113-93 victory, LA had seven players score in double figures, and Brook Lopez was the only starter not to hit that mark. The big man finished his night with eight points in 21 minutes.

Larry Nance Jr. recorded a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds, while Julius Randle put together an incredibly efficient performance with 17 points, seven rebounds and three assists in only 17 minutes on the court. Randle actually finished as the leading scorer for the winning side, though rookie Kyle Kuzma added 16 points in the win, and four other players tabbed at least 13 points: Brandon Ingram; Nance; Kentavious Caldwell-Pope; and Lonzo Ball.

"They dominated us," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said after the game. "Their energy, they were better at both ends. They played harder. They played sharper. It was a humbling experience, I think, for our guys. It certainly was for me. I think they absolutely dominated the full 48 minutes. They won all four quarters."

Along with the offense clicking, the Lakers' defense also came through by not fouling the Pistons all night long. Detroit didn't shoot its first free throw until the fourth quarter and only attempted three foul shots on the night, which was a Lakers' record according to Spectrum SportsNet.

The Lakers' defense ranked 11th over all in defensive rating entering the night, and the purple and gold held the Pistons, who were the top team in the Eastern Conference entering the night, to only 93 points on 43.6 percent shooting from the field.

"It's not easy to play like that," Lakers coach Luke Walton said after the game. I think as part of this process of growing and the journey that we are on, you have to learn to really embrace and enjoy how hard it is to play like that."

The coach added, "I don't think we are going to play that great every night, obviously. That was really night as far as putting all of that stuff together, not for 48 minutes, but for most of the game. It shows that our team is capable of being a very good basketball team when we are really playing together and playing for each other and playing hard."

On this night, simply, the Lakers outplayed the Pistons, evidenced by LA outscoring Detroit in every quarter of Tuesday's contest. 

Next, the Lakers play in Portland on Thursday, but before that, the Dodgers play Game 7 on Wednesday night at Chavez Ravine.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers Defeat Astros to Force Game 7 of World Series]]>Wed, 01 Nov 2017 00:09:46 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-868805680.jpg

One more win.

The Houston Astros were 12 outs away from winning their first World Series in team history. 

The Dodgers had other ideas.

Chris Taylor hit a game-tying double, and Joc Pederson hit his third home run of the World Series as the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Houston Astros, 3-1, on Halloween night to force a Game 7. 

In what started out as a trick, quickly turned into a treat, as the Dodgers erased a one-run deficit in the bottom of the sixth inning by scratching two runs across by the skin of their teeth, off future Hall of Famer, Justin Verlander.

After five dominant innings to start the game, Verlander allowed a leadoff single to Austin Barnes, and then hit Chase Utley on the foot with a changeup, to put the first two runners on base with no outs.

Four pitches later, Chris Taylor doubled down the right field line to tie the game and send the Chavez Ravine crowd into a Fright Night frenzy!

"I was just focused on staying short and finding a way to put the ball in play," said Taylor of his game-tying RBI after the game. "He's [Verlander] got electric stuff. So I wanted to be as short as possible, not try to do too much or overswing. And find a way to get the bat on the ball and hope for the best."

One batter later, Corey Seager knocked in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly to the warning track in right field that scored Utley from third.

At 38-years-old, Utley became the oldest player in World Series history to score the go-ahead run since Enos Slaughter in 1957.

Verlander would escape the inning, but it turned out to be his last of the game, as he exited the contest for a pinch-hitter in the top of the seventh.

"We had nine outs left and we were down. It's no more complicated than that," Astros' manager A.J. Hinch said of the decision to take out Verlander. "I thought he was good, especially early. I thought he was obviously cruising. He had the one hiccup in the middle of the game, but that was about it."

Verlander took the loss—his first as a Houston Astro—allowing two runs on three hits with no walks and nine strikeouts in six strong innings.

Entering the game, Verlander was 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA and a 0.79 WHIP in 10 starts (5 in the postseason) with the Astros.

Joc Pederson added an important insurance run when he homered off Joe Musgrove for the second time in three games in the bottom of the seventh.

"I don't think it's hit me yet," Pederson said of the home run. "I think you dream about that as a kid. You kind of black out in a situation like that."

Pederson sent a four-seam fastball into the left field pavilion to give the Dodgers a 3-1 lead.

Pederson, who was sent down to Triple-A in August, only had two home runs in 43 games for the Dodgers in the second half of the season. He now has three in the World Series alone, joining Duke Snider, Reggie Smith, and Davey Lopes as the only Dodgers to do it.

"I guess that was the first time being demoted," Pederson said about being sent down to the Minors in early August. "The league showed me a lot, the stuff I needed to work on. So, yeah, it was very humbling, and I needed to go learn how to hit, basically. So I've still got a lot of work to do, but it's encouraging to see some of the process and all the hard work turn into some results in the game."

George Springer turned Dodger Stadium into a House of Horrors earlier in the game, when he homered off Rich Hill to give Houston a 1-0 lead.

The homer was Springer's fourth of the World Series, tying Lenny Dykstra for the most by a leadoff hitter in the history of the Fall Classic.

Springer also joined Gene Tenace (1972) as the only players in World Series history to hit four game-tying or go-ahead home runs as he silenced the Dodgers crowd, sending their spirits crashing back to earth, if only for a fleeting instant.

Hill did not factor in the decision, but pitched well in his final start of the season. The left-hander allowed one run on four hits with one walk and five strikeouts in just 4 and 2/3 innings.

Kenley Jansen redeemed two earlier defeats in the series, by not allowing a hit in two shutout innings to earn the save. 

The two total home runs in the game extended the World Series record to a whopping 24 hit in a single Fall Classic. 

Andre Ethier made a pinch-hit appearance in the seventh inning, and set the Dodgers all-time franchise record with 50 postseason games played.

The Dodgers will look to become just the 21st team in World Series history to come back from a 3-2 deficit to win the Fall Classic.

Wednesday will mark just the 39th time in the 113-year history of the World Series that the Fall Classic will be decided by a Game 7. 

Suprisingly, in those games, the home team has only won 18 times.

Up Next:

The two most exciting words in sports will occur on Wednesday as Dodger Stadium will host the first ever Game 7 in the park's 55-year history. RHP Yu Darvish will seek redemption when he heads to the mound for the Dodgers opposite RHP Lance McCullers for the Astros. First pitch is scheduled for 5:20PM PST.



Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[After Record Heat, World Series Weather Is Here for Game 6]]>Tue, 31 Oct 2017 13:22:24 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-866023726.jpg

Forget last week's record World Series heat. Tonight's Game 6 will be played amid decidedly cooler temperatures.

One week ago today, the Dodgers won the first game of the World Series as temperatures soared to 103 in the hottest fall classic game in history.

But what a difference a week can make. With the Dodgers facing possible elimination against the Houston Astros, the intense heat wave that accompanied the series opener has given way to scattered drizzle, low temperatures and low, gray clouds covering most of Los Angeles.

As day broke Tuesday morning, Marina del Rey and other parts of the Southland experienced a light downpour, with temperatures hovering in the 60s. Some patchy rain could return after midnight, but it's unlikely there will be any rain as the Dodgers and Astros square off just after 5 p.m.

That's also good news for the trick-or-treat crowd, as kids and some adults hit the streets for Halloween. But it may be a bit brisk in the low 60s for scantily clad revelers at West Hollywood's annual Halloween Carnaval.

Last Tuesday, the temperature was so extreme for the first game of the World Series that the Dodger Stadium scoreboard couldn't show the triple digit temperature -- the readout has room for only two digits.

According to a baseball historian, only four other World Series games have been played in temperatures hotter than 90 degrees. There was some speculation the intense heat helped batters hit a string of home runs during the two first games of the series played in Los Angeles.

But that's all changed as midday temperatures in downtown Los Angeles adjacent to Dodger Stadium were at about 66 degrees. Forecasters expect similar weather through much of the week, with low clouds, low temperatures and occasional light rain.



Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Host Streaking Pistons on Tuesday]]>Tue, 31 Oct 2017 09:35:28 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-vs-Pistons-preview.jpg

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Lakers play on the same night as the LA Dodgers for the third time during the 2017 World Series. So far, the LA's basketball team is winless, while the Dodgers are 1-1. Tuesday night against the Detroit Pistons would appear to be as good a night as any to go two-for-two on one of those days where yelling any succession of three-digit-numbers would work as a traffic report.

Downtown LA is going to be mayhem on Tuesday evening. Dodger Stadium's first pitch for a must-win Game 6 of the World Series is 5:20 p.m. Staples Center's start time for the Detroit Pistons versus the LA Lakers at 7:30 p.m.

NBCLA.com/sports has everything you need on the Dodgers' front, so this is the story of the 5-2 Detroit Pistons, with three wins in four road games and three wins on the bounce. These Pistons enter Staples Center with wins over the Golden State Warriors and the LA Clippers in their rear view mirrors. Beating the Lakers would complete their Pacific Division road trip with a perfect 3-0 record.

Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy has Detroit playing winning basketball with balance. Four Pistons average scoring in double figures. Telling of the new style of the team, big man Andre Drummond sits at the bottom of that scoring list at 12.9 points per game. Avery Bradley's addition adds a two-way player and the third man behind the scoring leaders of Reggie Jackson and Tobias Harris.

In his second season on the Pistons, Harris leads the team in scoring, 20.9 points per game. The 25-year-old small forward scored in double figures in all seven of Detroit's games, and the three occasions where Harris hit over 25 points this season, the Pistons are 3-0. Harris is clearly a key threat, but Bradley proved to be the deciding factor on both ends of the win over Golden State.

Meanwhile, Jackson is a lethal scoring point guard sure to give the Lakers fits. Tuesday night at Staples Center is no easy task for the home team, which has four defeats in six games to start the season, but Ingram's defense on Harris should be worth watching perhaps even more closely than Ball trying to stop Jackson or getting outmuscled by Bradley.

"He just turned 20," Lakers coach Luke Walton said with a smirk about Ball at Lakers' practice on Monday, as a reminder that the Lakers' point guard has a great deal of development to undergo.

The Pistons will be a challenge for the Lakers' defense; only, the Lakers have been a decent defensive team thus far, ranking 11th overall in the NBA. Through six games, the Lakers are tied with the Clippers and San Antonio Spurs in defensive rating. The Lakers have been awful, terrible, disastrous and worse on defense for years, so seeing the club jump up to 11th in terms of defensive ranking is worthy of celebration—even if the season is only six games old for the purple and gold. Part of what made the Lakers so awful to watch in recent years was the inability to stop the opposition in any way, but that appears to be changing.

"I feel like guys are taking it a little more personally just because we were terrible in defense last year," sixth-man Jordan Clarkson gave his take on why the Lakers have improved on that end of the court.

Of course, the defensive improvements have Walton pleased, which he admitted at Monday's practice in El Segundo, after the coach gave the players a day off following a back-to-back.

"Defensive is what wins championships, and until we get good at that, that's the most important thing that we're going to focus on," Walton said.

On the opposite end, though, the Lakers rank 29th in offensive rating, but Walton pointed to the new makeup of the team and the young age of his players to explain why the team is second from the bottom on the offensive end of the court. The coach, though, seems elated at the effort being put forth by his players and even commended his guys for coming out with energy following an off day on Sunday.

According to Clarkson, he ended up at Ball's 20th birthday party at a Dave & Busters on that rare Sunday off day. As Clarkson tells it, LaMelo Ball, Lonzo Ball's younger brother and top high school basketball prospect, was beating him up pretty bad to the tune of $200.

"Melo was actually whooping my ass in the little basketball game," Clarkson said, referring to the popular arcade game Pop-a-Shot. "He hit me for like $200."

Incidentally, "Melo" Ball was also at practice watching from above on Monday, which is a pretty good school day for the kid with dreams and ambitions of playing in the NBA like his older brother. Beating a professional basketball player at an arcade game involving basketballs and shooting following by watching professional basketball players practice behind closed doors is a pretty good couple days of home schooling, one would imagine.

By the time the media got into the facility, the news of the day was that Kyle Kuzma sitting out a bit of practice with a sore hip, but Walton attributed that more to the rookie's aggressive style of play. This didn't appear to be any major concern, and Kuzma was watching from the sidelines, smiling from time to time when the team was doing conditioning and concentration drills, so it would appear that the team's story checks out.

Walton also made sure to clarify that the loss in Utah was not Ball's fault, despite the 20-year-old claiming responsibility for the defeat. Both Walton and Clarkson said that they respected the accountability that Ball took for his mistakes, but the coach made it clear that putting the 15-point loss on a couple bad decisions from the rookie point guard would be incorrect.

"That's how I was brought up, so I'm not going to change," Ball explained that he had always shouldered defeats. "It's a team game. We all play for each other. So obviously, we win and lose as a team, but I like to take the blame when we lose."

Ball added, "That's just what my dad taught me. When I started at six (years old), he's coached me the same way my whole life."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[House Gets a Dodger Blue Makeover for World Series]]>Tue, 31 Oct 2017 07:20:01 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/212*120/10-31-2017-dodgers-house-roof-1.JPG

Hector Arias is the artist behind a big blue Dodgers makeover in South Los Angeles.

Arias painted an entire South LA house in a Dodgers theme, celebrating the team's return to the World Series for the first time since 1988. The house features a giant mural of slugger Justin Turner. There's a Dodgers logo on the roof.

The house was purchased by a realty company. Before the site is developed, it was turned into the temporary Dodgers art piece.

"We just kind of made it fun Dodger house for the whole community to enjoy," said Arias. 



Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers' Magical Season Comes Down to a Must-Win Game 6]]>Tue, 31 Oct 2017 05:38:54 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-861498908.jpg

The Dodgers were baseball's best team during the regular season, piling up 104 wins, blasting 53 homers in June and finishing up a 43-7 run in August. Now, they're one loss away from being eliminated in their first World Series appearance since 1988.

After riding high in summer, the Dodgers are hoping to avoid a Halloween nightmare in Game 6. Rich Hill will face Astros' ace Justin Verlander Tuesday night in a must-win World Series game for Los Angeles. The pitching match-up is a rematch of the Game 2 starters. Neither figured in the decision in Houston's 7- 6 11-inning victory Oct. 25.

All that early success could be wiped out with four defeats in October, leaving the Dodgers without the title they so desperately crave and last won 29 years ago.

"It would certainly be disheartening and disappointing," manager Dave Roberts said Monday. "At the outset, our goal was to be the last team standing and we still have that opportunity."

Los Angeles trails the Astros 3-2 heading into Game 6 on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium.

"Right now, we're not thinking of the alternative," Roberts said.

The Dodgers won their record fifth consecutive NL West title before rolling past Arizona in the NL Division Series and the defending World Series champion Cubs in the NL Championship Series.

But that's nothing to hang their hat on.

"At the end of the year, if all you've won is the NL West and you still didn't reach the World Series or win the World Series, you didn't reach your goal," outfielder Andre Ethier, the longest-tenured Dodgers player, said on the eve of Game 1.

Ethier cautioned his teammates: "We haven't achieved anything, we haven't won anything. All we did was won the NL West and that doesn't mean anything."

Winning 100-plus games doesn't guarantee anything, either. Heading into opening day this season, 16 teams had posted that many wins since the 21st century began. Just two went on to win the World Series: the Cubs last year and the Yankees in 2009.

As for the others, they're better remembered for losing than winning.

The Mariners tied a major league record by winning 116 games in 2001. But Ichiro Suzuki and his teammates didn't get past the ALCS, bowing in five games to the Yankees.

The great Orioles teams of the late 1960s and early 70s had dominant pitching to go with an offense powered by Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson and Boog Powell. They won 109 games in 1969 only to lose to the Miracle Mets in the World Series. They followed up with 108 victories in 1970 and beat Cincinnati for the title. But in 1971, despite notching 101 wins and having four 20-game winners on the mound, the O's failed to defend their title, losing to Pittsburgh in seven games.

Bash Brothers Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire powered Oakland to 104 wins in 1988, only to lose to the Dodgers in the World Series. The Athletics rebounded the following year with 99 wins and beat the Giants in the earthquake-interrupted Series before racking up 103 wins in 1990 and getting swept by the Reds in defense of their title.

The Dodgers had many milestone moments during the regular season. Alex Wood began the season 10-0, the first Dodgers starter to do so since Don Newcombe in 1955. Cody Bellinger, a favorite for NL Rookie of the Year, hit for the cycle on July 19, the ninth player in franchise history to accomplish the feat. Closer Kenley Jansen was undefeated.

By early August, the Dodgers had gone 43-7 for the best 50-game run by a major league team since the 1912 Giants.

They coasted for much of the season, with their lead stretching to a whopping 21 games on Aug. 23.

It was enough for them to survive a woeful September stretch in which they dropped 16 of 17, including a major league-worst 11 in a row.

But the turning of the calendar has brought mixed results.

Jansen has a blown save and a loss in this World Series. Ace Clayton Kershaw, so outstanding in a Game 1 victory, couldn't hold a four-run lead in Game 5 and allowed the Astros to tie the score on a walk, two hits and a three-run homer. Houston eventually won 13-12 in 10 innings to move within a victory its first championship.

This year, with a pair of 100-win teams in the World Series for the first time since 1970, someone is likely to end up being forgettable.

NBC4's Jonathan Lloyd contributed to this report.


Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Leaders, Baseball Fans Still Simmering Over Racist Gesture]]>Mon, 30 Oct 2017 23:38:37 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-864805996.jpg

The Dodgers are back in Los Angeles following their three-game road trip against the Houston Astros, and fans are still simmering over one Astros player's racist gesture.

With the Boys in Blue back in town, many Dodger fans and California leaders are airing their anger over what they see as a weak punishment for Astros player Yuli Gurriel, who was seen pulling the sides of his eyes while apparently mouthing, "Chinito" - a Spanish slang term translating roughly to "little Chinese boy" - after hitting a home run off the Dodgers' Yu Darvish, who is Japanese.

"I can't believe someone who is a professional player would actually do something like that," said Dodger fan Suzy Copado. "You don't do something like that."

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred suspended Gurriel for five games without pay, but the punishment does not start until next season, with Gurriel allowed to continue playing in the World Series.

"We expected Major League Baseball to really step up and have consequences and accountability, and that didn't happen," said California Assemblyman Rob Bonta, who believes Gurriel should have been suspended for Game 5.

Fans need to know how offensive and painful Gurriel's gesture was, said Karin Wang, with Asian Americans Advancing Justice. "I remember growing up in the Midwest and getting that and knowing instinctively that there is something wrong and terrible about that," Wang said.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice is inviting Major League Baseball and the Astros to reach out to them to learn more and to help educate the league about racial sensitivity.



Photo Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers Postgame World Series Game 5]]>Sun, 29 Oct 2017 23:57:58 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Dodgers_Postgame_World_Series_Game_5_1200x675_1084265539539.jpgLos Angeles Dodgers players Ross Stripling, Brandon Morrow, Austin Barnes, Corey Seager, and Justin Turner discuss the team's heartbreaking loss in Game 5 of the World Series and facing elimination now in Game 6.]]><![CDATA[Dodgers Face Elimination After Heartbreaking Loss to Astros]]>Sun, 29 Oct 2017 23:59:17 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-868017136.jpg

Houston, the eagle has landed.

Yuli Gurriel, Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa, and Brian McCann all homered as the Houston Astros rallied from not one, but three different deficits to defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 13-12, in Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday. 

In the final game of the season at Minute Maid Park, the Astros and Dodgers put on a home run derby for the fans as they stood toe-to-toe, trading blows, in what will go down in history as arguably the greatest World Series game of all-time.

In what should have been a low-scoring matchup of two Cy Young Award winners, was instead a heavyweight fight, as both teams came out slugging, with the prospect of facing elimination in Game 6 looming like a spider above its web.

"These are hard-fought games," said Astros' manager A.J. Hinch after the victory. "These are just two really good teams, just throwing haymakers at each another trying to outlast each other."

In what now feels like a distant memory, the game began deep in the heart of Texas, when Dallas Keuchel was as wild as a steed on Sunday, as he walked two of the first batters he faced to load the bases in the first inning.

Logan Forsythe delivered the first blow for the Dodgers as he hit a two-run single to left field to give the Dodgers an early 2-0 lead. 

Four pitches later, Forsythe was caught in a rundown, but first baseman Yuli Gurriel threw wide of second base, allowing Forsythe to slide in safely and Hernandez scored from third to open up a 3-0 lead.

Austin Barnes added a run in the top of the fourth, and chased Keuchel in the process, as he hit an RBI single to right field that scored Forsythe. 

In likely his last start of the 2017 postseason, Kechuel failed to get out of the fourth inning, allowing four runs (three earned), on five hits, with two walks and four strikeouts in 3 and 2/3 innings. 

However, just as it appeared Houston was dead on arrival, the game turned on a dime, as Kershaw served up a slider to Gurriel for the game-tying three-run home run. 

After the home run, Kershaw became the first pitcher in postseason history to allow eight home runs in a single postseason.

Knocked down, but not out, the Dodgers responded with a three-run blast of their own off the bat of rookie Cody Bellinger.

Bellinger crushed a 2-2 curveball from Collin McHugh just over the wall in right-center for his third home run of the postseason as he became the youngest player (22 years, 108 days), to homer in the World Series in Dodgers franchise history.

Like the great freight train that lies above the centerfield wall, Jose Altuve roared to life as he unleashed upon a 94MPH four-seam fastball and dumped it into the Phillips 66 station in center field for the game-tying home run.

Kershaw had another one of his paltry and peculiar postseason performances as he surrendered a four-run lead for just the second time in his career, the first being in Game 1 of the 2014 NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals. Since 2012, the Dodgers were 49-1 when Kershaw was handed at least a four-run lead.

Kershaw left the game with the lead, but it didn't last long as he allowed six runs on four hits with three walks and two strikeouts in just 4 and 2/3 innings.

It was the first time since 2010 the three-time Cy Young Award winner had more walks than strikeouts in a start.

Los Angeles took the lead for the third different time in the top of the seventh when George Springer attempted to make a diving catch in centerfield on a ball hit by Bellinger.

Springer missed the ball by about a foot and it bounced past him, rolling all the way to the wall as Bellinger stood on third with an RBI triple. 

Houston would fight back with a left hook to L.A. in the bottom half of the seventh as Springer redeemed himself by parking a ball on the railroad tracks in left field for a monster 448-foot home run that tied the game.

 

"I've been in the game a long time, I don't think I've seen someone remedy a mistake faster than what Springer did tonight," said Hinch. "He dove, he tried to make an athletic play, small desperation, trying to keep his body in front of it if he could somehow not catch it. And then feels like the worst feeling in the world. He feels like he made the mistake of a lifetime. And one pitch later he hits a homer."

Three batters later, Carlos Correa delivered what was thought to be the knockout blow for the Astros with a two-run home that crashed into the Crawford Box in left field for the 11-8 lead.

Corey Seager helped the Dodgers chip away at the lead with an RBI double in the top of the eighth, but the run was wiped away as Brian McCann hit the 21st home run of the series in the bottom half of the inning, as Houston thought they had squashed any hopes of a comeback.

They were wrong. 

The Dodgers received a standing eight count, but they rose off the mat and refused to go down without a fight. 

Yasiel Puig crushed a two-run home run into the Crawford box that cut the lead to 12-11 with one out in the top of the ninth. 

Three batters later, after a double by Barnes, Chris Taylor tied the game with a clutch, two-out, RBI single and the game headed to extra innings.

Dodgers' closer Kenley Jansen pitched a scoreless 9th inning, and retired the first two batters he faced in the 10th, but after hitting McCann with a 95MPH cutter on the hand, and walking Springer, he surrendered the game-winning single to Alex Bregman and the Astros walked-off for the win.

"He's Alex Bregman," said Hinch matter of factly. "I think he understands exactly what he does well, which he did from day one. And I think being calm in the moment is innate. I think he understands, has a confidence level, has an awareness. Even like the awareness to beat them with a single. He's not trying the theatrics and dramatics, trying to hit a ball out of the ballpark, like he did last night. He's just trying to get a good single and get a good pitch to hit."

Both teams combined to hit a total of seven home runs in the game, and set a new 113-year World Series record with 22 combined homers in the series with at least one game still left to play.

In total, both teams combined for 25 runs on 28 hits, with five ties, and five lead changes in a 5 hour and 17 minute marathon ride that marked the second longest game in World Series history.

"I think this whole series has been an emotional roller coaster," said Dodgers' manager Dave Roberts. "It's the two best teams playing for a championship. And these are two teams that play 27 outs, like we've talked about. So you're not going to expect those guys to lay down. And obviously you saw what our guys did tonight, and competed until the last out."

Houston now finds themselves on the precipice of history as they are one win away from earning their first championship in their 55-year history. The third longest drought in the Majors.

Up Next: 

It's do-or-die for the Dodgers in Game 6 at Dodger Stadium as Justin Verlander starts against LHP Rich Hill in a rematch of Game 2 with first pitch scheduled for 5:20PM PST. 



Photo Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Chargers Failed to Capture Win in New England]]>Sun, 29 Oct 2017 18:01:16 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/186*120/GettyImages-867901426.jpg

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady protected his home with one thrown touchdown and kicker Sean Gostkowski made timely field goals for the 21-13 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. The Patriots entered the game without linebacker Donta Hightower, yet struggled against a tight Chargers defense that prevented the Patriots from entering the end zone for three quarters.

Los Angeles had five games this season decided by five points or less.

The Chargers came in committed to the run game and attempted to be effective in that area against a New England Patriots team that ranks dead last against the pass, giving up a league-worst 310.3 yards per game. The Bolts have not been successful this season unless they have ran the ball 25 times a game. Although Los Angeles ranks 31st in rushing, the key continues to be Melvin Gordon's running attack on opposing defenses.  

Los Angeles offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt decided to mix it up early in the opening quarter, as quarterback Philip Rivers moved the ball through the air and on the ground confusing the Patriots defense.

After a key block by tight end Hunter Henry, Rivers found Melvin Gordon ran for a 87-yard touchdown, as the Chargers set the tone with a 7-0 lead in the opening quarter. Gordon has accounted for 75 percent of the team's rushing attempts this season.

Brady fired back as he stayed cool under pressure as he continued to move the chains in spite of the stingy Bolts defense. Thirteen plays later on the drive, Brady found a wide open Rob Gronkowski for their only opportunity in the end zone for the tying touchdown.

Early in the second quarter, Joey Bosa sacked Brady that ultimately killed the Patriots drive. Bosa said earlier in the week, it would be an honor for him to sack Brady. Bosa has the most sacks in 20 games in NFL history. The Chargers are tied for third in league with a total of 24 sacks through eight games.

However the Patriots defense picked up the slack for their offense, as Travis Benjamin made a terrible decision that forced a safety, and gave Brady the ball back with a new series of downs.

Just a week ago Benjamin set the tone on a 103 yard kickoff return against the Broncos in Los Angeles.

Mike Patricia's defense squashed any opportunities for the Chargers to find an offensive rhythm in the first half. Brady picked apart the Chargers defense slowly as they settled for two field goals by Stephen Gostkowski for a 15-7 halftime lead. Brady also utilized his running game between Rex Burkhead, James White and Dion Lewis who combined for 120 yards in the first half alone.

Rivers came into the game just 22 completions away from surpassing Warren Moon, yet had only five completions in the first half.

The Los Angeles defense continued to apply pressure on Brady who was unsuccessful in finishing drives and that cost touchdown opportunities throughout the afternoon. New England settled for another field goal by Gostkowski in the third quarter. Preventing New England from entering the end zone is never an easy task, yet the talent of the Bolts defense stood tall in many crucial situations in this game.

The Bolts had another opportunity to score, when Rivers found an elusive Travis Benjamin who scooted down field for the touchdown. However due to an offensive pass interference call on Tyrell Williams, the touchdown was negated. On the very next play, Rivers under pressure attempted to pass to Williams who dropped the ball that set up a fourth down punt in the third quarter.

Yet early in the final quarter, Rivers found Benjamin on a go route for the 24-yard touchdown and trailed 18-13. The Bolts were unsuccessful in completing a two point conversion.

A late fourth quarter drive by Brady set up a huge Gronkowski catch which proved to be winning drive for New England. Brady is having his best start in eight weeks finding wide receivers Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks and tight end Rob Gronkowski who have combined for 13 touchdown receptions.

Brady completed 32 of 47 passes for 333 yard in the victory. Gronkowski caught five receptions for 59 yards and one touchdown.

Philip Rivers completed 17 of 30 passes for 212 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the final seconds of the fourth quarter. Melvin Gordon finished with 14 carries and 132 yards rushing in the loss. Gordon also had one reception for seven yards in the loss.

The Chargers three game winning streak is snapped as they fall to 3-5 on the season heading into the bye week.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Joey Bosa of LA Chargers Sets A Record]]>Sun, 29 Oct 2017 17:47:03 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/176*120/GettyImages-867859944.jpg

Despite the Chargers 21-13 loss handed to them by the Patriots on Sunday, defensive end Joey Bosa made history at Foxboro Stadium. Bosa set an NFL record for the most sacks made through the first 20 games of his career.

Bosa picked up his 19th career sack on quarterback Tom Brady, breaking the previous record of 18.5 sacks held by Aldon Smith in 2012.

When asked earlier in the week about facing Brady, Bosa said it would be an honor to sack him if he got the opportunity.

The second year player has 8.5 sacks through eight games this season. Bosa finished with 10.5 sacks last season after missing four games.

The Bolts were one of only two teams in the NFL with three players who had recorded at least five or more sacks: Melvin Ingram with 8.5 and Chris McCain with 5 and Bosa.




Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers Get Even, True-Blue Fans Celebrate]]>Mon, 30 Oct 2017 08:00:29 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Dodger_Fans_in_Houston_Celebrate_Game_4_Win.jpg

True-blue fans at Minute Maid Park are pumped about the Dodgers beating the Astros in Game 4 and tying the World Series. Alysha Del Valle reports from Houston on the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017.]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers Postgame World Series Game 4]]>Sat, 28 Oct 2017 22:11:55 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Dodgers_Postgame_World_Series_Game_4_1200x675_1083817027746.jpgLos Angeles Dodgers players Austin Barnes, Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor, Brandon Morrow and Kenley Jansen discuss the Dodgers crucial Game 4 victory over the Houston Astros in Game 4 of the World Series.]]><![CDATA[Lakers Lose in Utah After Slow Start]]>Sat, 28 Oct 2017 20:01:16 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Lose-to-Jazz-10-28-17.jpg

On Saturday night, the Los Angeles Lakers suffered defeat for the second night in a row and for the fourth time in six games since the start of the 2017-18 NBA season.

This time, the Utah Jazz offered the lesson on the court with a 96-81 victory that began with a dominating first quarter that set the tone for the contest. The Jazz led wire-to-wire, and the first nine minutes of the game effectively featured Utah digging a giant hole and immediately shoving the Lakers into it.

Nine minutes into Saturday's game in Salt Lake City, the Lakers had only seven points and trailed by twice that figure. By the end of the first quarter, the Lakers trailed by 15 points and only had 16 points on the board. On the night, Utah's defense held the Lakers under 20 points for three of the four quarters, and a strong shooting night from Ricky Rubio helped Utah cruise to victory.

Rubio finished with 21 points on 6-13 shooting, including the Spaniard hitting four of his seven three-point attempts. In all, Utah played a balanced game with five players scoring in double figures, while the Lakers only managed double-figure contributions from two players on the night.

One of those two players was second-year forward Brandon Ingram, who scored 16 points on 50 percent shooting from the field, including 1-2 from three-point land. The lanky forward used all of his length to aggressively get to the rim and toss up skillful lay-ups over the likes of Rudy Gobert or simply slam dunk when the French center was not in the vicinity.

The other Laker to score in double-figures was Jordan Clarkson, who continued his hot start off the Lakers' bench. The Lakers' sixth man scored 15 points in only 20 minutes on the court and shot better than 50 percent from the field in the process. Clarkson looked dangerous through out the contest, but that early hole served as a handicap too great to overcome for the purple and gold.

The Lakers' starting backcourt of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Lonzo Ball particularly struggled, as the pair combined to hit only five of their 21 field goal attempts, including Caldwell-Pope missing all five of his long-range attempts. Ball actually managed to his three of his six attempts from three-point land, but the rookie point guard missed all four of his other shots and finished with more turnovers, five, than assists, four.

Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell outplayed Ball on the night, as the no. 13 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft finished with a game-high 22 points in 27 minutes, which set a new career-high for the 21-year-old out of the University of Louisville.

Also, Jazz power forward Derek Favors managed a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds in a typically solid performance that helped Utah improve to a 3-3 record, with all three of those wins coming at home.

Next, the Lakers host the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night at Staples Center.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>