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

From Broderick Turner: They met in the NBA’s inaugural in-season tournament championship game in Las Vegas in December, a matchup the Lakers won over the Indiana Pacers.

There was less at stake when the two squads met Sunday night at Crypto.com Arena, but the game still held significance for the Lakers.

With the regular-season winding down, the Lakers are seeking home-court advantage for the play-in tournament.

The Lakers’ high-energy 150-145 win over the Pacers was a step in the right direction, giving them a 2 ½-game lead over the 10th-seeded Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference playoff race.

Spencer Dinwiddie, who started in place of D’Angelo Russell (non-COVID illness), played a leading role in helping the Lakers record a season high for points. Dinwiddie had 26 points — the most he has scored since his arrival — going eight for 11 from the field and two for three from three-point range. He went eight for nine from the free-throw line, with his final free throw giving the Lakers (39-32) a four-point lead with 20 seconds left.

Anthony Davis finished with 36 points and 16 rebounds, and LeBron James had 26 points, 10 assists and five rebounds to help the Lakers earn their third consecutive win. Austin Reaves finished with 25 points.

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Lakers box score

NBA scores

NBA standings

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CLIPPERS

From Kevin Baxter: The Clippers head into Monday’s tip-off with the Indiana Pacers clinging to the home-court advantage for the first round of the NBA playoffs next month.

Although in their case, it may not be much of an advantage.

The Clippers have won as many times on the road as they have at home, where Sunday’s 121-107 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers ran their losing streak at Crypto.com Arena to a season-worst four games. That’s not exactly peaking for the playoffs.

“Maybe we need to start on the road,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said.

Come to think of it, even the road hasn’t exactly been kind to the Clippers. Their 14 losses there are second-most among the Western Conference’s top six teams, and overall they’ve gone 5-5 in their last 10 games, regardless of location.

And the reasons why — poor execution, bad habits, inconsistency — are frustratingly familiar. Especially against a team playing without the reigning MVP in Joel Embiid and former Clipper Nico Batum.

“We talk about it every day,” Lue said. “Not taking shortcuts and doing it the right way. And so I think they’re frustrated as well. I mean, it’s embarrassing. When you come in minus Joel Embiid, Nico sits out tonight and you’re playing at home, you have to take advantage of those type of things.”

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Clippers box score

NBA scores

NBA standings

DODGERS

From Jack Harris and Mike DiGiovanna: Shohei Ohtani’s silence will end Monday.

As reporters huddled around Ohtani’s new locker in the Dodgers home clubhouse Sunday, the two-time MVP emerged briefly before the team’s Freeway Series game against the Angels and said he would address reporters Monday.

A Dodgers public relations official later confirmed the plan, which would mark Ohtani’s first public comments since The Times first reported Thursday that he was allegedly the victim of a “massive theft” by his interpreter Ippei Mizuhara.

“I think it’s good,” manager Dave Roberts said of Ohtani’s forthcoming availability — which the manager insisted was entirely the two-way star’s decision. “I think it’s the right thing to do. I’m happy he’s going to speak, speak to what he knows and give his thoughts on the whole situation. I think it’ll give us a little bit more clarity.”

Since the Mizuhara story was reported, several questions have emerged that Ohtani and his representatives had notably left unanswered.

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Plaschke: Greatest team or biggest flop? The 2024 Dodgers will decide their place

Amid ongoing Shohei Ohtani saga, Dodgers defeat Angels in Freeway Series opener

Dodgers likely will open 2025 season in Japan: ‘It would make a lot of sense’

NCAA MEN’S TOURNAMENT

Men’s bracket

Men’s schedule

All times Pacific

FIRST ROUND

EAST REGION
Friday

No. 9 Northwestern 77, No. 8 Florida Atlantic 65 (OT)

No. 5 San Diego St. 69, No. 12 Alabama Birmingham 65

No. 1 Connecticut 91, No. 16 Stetson 52

No. 13 Yale 78, No. 4 Auburn 76

SOUTH REGION
Friday
No. 2 Marquette 87, No. 15 Western Kentucky 69

No. 10 Colorado 102, No. 7 Florida 100

No. 9 Texas A&M 98, No. 8 Nebraska 83

No. 4 Duke 64, No. 13 Vermont 47

No. 1 Houston 86, No. 16 Longwood 46

No. 12 James Madison 72, No. 5 Wisconsin 61

MIDWEST REGION
Friday
No. 1 Purdue 78, No. 16 Grambling State 50

No. 8 Utah State 88, No. 9 Texas Christian 72

WEST REGION
Friday

No. 3 Baylor 92, No. 14 Colgate 67

No. 6 Clemson 77, No. 11 New Mexico 56

No. 4 Alabama 109, No. 13 Charleston 96

No. 12 Grand Canyon 75, No. 5 Saint Mary’s 66

SECOND ROUND
Saturday

West Region
No. 1 North Carolina 85, No. 9 Michigan State 69
No. 2 Arizona 78, No. 7 Dayton 68

Midwest Region
No. 2 Tennessee 62, No. 7 Texas 58
No. 3 Creighton 86, No. 11 Oregon 73 (2 OT)
No. 5 Gonzaga 89, No. 4 Kansas 68

East Region
No. 2 Iowa St. 67, No. 7 Washington St. 56
No. 3 Illinois 89, No. 11 Duquesne 63

South Region
No. 11 North Carolina St. 79, No. 14 Oakland 73 (OT)

Sunday

West Region

No. 6 Clemson 72, No. 3 Baylor 64

No. 4 Alabama 72, No. 12 Grand Canyon 61

Midwest Region

No. 1 Purdue 106, No. 8 Utah State 67

East Region

No. 1 Connecticut 75, No. 9 Northwestern 58

No. 5 San Diego State 85, No. 13 Yale 57

South Region

No. 1 Houston 100, No. 9 Texas A&M 95 (OT)

No. 2 Marquette 81, No. 10 Colorado 77
No. 4 Duke 93, No. 12 James Madison 55

SWEET 16
Thursday
West Region
No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 6 Clemson, 4:09 p.m., CBS
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 4 Alabama, 6:39 p.m., CBS

East Region
No. 1 Connecticut vs. No. 5 San Diego St., 4:39 p.m., TBS/truTV
No. 2 Iowa St. vs. No. 3 Illinois, 7:09 p.m., TBS/truTV

Friday
South Region
No. 2 Marquette vs. No. 11 North Carolina St., 4:09 p.m. CBS
No. 1 Houston vs, No. 4 Duke, 6:39 p.m., CBS

Midwest Region
No. 1 Purdue vs. No. 5 Gonzaga, 4:39 p.m., TBS/truTV
No. 2 Tennessee vs. No. 3 Creighton, 7:09 p.m., TBS/truTV

Elite Eight: Saturday-Sunday
Final Four: April 6 (Glendale, Ariz.)
Championship: April 8 (Glendale, Ariz.)

NCAA WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT

From Ben Bolch: The wait could be over.

If Lauren Betts is able to return from the unspecified injury that sidelined her for UCLA’s opening-round victory in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, it would make a formidable team more powerful, a juggernaut possibly unstoppable.

The wait could drag on.

If Betts is sidelined for a second consecutive game after a team spokesman said she tweaked something in practice last week, it would deprive the Bruins of their leading scorer and rebounder at a time when the challenges heighten exponentially with each round.

The wait could make or break a season.

Six inches taller than anyone on Creighton’s roster, the 6-foot-7 Betts would give the second-seeded Bruins (26-6) a practically insurmountable advantage against the seventh-seeded Bluejays (26-5) in the second round of the Albany 2 Region on Monday evening at Pauley Pavilion (5:30 p.m., ESPN).

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————

From Bill Plaschke: On her first possession of her first game in her first dance, Judea Skies Watkins lost the ball.

She dribbled directly into the hands of the Texas A&M Corpus Christi defense. She froze. She glared. She winced.

You know what that means.

It’s JuJu Time.

The coolest collegiate women’s basketball player on the planet routinely produces plays so picturesque, every smudge is briefly met with a pained annoyance that inspires her to retrieve the brush and swirl anew.

“I gave myself a little grace,” the USC wunderkind said. “It was like, the first play, I haven’t played in two weeks, OK, let me get it back.”

Oh, she got it back, all of it, and then some.

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Women’s bracket

Women’s schedule
All times Pacific
First round

REGIONAL 1
Friday
No. 8 North Carolina 59, No. 9 Michigan State 56

No. 1 South Carolina 91, No. 16 Presbyterian 39

No. 3 Oregon State 73, No. 14 Eastern Washington 51

No. 6 Nebraska 61, No. 11 Texas A&M 59

Saturday
No. 4 Indiana 89, No. 13 Fairfield 56

No. 2 Notre Dame 81, No. 15 Kent State 67

No. 5 Oklahoma 73, No. 12 Florida Gulf Coast 70

No. 7 Mississippi 67, No. 10 Marquette 55

REGIONAL 2

Friday
No. 11 Middle Tennessee 71, No. 6 Louisville 69

No. 4 Kansas State 78, No. 13 Portland 65

No. 3 LSU 70, No. 14 Rice 60

No. 5 Colorado 86, No. 12 Drake 72

Saturday
No. 1 Iowa 91, No. 16 Holy Cross 65

No. 8 West Virginia 63, No. 9 Princeton 53

No. 7 Creighton 87, Nevada Las Vegas 73

No. 2 UCLA 84, No. 15 California Baptist 55

REGIONAL 3

Friday
No. 2 Ohio State 80, No. 15 Maine 57

No. 7 Duke 72, No. 10 Richmond 61

No. 4 Virginia Tech 92, No. 13 Marshall 49

No. 5 Baylor 80, No. 12 Vanderbilt 63

Saturday
No. 3 Connecticut 86, No. 14 Jackson State 64

No. 8 Kansas 81, No. 9 Michigan 72 (OT)

No. 6 Syracuse 74, No. 11 Arizona 69

No. 1 USC 87, No. 16 Texas A&M Corpus Christi 55

REGIONAL 4

Friday
No. 1 Texas 82, No. 16 Drexel 42

No. 8 Alabama 82, No. 9 Florida State 74

No. 7 Iowa State 93, No. 10 Maryland 86

No. 2 Stanford 79, No. 15 Norfolk State 50

Saturday
No. 6 Tennessee 92, No. 11 Green Bay 63

No. 3 North Carolina State 64, No. 14 Chattanooga 45

No. 4 Gonzaga 75, No. 13 UC Irvine 56

No. 5 Utah 68, South Dakota State 54

Second round
Sunday

REGIONAL 1
No. 1 South Carolina 88, No. 8 North Carolina 41
No. 3 Oregon St. 61, No. 6 Nebraska 51

REGIONAL 2
No. 3 LSU 83, No. 11 Middle Tennessee 56
No. 5 Colorado 63, No. 4 Kansas State 50

REGIONAL 3
No. 5 Baylor 75, No. 4 Virginia Tech 72
No. 7 Duke 75, No. 2 Ohio St. 63

REGIONAL 4
No. 1 Texas 65, No. 8 Alabama 54
No. 2 Stanford 87, No. 7 Iowa State 81 (OT)

Monday

REGIONAL 1
No. 2 Notre Dame vs. No. 7 Mississippi, 11 a.m., ESPN

No. 4 Indiana vs. No. 5 Oklahoma, 3:30 p.m., ESPN 2

REGIONAL 2

No. 1 Iowa vs. No. 8 West Virginia, 5 p.m., ESPN

No. 2 UCLA vs. No. 7 Creighton, 5:30 p.m., ESPN2

REGIONAL 3

No. 1 USC vs. No. 8 Kansas, 7 p.m., ESPN

No. 3 Connecticut vs. No. 6 Syracuse, 3 p.m., ESPN

REGIONAL 4

No. 3 North Carolina St. vs. No. 6 Tennessee, 1 p.m., ESPN

No. 4 Gonzaga vs. No. 5 Utah, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2

Sweet 16: Friday-Saturday
Elite Eight: Sunday-Monday
Final Four: April 5 (Cleveland)
Championship: April 7 (Cleveland)

SOCCER

Tyler Adams scored from about 35 yards in his first start in more than a year for club or country, Gio Reyna added a second-half goal and the United States beat Mexico 2-0 on Sunday night for its third straight CONCACAF Nations League title.

Adams put the U.S. ahead in the 45th minute when he received a pass from Weston McKennie, took a touch and curled a shot that just eluded the right hand of diving goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.

Reyna added a 63rd-minute goal following a pair of extra-time assists in Thursday’s semifinal win over Jamaica.

The United States stretched its unbeaten streak against Mexico to seven games since a September 2019 defeat, including five wins.

The match was suspended twice by Canadian referee Drew Fischer because of homophobic chants among the mostly pro-Mexican crowd of 59,471 at AT&T Stadium. He stopped play in the 88th minute, resumed after a 4½-minute wait, then halted it again six minutes into stoppage time. Play restarted 1½ minutes later.

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DUCKS

Anthony Cirelli scored 59 seconds into overtime on a two-man breakaway to give Tampa Bay a 3-2 victory over the Ducks on Sunday night, extending the Lightning’s points streak to seven games.

Ross Johnston and Pavel Mintyukov scored for the Ducks. Lukas Dostal stopped 25 shots.

“Tampa is at the end of a road trip. They played last night. So it’s an opportunity for us to get a point or two,” Ducks coach Greg Cronin said. “I thought we were skating, but I thought our puck management was poor throughout most of the game until the third period.”

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Ducks box score

NHL scores

NHL standings

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1934 — Horton Smith wins the first Masters golf tournament by one stroke over Craig Wood.

1947 — Holy Cross, led by George Kaftan, beats Oklahoma 58-47 in the NCAA basketball championship.

1958 — Sugar Ray Robinson regains the middleweight title for a record fifth time with a 15-round decision over Carmen Basilio.

1961 — Cincinnati ends Ohio State’s 32-game winning streak with a 70-65 win in the NCAA basketball championship. In the third-place game, St. Joseph’s beats Utah 127-120 in quadruple-overtime.

1967 — UCLA, led by sophomore Lew Alcindor’s 20 points, beats Dayton 79-64 for the NCAA basketball championship.

1972 — Bill Walton scores 24 points to lead UCLA to an 81-76 victory over Florida State and the NCAA basketball title.

1973 — The Philadelphia 76ers post the worst mark in NBA history at 9-73 under coaches Roy Rubin (4-47) and Kevin Loughery (5-26).

1982 — Wayne Gretzky becomes 1st NHL to score 200 points in a season.

1995 — Scotty Bowman gets his 900th regular-season coaching victory as the Detroit Red Wings beat the Canucks 2-1 in Vancouver.

2006 — Following the tradition of teenage American women pulling off big upsets, 16-year-old Kimmie Meissner uses the performance of her life to soar to the World Figure Skating Championships title.

2008 — Tennessee gives coach Pat Summitt her 100th NCAA tournament win, a 78-52 rout of host Purdue. The win sends the Lady Vols to the NCAA regional semifinals.

2011 — The Southwest regional is the first in NCAA men’s basketball history with three double-digit seeded teams in the semifinals. Virginia Commonwealth, an 11th seed beats 10th seed Florida State 72-71 in overtime and the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks beat No. 12 seed Richmond 77-57 in the region’s other semifinal.

2012 — In the NBA’s first quadruple-overtime game since 1997, Joe Johnson scores 37 points and Josh Smith adds 22 as the Atlanta Hawks beat Utah 139-133. The four overtimes tie for the third-longest game in NBA history.

Compiled by the Associated Press

Until next time…

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.



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