It’s not your imagination. The NBA, at least this season, is content on capitalizing on national holidays to highlight the current incarnation of the Lakers in games against the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors. National TV, too. It’s not unnoticed that the team’s second meeting of the 2018-19 season caps off the annual Martin Luther King Day national TV day (at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., TNT).
So, will LeBron James play? It would be fitting. He was injured during the first Lakers-Warriors meeting in Oakland – way back on Christmas Day – and he hasn’t seen the court since as the Lakers have seen some highs and lows in going 5-8 in his absence. James had 17 points and 13 rebounds in 21 minutes in that first meeting, but he was gone by the end of the third quarter with his now famous groin strain. Somehow, the Lakers pulled out a head-turning 127-101 triumph by outscoring the Warriors 36-19 in the fourth quarter, as a result of Kyle Kuzman (19 points), Ivica Zubac (18 points, 11 rebounds, a plus-25) and Rajon Rondo (15 points, 10 assists off the bench with a plus-24). Golden State shot just 9 for 36 from three-point range, with Steph Curry (minus 9) and Kevin Durant (minus 11) combining for just five of 16. The Lakers had lost seven in a row to the Warriors and 11 in a row in Oakland. Wipe that all clean.
If you’re keeping track on this holiday theme, the next Lakers-Warriors meeting after this burrows its way into Groundhogs Day – Saturday, Feb. 2, at Oakland, an ABC contest. The last of the four regular-season encounters is April 4 (at Staples Center, on TNT), which, from our limited research ability, is known as National Burrito Day (always the first Thursday in April).
Also worth noting: Monday’s Lakers-Warriors game will be an opportunity for fans to interact with NBA referees standing by on Twitter to answer questions. Fans can tweet @OfficialNBARefs or use the hashtag #RefWatchParty to rattle their cages.
The rest of the Lakers’ schedule this week:
* At Staples Center vs. Minnesota, Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet and TNT
* At Staples Center vs. Phoenix, Sunday at 6:30 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet
As for the Clippers, three games on the road could be problematic before coming home.
The Clippers this week:
* At Dallas, Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., Prime Ticket
* At Miami, Wednesday at 4:30 p.m., Prime Ticket
* At Chicago, Friday at 5 p.m., Prime Ticket
* At Staples Center vs. Sacramento, Sunday at 12:30 p.m., Prime Ticket
Also on MLK Day:
* Oklahoma City at New York, 9:30 a.m., NBATV
* Orlando at Atlanta, noon, NBATV
* New Orleans at Memphis, 2:30 p.m., TNT
* Houston at Philadelphia, 5 p.m., TNT
Yup, we’ll call it already dire time for UCLA and USC basketball, both 10-8 overall and 3-2 in the Pac-12 Conference with 13 left to play before the conference tournament. USC’s 80-67 win over UCLA at the Galen Center saw the return of Bennie “Buckets” Boatwright in a 21-point effort, which means he 149 points in his last seven games for a 21.3 point-per-game average, including a career best 37 at Oregon State.
One of the last ways for either program to alert anyone still engaged in their wellbeing as far as participation in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament has to show some life this weekend when Arizona (14-5, 5-1) and Arizona State (13-5, 4-2) come to L.A. for the one and only meeting of the schools that still have some juice in the national rankings mix (even as the Pac-12 still has no one in the Top 25).
The meetings align this way:
* Arizona at USC, Galen Center, 6 p.m., FS1
* Arizona State at UCLA, Pauley Pavilion, 8 p.m., FS1
* Arizona State at USC, Galen Center, 5 p.m., ESPN2
* Arizona at UCLA, Pauley Pavilion, 7 p.m., ESPN2
The latest sniff we’ve got from an ESPN bracket expert is just two Pac-12 teams get in, with Washington as the No. 10 seed, and Arizona as a No. 11 having to do a play-in game.
Also in Southern California:
* Loyola Marymount at San Diego, Thursday at 7 p.m.; at Santa Clara, Saturday at 6 p.m.
* Pepperdine vs. Saint Mary’s, Firestone Fieldhouse, Saturday at 5 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet
* Cal State Northridge vs. Long Beach State, at the Matadome, Wednesday at 7 p.m., ESPN3
* Long Beach State vs. Santa Barbara, Walter Pyramid, 7 p.m., ESPN3
Games of national interest:
* Monday: Maryland at Michigan State, 3:30 p.m., FS1; Virginia Tech at North Carolina, 4 p.m., ESPN; Iowa State at Kansas, 6 p.m., ESPN
* Tuesday: Mississippi State at Kentucky, 4 p.m. ESPN; Villanova at Butler, 4 p.m., FS1; Auburn at South Carolina, 3:30 p.m., SEC Network; Minnesota at Michigan, 4 p.m., Big Ten Net; Clemson at Florida State, 4 p.m., ESPNU; Duke at Pittsburgh, 6 p.m., ESPN; Wake Forest at Virginia, 6 p.m., ACC Network
* Wednesday: Tennessee at Vanderbilt, 4 p.m., ESPN2; DePaul at Marquette, 5:30 p.m., FS1; Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, 6 p.m., ESPNU; Colorado State at Nevada, 8 p.m., CBSSN
* Thursday: Michigan State at Iowa, 4 p.m., FS1; Washington at Oregon, 6 p.m., ESPN2; Utah at Stanford, 6 p.m., Pac 12 Net; Gonzaga at Santa Clara, 8 p.m.; Washington State at Oregon State, 8 p.m., Pac 12 Net; Saint Mary’s at BYU, 8 p.m., ESPN2
* Friday: Michigan at Indiana, 3:30 p.m., FS1
* Saturday: Georgia Tech at Duke, 9 a.m., ACC Network; Virginia at Notre Dame, 10 a.m., Channel 2; Marquette at Xavier, 11 a.m., FS1; Washington at Oregon State, 1 p.m., Pac 12 Net; Kansas at Kentucky, 3 p.m., ESPN; Syracuse at Virginia Tech, 5 p.m., ESPN2; UNLV at San Diego State, 5 p.m., CBSSN; Colorado at Stanford, 5 p.m., Pac 12 Net; Auburn at Mississippi State, 5:30 p.m., SEC Network; Utah at Cal, 7 p.m., ESPNU
* Sunday: Georgetown at St. John’s, 9 a.m., Channel 11; DePaul at Providence, 9 a.m., FS1; Michigan State at Purdue, 10 a.m., Channel 2; Seton Hall at Villanova, 11:30 a.m., Channel 11; Iowa at Minnesota, 2 p.m., FS1; Florida State at Miami, 3 p.m., ESPNU; Washington State at Oregon, 5 p.m., ESPNU
It’s not like everyone is begging to see a Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson reunion in the weeks after their interesting – if that’s the right word for it – pay-per-view match in Las Vegas over Thanksgiving holiday, which saw Lefty pocked $9 million in sponsor money (and perhaps funnel some of that back to Tiger in some kind of gentleman’s agreement?) While Woods agreed to make the PGA Tour’s Farmers Open at Torrey Pines for his first event of 2019, Mickelson is skipping it, ending a 28-year run at what’s known as his hometown event.
Woods has won seven PGA events on the public-course cliffs of La Jolla, plus the 2008 U.S. Open – his last major victory. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Woods’ first pro victory at Torrey Pines in 1999. He was a freshly turned 23-year-old and came from eight shots back heading into the weekend, on the strength of a third-round 61 on the South, to notch his eighth tour win. Currently ranked 12th in the world, Woods will make his first official tour start since one of the most memorable wins, a final-round 71 to win the Tour Championship last September in Atlanta. It was the 80th win of Woods’ career, putting him two shy of Sam Snead’s all-time tour record for victories.
The TV schedule: Golf Channel has Thursday and Friday at noon. KCBS-Channel 2 has Saturday and Sunday at noon.
The Frances Tiafoe comparisons to LeBron James keeps our interest in the Australian Open as it starts it second week and the just-turned-21-year-old U.S. player remains alive. After knocking out Grigor Dimitrov 7-5, 7-6 (6), 6-7 (1), 7-5 on Sunday, Tiafoe celebrated advancing to his first Grand Slam quarterfinal by slapping his biceps and chest and ripping his shirt off in a very LeBron-like way. Just as he did in his previous victory. Next up in the quarters: No. 2 Rafael Nadal, in a matchup that should take place at 4 p.m. Monday U.S. time./Tuesday in Australia (ESPN2).
Ranked 39th, he had never advanced past the third round of a major. Nadal has 17 major championships. The two have never met on the court.
“He’s going to run me like crazy,” Tiafoe said. “He better get ready.”
To keep this thing moving, the Australian Open always throw us for a loop as a TV sport. It plays out:
* Quarterfinals continue Tuesday (6 p.m. to 3 a.m. Wednesday)
* The women’s semifinals air Wednesday night (7 p.m., ESPN2).
* The men’s semifinals are early Thursday and early Friday (ESPN, both at 12:30 a.m., replayed at 11 a.m. on ESPN2 later that morning)
* The women’s final is early Saturday at 12:30 a.m. on ESPN (replayed at 6 a.m. on ESPN2)
* The men’s final is early Sunday at 12:30 a.m. on ESPN (replayed at 7 a.m. on ESPN2)
Does it smell like baseball yet? Kinda.
Tuesday, the Baseball Hall of Fame will announce the finishing touches to the Class of 2019 (3 p.m., MLB Network). The prime candidates from the first-year eligible group: Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Todd Helton and Andy Pettitte. Those still on the ballot who could get enough push over the top with the 75 percent requirement: Edgar Martinez (70.4 percent last year and back for his 10th and final appearance on the BBWAA ballot) and Mike Mussina (63.5 percent in 2018). The subplot is also monitoring any progress by Barry Bonds (56.4 percent last year, now in his seventh year of consideration), Curt Schilling (51.2 percent, in is sixth year) and Roger Clemens (57.3 percent, in his seventh year), along with Manny Ramirez, Sammy Sosa, Gary Sheffield, Larry Walker, Omar Vizquel, Fred McGriff, Billy Wagner and Scott Rolen. Last month, the Hall’s special committee announced Lee Smith and Harold Baines would be included in the June, 2019 induction ceremony. Does all the debating about who “should” be in and who “doesn’t deserve” the honor kind of dampen things? We’re leaning that way these days.
Add to that: The Dodgers and Angels have an annual off-season event that they decide to lable differently. The Dodger Stadium 10 a.m.-to-4 p.m. deal is a “FanFest” offering a lot of player appearances, autographs, interactive games, music and food. It’s free, but a ticket is required. The info: https://www.mlb.com/dodgers/tickets/events/fanfest
The Angels’ “Moving Day” (sponsored by a freight delivery company) is a little more scaled back (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), and highlighted by a “yard sale” of game-used equipment to benefit the Angels Baseball Foundation. The info: https://www.mlb.com/angels/community/moving-day
- During the week between the divisional finals and the Rams’ appearance in the Super Bowl, the NFL still decides to put on a Pro Bowl (Sunday in Orlando, Fla., noon, ESPN and Channel 7). The AFC is coached by the Chargers’ Anthony Lynn and seven of his players on the roster, including Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen.
- This is also the time for the NHL to stage its All-Star Game, this time in San Jose with the same quirky format: Four teams of players from each division, playing in a 4-on-4 OT format, with a championship round after the two prelims (5 p.m., Saturday, Channel 4). The Kings have Drew Doughty as its lone representative, with Ducks goalie John Gibson, for the Pacific Division team captained by the Oilers’ Connor McDavid.
Also this week for the Kings:
At Staples Center vs. St. Louis, Monday at 1 p.m., NBCSN
Also this week for the Ducks:
At Honda Center vs. St. Louis, Wednesday at 7 p.m., Fox Sports West
- UFC 233 was a planned mixed martial arts event that was re-scheduled to be held by the Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday at the Honda Center but, back on Dec. 12, it was postponed and would be rescheduled for a later date