Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:
THIS WEEK’S BEST BET
NHRA: Winternationals at Pomona, beginning Thursday, ESPN2 has the Sunday final, 4:30 p.m.
In physics, a force is any influence that causes an object to undergo a change in speed, a change in direction or a change in shape. On a drag strip, a Force is anything that gets behind a steering wheel and hits the gas pedal, changing the direction of any race. And any offspring of John Force is bound to force change. This time, it’s 23-year-old Courtney, joining her father’s Funny Car team after two years racing alcohol fuel dragsters. With sister Ashley Force Hood taking her through the last test drives, Courtney,who now has her communications degree from Cal State Fullerton, will debut at Auto Club Speedway with teammates Robert “Top Gun” Hight, 2011 regular-season champ Mike Neff and her pops. “I’m excited to finally be getting ready for my first professional race,” she said. “This is what I’ve always wanted to do and to have had my sister Ashley, my dad, brother-in-law (Hight, married to oldest sister Adria) and Mike Neff teach me, makes it that much better. I have had the best teachers.” Boy oh boy, we remember Courtney back when she was just 17, back on the A&E reality show “Driving Force” with her dad, mom and sisters, making the Kardashians look almost normal. If they ever wanted to revive the program — and there’s talk of that happening again — Courtney could be the star of the bunch.
NBA: Lakers at Philadelphia, 4 p.m., Channel 9:
True enough, Jrue Holiday has been a focal point of the 76ers’ resurgence lately — the Atlantic Division leaders are 12-3 at home, including a 16-point victory over Chicago, but also coming off a 20-point loss to Miami. The former UCLA and Campbell Hall standout had a career-best 24 points to go with five assists and five steals in a recent win over Milwaukee. “I thought it was his best game,” 76ers head coach Doug Collins said. “I thought it was his liveliest game on both ends of the floor.” Holiday says his comfort level has come from the fact he has “slowed down and let the game come to me. … I’m reading the game better. I’m reading the teams we play against. We have good scouting reports. It really carries over in the games.” The Sixers are defeating teams by a league-best 10.3 points a game — no other squad is in double digits. And they are No. 1 in allowing just 86.5 points game. Meanwhile, in his home town, Kobe Bryant should pass Shaquille O’Neal as the No. 4 all-time leading scorer, needing 23 points (and lapping his former teammate in 79 fewer games)
NBA: Clippers at Orlando, 4 p.m., FSW:
Seriously, how many lob-points in the paint will Dwight Howard allow? DeAndre Jordan may be tied for the league lead with 3.0 swats a game, but Howard, the league’s three-time defending defensive player of the year, won’t be screened out of the competition. He had eight against Cleveland last Friday night — two more would have given him a triple-double night.
NHL: Kings at Tampa Bay, 4:30 p.m., NBC Sports Channel:
Back-to-back losses in regulation a first under Darryl Sutter’s watch, so the first two games of the Grammy trip are already stressful — despite giving up a total of three goals. The Kings have scored only one 5-on-5 goal in nine periods since they returned from the All-Star break, while three of their four goals in the last three games have been scored on the power play. Rich Hammond at KingsInsider.com wrote recently that the Kings seem to have “the scoring ability of a Scrabble player with four ‘Z” tiles sitting in front of him.”
NBA: Clippers at Cleveland, 4 p.m., FSW:
The Cavs first have to play a game Tuesday in Miami before meeting up with the Clippers. Good luck with that. The Clippers should have Kenyon Martin on the roster activated by this one.
NBA: Lakers at Boston, 5 p.m., TNT:
Paul Pierce, the 34 year old wearing No. 34, started the week needing nine points to pass Larry Bird for the No. 2 spot on the Celtics’ all-time scoring list, and it should be a done deal before this game (the Celtics face Charlotte on Tuesday before this). Sure, he needed almost 100 more games to get to Bird’s 21,791. And the former Inglewood High star likely won’t catch No. 1 John Havlicek. But the Celtics, winning eight of their last nine at the end of last week, more focused on pulling their old guys together. That includes point guard Rajon Rondo, finally back after missing a few games with a bad wrist and giving away 14 assists in their last win over Memphis. Last season, in the middle of their Grammy road trip, the Lakers wore their retro home unis, got Ray Allen in foul trouble, pounded it inside and won at Boston, 92-86.
College basketball: UCLA vs. Stanford, L.A. Sports Arena, 8 p.m., FSW; USC vs. Cal, Galen Center, 7:30 p.m.:
Lazeric Jones scored a career-high 26 points, but had a potential go-ahead jumper with three seconds remaining blocked by Josh Huestis when UCLA lost to Stanford, 60-59, in the Pac-12 opener back in late December. Bruins center Josh Smith, who seems to be rounding into form lately, had just 10 points in 20 minutes before fouling out of that one. Meanwhile, Cal pulled out a 53-49 win over the Trojans in their first meeting.
NHL: Kings at Florida, 4:30 p.m., FSW:
The Kings escaped with a 2-1 win against the Panthers when they met at Staples Center on Dec. 1, thanks to six penalty kills and Jonathan Quick’s 41 saves. Florida is 0-7 against the Kings since Nov. 27, 2002. The Kings lead the Western Conference with 10 overtime losses; Florida lead all of the NHL with 11.
The Associated Press
Bill Murray, center, jokes with CBS’ Ian Baker-Finch on the 18th green about his shoes as D.A. Points, left, looks on during the trophy presentation last year.
Golf: PGA AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, first round, Golf Channel, noon:
The “Cinderella Story” came true last year. Bill Murray and pro partner D.A. Points captured the team title, as Points got his first PGA Tour title with a two-shot victory. “To win at Pebble Beach … and with Bill Murray? My gosh, I don’t think I could ever have dream it up that well,” said Points, who came from two shots down in the final round, capped by a 110-yard eagle chip to take the lead on the par-5 14th. Murray and Points finished at 35-under 251. Murray returns to the amateur field this year with George Lopez, Ray Romano, Chris O’Donnell, Josh Duhamel, Don Cheadle, Andy Garcia, Bill Belichick, Tony Romo, Bob Stoops and Jim Harbaugh. CBS has the final two rounds Saturday and Sunday.
NBA: Lakers at New York, 5 p.m., Channel 9, ESPN:
Knicks center Tyson Chandler (far left, with Mike Bibby and Carmelo Anthony) won a title last year in Dallas. So that makes him an expert in these things. He recently said that despite New York’s sub-.500 performance, “in all honestly, I still feel like this is a team that can win a championship. I feel like we definitely have the pieces. I feel like we haven’t come together yet. It’s a process … I feel like guys are going to have to step up and play roles that they are not necessarily used to. We get everybody back healthy, we get everybody on the floor at one time, then we’ll see what we got.” They’ve got a big, expensive mess to this point, 9-15 through the end of last week. If Spike Lee’s in the building, it’s to see how Kobe Bryant performs. The Lakers won, 113-96, at MSG last year, with Kobe hitting 33 in just three quarters.
NBA: Clippers at Philadelphia, 4 p.m., FSW:
Whatever happened to Elton Brand? He’s still playing, averaging a mere 10 points and six rebounds a contest. A far cry from his Clipper hey days.
NBA: Clippers at Charlotte, 4 p.m., Prime:
The Bobcats came into this week on an 11-game losing streak, a meager 2-8 at home, and they’ve got to face Boston and Chicago before this one.
College basketball: UCLA vs. Cal, L.A. Sports Arena, 1 p.m., Prime:
The Bruins’ 85-69 loss at Cal on New Year’s Eve was their most lopsided defeat in the series since a 92-63 loss on Feb. 1, 2001. Tyler Lamb managed to score 26 points against Cal last time.
NHL: Kings at N.Y. Islanders, 10 a.m., FSW:
The Isles announced last week that they’re going to take on the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 2, 2012 for a preseason game to help open the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn — the first NHL game to ever be played in the borough of the former Dodgers. That’s nice and all. But for this one, the Kings are going to have to sail over to Long Island.
NBA: Lakers at Toronto, 10 a.m., Channel 9:
Why aren’t the Raptors extinct yet? See what kind of trouble Metta World Peace has with his passport getting back and forth across the Canadian border.
College basketball: USC vs. Stanford, Galen Center, 4:30 p.m., FSW:
Aaron Bright scored seven of his game-high 16 points in the final 4:43 of play to help Stanford win 51-43 in their first meeting against the Trojans.
NHL: Kings at Dallas, 3 p.m., FSW:
It’s the last time they’ll face each other this year — the Stars have captured the last three meetings after the Kings took the first two.
Series: “Full Metal Jousting,” 10 p.m., History Channel:
The next step toward real gladiator fights is this historic reality series that takes place in Mississippi. Maybe because the state athletic commission didn’t need to approve it. This 16-rider, $100,000 tournament might look like something out of a Renaissance Festival/Medieval Times, except, as one rider says: “It ain’t no dinner show.”