PRO BASKETBALL—The division leaders held their positions, but there was some shuffling beneath them. Philadelphia, which had been playing mediocre .500 ball, went on the biggest tear, winning all six of its games. The 76ers jumped over New Jersey and Washington into second place in the Atlantic but remained 4� games behind slumping Boston, which went 2-3. The 76ers' Charles Barkley scored a career-high 31 points in a 126-108 win over the Rockets. Philly is the shortest team in the NBA, averaging only 6'6", but 6'6" Barkley and 6'10" Moses Malone have averaged a combined 21.8 rebounds per game, second only to the 23.8 of Houston twin towers Ralph Sampson and Akeem Olajuwon. "When we rebound well," says Sixers coach Matt Guokas, "everything else falls into place." The Knicks were also relatively hot, winning four of seven games. In Patrick Ewing's first confrontation with Laker center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the rookie outscored the 17-year veteran 28-26 but the Knicks still lost 105-99. On Christmas Day, New York rallied from 25 points down to top Boston 113-104 in double overtime but temporarily lost Ewing, who suffered a jammed right knee during his 32-point performance. In the Central Division, Atlanta won three of five games and overlook Detroit but remained 4� games behind leader Milwaukee. Chicago also won three of five but found out it would have to wait three more weeks for the return of Michael Jordan, who's out with a broken left foot. Houston still leads the Midwest by one game, but San Antonio is closing fast. The Spurs, who jumped from fourth to second in the division, stopped the Lakers 109-91. Despite the loss, only their fourth of the season against 25 wins, the Lakers hold the league's most comfortable division lead, eight games over Portland.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL—Maryland topped Syracuse 35-18 in the second Cherry Bowl; Minnesota defeated Clemson 20-13 in the Independence Bowl; Arkansas edged Arizona State 18-17 in the Holiday Bowl; Baylor upset LSU 21-7 in the 27th Liberty Bowl; Georgia and Arizona tied 13-13 in the Sun Bowl; Ohio State stopped Brigham Young 10-7 in the Florida Citrus Bowl; and Alabama beat Southern Cal 24-3 in the Aloha Bowl. In the Division l-AA national championship, Georgia Southern rallied to beat Furman 44-42.
PRO FOOTBALL—Going into the last week of the NFL regular season, nine teams were vying for the final six playoff berths. In a Monday night game, New England, which had lost 17 straight in the Orange Bowl, dropped another, the Dolphins winning 30-27 on Faud Reveiz's 47-yard field goal with 4:27 remaining. The defeat denied the Patriots the conference title but they earned a wild card berth later in the week by beating Cincinnati 34-23. The Dolphins, however, didn't win the AFC East until they whipped Buffalo 28-0. Denver beat Seattle 27-24, but despite an 11-5 record, the Broncos didn't make the playoffs. The Giants beat Pittsburgh 28-10 and won a wild-card spot as little Joe Morris ran for a big 202 yards. The win assured the Giants their best season, 10-6, since the Y.A. Tittle era of the early '60s. The Giants' victory also clinched the AFC Central for Cleveland, which suffered a meaningless—for the Browns—37-10 loss to the Jets. "We didn't play one of our better games," said Browns linebacker Tom Cousineau, "but let's just say the cloud over our heads is not 100 dark." Cleveland's 8-8 record is the worst of any playoff team ever. The win earned the Jets an AFC wild-card berth. Washington, with George Rogers rushing for 206 yards, beat St. Louis 27-16, temporarily keeping the Skins' playoff hopes alive and relieving Cardinals coach Jim Hanifan and his entire staff of their jobs. San Francisco later grabbed the Redskins' wild-card spot by rallying from a 13-point deficit to beat NFC East champ Dallas 31-16. NFC Central winner Chicago beat Detroit 37-17 and finished with only one loss in 16 games. Kansas City's Stephone Paige had eight catches for 309 yards in a 38-34 win over San Diego to break the 40-year-old record of 303 yards of the Cleveland Rams' Jim Benton. Marcus Allen of the AFC West champion Raiders rushed for 123 yards in a 16-6 victory over the NFC West champion Rams, giving him 2.314 for the season, 209 more than Eric Dickerson's year-old record. In games that decided who gets to choose earliest in the college draft—Tampa Bay will have the No. 1 choice—Atlanta outlasted New Orleans 16-10, Philadelphia avenged an earlier loss to the Vikings 37-35, Indianapolis squeaked by the Oilers 34-16 and Green Bay topped the Bucs 20-17. In last weekend's wildcard playoffs, New England dominated the Jets 26-14 and the Giants beat defending Super Bowl champion San Francisco 17-3 (page 10).
HOCKEY—"It doesn't mean I'm better," said the Islanders' Denis Potvin after he passed Bobby Orr to become the highest-scoring defenseman in NHL history, "just that I got more points." Potvin surpassed Orr's mark of 915 points with an assist in a 2-2 overtime game against the Rangers and had 920 career points (267 goals and 653 assists). That, however, was one of the few bright spots for the lackluster Isles, who are buried in the middle of the Patrick, 19 points behind division-leading Philly. Likewise, the Rangers have won three of their last six. During a game against Buffalo, a stairwell fire broke out at Madison Square Garden, but it was mainly the Rangers who got smoked, losing 5-4 to the Sabres. In the Adams, Montreal won four of five games to take over the division lead from Quebec, which lost four of five and fell to fourth behind Hartford. In the Norris Division, St. Louis remained on top, two points ahead of Chicago. Smythe-leading Edmonton, which had lost only one of its previous 16 games, was slopped by Washington 5-2 and by Al Jensen's 38 saves (page 18). The Oilers also fell victim to the Central Red Army, 6-3, one of two Soviet Union teams currently making an NHL tour.
INDOOR SOCCER—Minnesota, tops in the East, remained the MISL's winningest team, at 12-6. Cleveland moved into second place, past Baltimore and Pittsburgh, both at 8-8. In (he West, Wichita stayed half a game ahead of defending champion San Diego, which won three of its last four games.
TENNIS—Sweden won its second straight Davis Cup title by defeating West Germany 3-2 in Munich.
VOLLEYBALL—Pacific upset Stanford 15-17, 15-7, 15-12, 15-13 to win the NCAA women's title in Kalamazoo, Mich.
MILEPOSTS—ARRESTED: On charges of distribution and possession of prescription drugs, JACK HARKNESS, former assistant strength coach at Clemson. Harkness, who had returned home to Canada in December 1984 during a South Carolina stale investigation into possible illicit dispensation of anabolic steroids to athletes, was apprehended when he returned to Pittsburgh for the holidays.
FIRED: By St. Louis Cardinal owner William V. Bidwill, coach JIM HANIFAN and his staff after a 5-11 season. Hanifan had a six-year record of 39-49-1.
By the Philadelphia Eagles, MARION CAMPBELL, who had a 17-29-1 record in three seasons.