BASKETBALL—NBA: In the East, the Knicks slowed up, but not enough to matter as their lead over Baltimore held at 7� games, while in the West Atlanta won four out of seven to take a 6�-game lead. There was one other feat of note: despite a 127-116 loss to Phoenix—the first time the Suns ever beat them—the World Champion Boston Celtics rose from the cellar to sixth place.
ABA: Los Angeles moved into third in the West with five wins, two losses. The Stars' best win, 105-101 over Kentucky on Christmas, came when Merv Jackson hit a three-pointer with 1:58 remaining to tie the Colonels, and Mack Calvin sank four straight free throws. In the East, Indiana went 5-0. One of the Pacers' victories wrecked the return of Rick Barry, who had missed 32 games with a knee injury. Barry went three for six from the foul line and scored one field goal in a brief but encouraging performance as Washington lost 118-113.
NBA—East: New York (4-2), Baltimore (4-1), Milwaukee (5-1), Philadelphia (4-4), Cincinnati (4-3), Boston (4-4), Detroit (1-5). West: Atlanta (4-3), San Francisco (3-4), Chicago (1-5), Los Angeles (3-2), Phoenix (1-4), San Diego (5-3), Seattle (3-5).
ABA—East: Indiana (5-0), Kentucky (5-3), Carolina (l-5), Pittsburgh (2-3), New York (0-7), Miami (2-4). West: New Orleans (3-1), Washington (4-4), Los Angeles (5-2), Dallas (1-3), Denver (5-1).
FOOTBALL—College: Six traditional bowl and all-star games were played during the Christmas holiday. Big Eight co-champion NEBRASKA, led by Paul Rogers, who kicked four field goals in the first quarter, tore into a surprisingly inept Georgia team and won 45-6 in the Sun Bowl at El Paso, Texas. Mid-American Conference Champion TOLEDO made it 11 wins for the year with a 56-33 rout of Davidson as NCAA extra-point record holder Ken Crots kicked eight straight. FLORIDA, which finished fourth in the Southeastern Conference to Tennessee's first, showed unexpected defensive strength in beating the Vols 14-13 in the Gator Bowl. John Reaves passed to End Carlos Alvarez for one touchdown, with the Gators' other score coming on a runback of a blocked punt by Mike Kelley. In the North-South Game in Miami, the NORTH, coached by Purdue's Jack Mollenkopf and led by Rutgers' Bruce Van Ness, won 31-10. In Montgomery, Ala. the Blue and Gray fought to a 6-6 tie and in San Francisco's East-West Shrine Game the WEST, led by Dennis Shaw of San Diego State, scored all its 15 points in the fourth quarter to beat the scoreless East.
AFL: Jim Turner and Jan Stenerud each kicked two field goals, but Stenerud also had a shot at an extra point when Gloster Richardson caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Len Dawson, and that was the difference as KANSAS CITY won over New York 13-6 in the Eastern playoff at Shea Stadium. On the other coast Daryle Lamonica (page 36) connected on six touchdown passes as OAKLAND rolled over Houston for the Western title 56—7.
NFL: The regular season ended on a quiet note, with all the division winners long settled. Green Bay beat St. Louis 45-28 on five touchdown passes by Don Horn. San Francisco downed Philadelphia 14-13 when the Eagles failed on a PAT for a first-period touchdown. Lou Michaels' two field goals for Baltimore helped spoil Los Angeles' last game 13-7. New Orleans, behind 14-0 in the first quarter, beat Pittsburgh 27-24, Dallas scraped past Washington 20-10 and Detroit rubbed poor controversy-ridden Chicago into the Wrigley Field turf 20-3 for the Bears' worst season in their 50-year history. New York, getting its third straight win, topped Cleveland 27-14 at Yankee Stadium. Norm Van Brocklin got some revenge over his old Vikings as Minnesota fell to the Atlanta Falcons 10-3. Then in the playoffs (page 10) MINNESOTA beat the Rams 23-20 for the Western Conference title, and CLEVELAND walloped Dallas 38-14 for the Eastern championship.
NFL—East: Century—Cleveland (10-3-1), New York (6-8), St. Louis (4-9-1), Pittsburgh (1-13). Capitol—Dallas (11-2-1), Washington (7-5-2), New Orleans (5-9), Philadelphia (4-9-1). West: Central—Minnesota (12-2), Detroit (9-4-1), Green Bay (8-6). Chicago (1-13). Coastal—Los Angeles (11-3), Baltimore (8-5-1), Atlanta (6-8), San Francisco (4-8-2).
HOCKEY—NHL: There were few changes in the standings in two weeks, but Montreal dropped to third and Pittsburgh fell into fourth place behind Philadelphia. The Penguins, however, dropped with flair. Their lone win was against the New York Rangers 3-2, their first ever at Madison Square Garden. It was also the Rangers' first loss to a West Division team this season. "We were checking like hang," said clean-spoken Pittsburgh Coach Red Kelly in explaining the victory. Chicago's rookie Goalie Tony Esposito scored three shutouts, upping his total to seven, as the Black Hawks went 4-0-2 and moved into a tie with Detroit for fourth.
NHL—East: New York (2-2-1), Boston (3-1-1), Montreal (2-2-2), Detroit (2-2-1), Chicago (4-0-2), Toronto (4-2-0). West: St. Louis (4-2-1), Minnesota (0-3-3), Philadelphia (2-2-2), Pittsburgh (1-5-0), Oakland (2-3-0), Los Angeles (1-2-2).