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PRO BASKETBALL—ABA: The Kentucky Colonels brought pro basketball back to Cincinnati as part of their agreement to make that city their sometime hometown, but nothing good came of it. The Colonels were thrashed 139-110 by second-place Carolina, the only team that has been able to beat them this year, as Billy Cunningham forced league high scorer Dan Issel to go to the pivot for most of his 22 points. Kentucky and Issel (31 points) rebounded 111-107 against Virginia, but the Colonels had to rally from an 11-point deficit. New York held a team meeting and set a goal of winning four of their remaining five games on the current road trip. Then they went out and lost to San Diego 107-105. Both teams remained at the bottom of their divisions. Indiana and Utah swapped places on top when the Stars beat the Pacers 105-100. Indiana was without Coach Bobby Leonard, who was suspended for two days by ABA Commissioner Mike Storen for throwing a ball rack at an official during the Pacer-Carolina game Wednesday. Denver kept pace with the leaders by downing San Antonio 88-78.
NBA: Last-place Philadelphia shocked the New York Knicks 94-91 for its fourth victory, a level the 76ers didn't reach until Jan. 7 last season. Fred Carter scored eight of his 28 points as the 76ers came from nine points down with 8:18 left. The Knicks bounced back to beat Cleveland 100-90, but then everybody is beating the Cavaliers this year. Boston beat Detroit 102-97 for its sixth straight victory and marched to a three-game lead over the Knicks in the East. Capital began a rush on first-place Atlanta in the Central Division with three wins in as many games. The Milwaukee and Chicago winning streaks each reached 11 games in the Midwest Division, but just barely. The Bucks squeezed past Kansas City- Omaha 84-83 when their defense harried rookie Ron Behagen into a desperation shot with eight seconds left. Chicago survived a 112-111 scare from Golden State, then beat Portland 106-104 on Jerry Sloan's off-balance jumper with six seconds to play. The Trail Blazers had previously won their third straight, and kept close behind Los Angeles in the Pacific (page 92).
PRO FOOTBALL—In MINNESOTA, Linebacker Wally Hilgenberg walked into the end zone with a muffed DETROIT punt, Fran Tarkenton passed for 177 yards (142 of those in the second half) and Bill Brown rushed for 101 yards and one touchdown in the course of the undefeated Purple Gang's 28-7 win. The WASHINGTON defense held SAN FRANCISCO to three Bruce Gossett field goals in a 33-9 rout. Sonny Jurgensen passed for one touchdown and Billy Kilmer connected for two more as Washington remained tied with DALLAS atop the NFC East. Dallas Linebacker Lee Roy Jordan intercepted one NEW YORK pass and Cornerback Charlie Waters intercepted two more and recovered a fumble to halt a Giant threat as the Cowboys hung on for a surprisingly tough 23-10 victory. ATLANTA got things together with the score 20-20 after three quarters and went on to whip PHILADELPHIA 44-27 for its fifth straight win. The Falcons remain one game behind division leader LOS ANGELES, which beat NEW ORLEANS 29-7. The Jets smothered Jim Plunkett, the AFC's fourth leading passer, and John Riggins and Emerson Boozer combined for 175 yards and two touchdowns as NEW YORK downed NEW ENGLAND 33-13. GREEN BAY held off a fourth-quarter ST. LOUIS charge and won 25-21 from the Cardinals. The Pack's John Brockington ran for 137 yards. DENVER rallied to beat SAN DIEGO 30-19 and began to crowd Oakland in the AFC West.
At BUFFALO, Cincinnati's Horst Muhlmann hit on his third field goal, a 33-yarder, with no time left to lift the Bengals over the Bills 16-13. O.J. Simpson carried 20 times for 99 yards. CLEVELAND broke HOUSTON's one-game win streak 23-13 and remained a half game ahead of CINCINNATI in second place. Greg Pruitt, who grew up in Houston, ran 53 yards for one Browns score. PITTSBURGH'S defense decisively outmuscled OAKLAND 17-9. Defensive End Dwight White set up the first Steeler score by intercepting a Daryle Lamonica pass; Safety Mike Wagner's fumble recovery on the Oakland eight led to the second Pittsburgh touchdown; and Cornerback Mel Blount intercepted a pass in the end zone to preserve a 14-3 lead in the third quarter, as the Steelers allowed the Raiders only one touchdown and a George Blanda field goal.
HARNESS RACING—INVINCIBLE SHADOW ($13), driven by Jimmy Miller, won the $114,100 American Pacing Classic at Hollywood Park by three-quarters of a length over long shots El Patron and Jefferson. Prerace favorites Armbro Nesbit and Sir Dalrae finished fifth and sixth respectively.
HOCKEY—WHA: Edmonton surged to a seven-point lead in the West Division behind some pretty impressive surging by Ron Climie. Climie scored five goals in the 8-0 rout of New York, then accounted for the winning tally in a 4-3 decision over Quebec. New England lost 6-3 to the Oilers, who registered their ninth straight victory. Inspired by the acrobatics of Goalie John Garrett, Minnesota meanwhile climbed into second with a 3-1 win over cellar-dweller Vancouver. Two days earlier the Fighting Saints had been blessed by the play of another goaltender, Jim McLeod of New York, who let in four of Minnesota's first eight shots. After the 10-1 rout was over, Saint Coach Harry Neale said of McLeod, "Tonight he couldn't stop a football, much less a hockey puck." Vancouver lost its 10th straight, 8-3 to Houston, despite Danny Lawson's two goals. Frank Hughes, the WHA goal leader, scored his 13th and 14th of the season for the Aeros. Chicago powered past Toronto 3-2 for the Cougars' sixth win in a row as they drove into a tie for second in the East behind New England. The Whalers set three team scoring records in their 9-2 win over Winnipeg, but lost to Edmonton later in the week.
NHL: Detroit's Ted Garvin suffered "the fate of every coach who doesn't win." He was fired after the Red Wings had stumbled to a 2-9-1 record. Alex Delvecchio, a 22-year veteran of the NHL, took over and the Wings immediately responded with a 4-2 win over Minnesota. Montreal moved into first when Defenseman Guy Lapointe scored one goal and assisted on two others in a 4-1 conquest of Toronto. A night later the Canadiens relinquished the East lead to Boston (page 32). Montreal superscout Claude Ruel had unwittingly fired up the Bruins by criticizing their lack of depth. Boston Coach Bep Guidolin had the last word after the 2-1 Bruin win: "I reminded our guys of this between every period, and Dave Forbes got the winner. He's our 10th man, you know. Maybe I should remind Ruel of that." The Rangers broke out of their seven-game winless slump by thrashing the Bruins 7-3. The Ranger resurgence was stalled by Atlanta, which came from three goals down to tie New York 3-3. Rookie Tom Lysiak scored two of the three comeback goals and added an assist. The Flames tied Pittsburgh next day to stay even with Philadelphia at the top of the West.
HORSE RACING—DAHLIA ($11.20) of France became the first filly to win the $150,000 Washington D.C. International at Laurel, Md. (page 98). Ridden by Bill Pyers, the 3-year-old finished more than three lengths ahead of Big Spruce in the field of eight.