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PRO BASKETBALL—Cleveland figured it got itself playoff insurance by trading Forward Rowland Garrett and a first-round draft choice for Elmore Smith and Gary Brokaw of Milwaukee, but it was the present that needed some help. The Cavs opened the week by losing to Los Angeles, to Denver by 20 points and were beaten by Phoenix 94-79. Still, Cleveland remained only percentage points behind Houston in the battle for the Central Division lead. Houston ended a four-game losing skid by beating Milwaukee 111-84 and the Lakers 122-116. Washington crept closer to the front-runners by whipping Portland 113-107, its eighth victory in 10 games. The defeat by the Bullets was Portland's only loss of the week, as the Trail Blazers walloped the New York Knicks 131-111 and spoiled the return of Dave Cowens in Boston 107-92 (page 22). Denver ran its record to 28-12, the best in the league, and improved its home-court mark to 21-1 with the 116-96 victory over Cleveland. Kansas City lost a pair to Philadelphia, but beat Golden State in the final two minutes, coming from 10 points behind for a 116-114 win. The New York Nets dropped their ninth straight game, losing to Atlanta 120-101 in front of only 1,404 spectators at Nassau Coliseum. By winning all three of its games, the Philadelphia 76ers remained the only Atlantic Division team above .500 and opened a 4�-game lead over the Boston Celtics.
BOXING—SAENSAK MUANGSURIN of Thailand retained his World Boxing Council junior welterweight title with a technical knockout of Monroe Brooks of Los Angeles in the 15th round of their bout in Chiangmai, Thailand.
Jane Blalock won the $50,000 Colgate Triple Crown in Palm Springs, defeating Donna Caponi Young by one stroke for the $15,000 first prize. Young missed a birdie putt on the final hole that would have given her a tie with Blalock, who finished with a one-under-par 143 for 36 holes.
HARNESS RACING—By taking his eighth North American driving championship in 1976 Herv� Filion has now won more national titles than any driver in the history of the sport. His 445 victories—98 more than runner-up Daryl Busse—earned $2,241,045 in prize money last year.
HOCKEY—NHL: St. Louis stayed atop the Smythe Division—despite being the only division leader with a losing record—by beating Montreal and Detroit. In a 7-2 win over the Canadiens, the Blues scored more goals on the Norris Division leaders than any other team this season; St. Louis shut out Detroit 4-0, as Goalie Doug Grant stopped 18 shots. The New York Islanders walloped Patrick Division-leading Philadelphia 8-3, but two nights later lost to Chicago 2-1 as Bobby Orr took his first shot in six weeks and, true to form, made it (page 20). Detroit lost four games and Los Angeles three to fall even further behind Montreal in the Norris Division. Minnesota, outshot 31-16 by Boston, nevertheless got a 3-3 tie, thanks largely to Gary Smith's timely net minding.
WHA: The Minnesota Fighting Saints teetered on the brink of insolvency once again as club President Bob Brown suspended the franchise for a week in an attempt to round up investors or buyers in the St. Paul area. Brown said that if he is unable to sell the team, it will fold. The original Minnesota franchise was disbanded last season when the owners couldn't meet the payroll. Brown lightened his own payroll burden by selling seven of his best players to Edmonton for cash. In their last game, the Fighting Saints beat Indianapolis 9-5 on Ron Ward's hat trick before a home crowd of only 5,821. The next day, it was the Racers' turn to stave off bankruptcy as Indianapolis players agreed to accept a three-month salary deferment to keep the club from going under. Winnipeg continued to edge closer to San Diego in the Western Division race. The Mariners extended their losing streak to four by dropping games to Cincinnati 7-2 and Calgary 5-3, while the Jets were beating Calgary 5-3 with two goals coming from Anders Hedberg, the division's scoring leader. Phoenix made a bid to rise from the ashes of the division cellar. The Roadrunners defeated Houston 4-2 on Ron Huston's two goals and two assists, then knocked off Cincinnati 6-5 in overtime.
MOTOR SPORTS—Driving a Mercury, DAVID PEARSON took the lead from Cale Yarborough's Chevrolet with just 17 laps remaining in the $150,000 Western 500 (kilometers), and won NASCAR's season-opening event by averaging 107.038 mph on Riverside International Raceway's 2.66-mile road course.