PRO BASKETBALL—A glance at the standings in the NBA makes one wonder if they haven't been turned upside down. Atlanta, which played .378 ball in 1976 and finished in last place, 18 games out, has won six straight and leads the Central Division (page 89), followed closely by New Orleans which ended last season just ahead of the Hawks. Atlanta is now 7-1, its only loss being to Boston, which is also 7 and 1—seven losses and one win—and shares the Atlantic Division cellar with the Nets. Boston did have one bright spot last week. Rookie Cornbread Maxwell contributed 15 second-half points against Cleveland, but it wasn't enough as the Celts fell to the Cavs, 104-101. Philadelphia, favored to run away with the Atlantic Division, is playing just .500 ball, and that, thanks only to the time-honored tradition of winning for the new coach, former 76er star Billy Cunningham, who took over Friday night after Gene Shue was fired. The Sixers won two straight for Cunningham, a 107-104 defeat of the Nets, despite a stunning 41-point exhibition by rookie Bernard King, and a 132-101 romp over Denver in which Julius Erving and Henry Bibby each contributed 21 points. Milwaukee, which finished in the Midwest cellar last year, won three games and went into first place, followed by Chicago, which won two, including a 111-94 victory over the Suns in which Artis Gilmore scored 23 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. Portland, however, is in its rightful place atop the Pacific Division with a 6-1 record.
BOXING—KEN NORTON defeated Jimmy Young on a split decision in Las Vegas, presumably winning a third shot at Muhammad Ali's heavyweight title (page 36).
Rodrigo Valdes of Colombia beat Benny Briscoe on points in Campione d'Italia, Switzerland, to win the world middleweight championship vacated in July by Carlos Monzon, who retired.
Antonio Cervantes of Colombia won a unanimous decision over Nani Marrero in Maracay, Venezuela to retain his WBA junior welterweight crown.
PRO FOOTBALL—Routed by Seattle 56-17 the week before and playing without O. J. Simpson, who faces midweek knee surgery, Buffalo stunned three-touchdown favorite New England 24-14 at Foxboro as Joe Ferguson threw for 201 yards and O.J.'s replacement, Roland Hooks, ran for 155. The Bills also intercepted four Steve Grogan passes and sent Patriot Tight End Russ Francis to the hospital with three broken ribs. Roger Staubach-to- Drew Pearson passes set up two Dallas scores as the Cowboys remained undefeated with a 24-10 romp over the Giants, despite incurring a club-record 14 penalties. Dan Pastorini and Ken Burrough combined on 85- and 43-yard pass plays for touchdowns, and Billy (White Shoes) Johnson scored on a 75-yard free-kick runback and a 61-yard reverse as Houston routed Chicago 47-0. Bob Griese hit Duriel Harris for touchdowns on pass plays covering 20 and 24 yards, then Miami staged a fourth-quarter goal-line stand to hold off the New York Jets 14-10. San Francisco won its third straight after losing its first five, beating Atlanta 10-3, Cedric Hardman leading a 49er defense that sacked Falcon Quarterback Steve Bartkowski seven times for losses totaling 76 yards. Quarterback Ron Jaworski ran for two touchdowns and passed for two others to power Philadelphia past New Orleans 28-7. Rookie Rick Kane, replacing the injured Dexter Bussey, ran for two touchdowns and gained 105 yards in Detroit's 20-0 romp over San Diego. Playing its first game under interim Coach Tom Bettis, who was named to replace the fired Paul Wiggin, Kansas City won its second game of the season by downing Green Bay 20-10. Denver routed Pittsburgh 21-7, and Cincinnati stayed alive in the AFC Central by edging Cleveland 10-7 on Chris Bahr's 47-yard field goal (page 32). The 5-3 Browns led the Bengals, Steelers and Oilers by one game. Oakland trounced Seattle 44-7, while Los Angeles whipped Tampa Bay 31-0 in John MacKay's return to the Coliseum. St. Louis blanked the Giants 28-0 on Monday night, then raced to a 27-0 lead over Minnesota before coasting to a 27-7 victory.
GOLF—GRIER JONES dropped in a four-foot, tie-breaking birdie putt on the final hole for a better-ball 66 to give him and partner GIBBY GILBERT victory in the Walt Disney World National Team Classic at Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The pair finished with 253, 35 strokes under par and one stroke in front of Steve Melnyk and Andy North.
HOCKEY—NHL: Montreal's winless streak reached four after a 4-0 loss to Buffalo and a 2-2 tie with Atlanta, but the Canadiens returned to their usual winning ways with a 5-2 decision over Boston, which also lost to Buffalo 4-1. The punchless Bruins had won only three of their first 11 games, and their alleged scorers had produced a total of only 29 Goals. Gilbert Perreault keyed the Sabres' victory at Boston with a pair of goals, and he scored the winning goal in Buffalo's 3-1 skate over St. Louis. Los Angeles beat the New York Rangers 5-3 and 3-1, Marcel Dionne and Bert Wilson each clinching a win with an empty net goal. Phil Esposito's 600th NHL goal led the Rangers to their only win in four games, a 5-1 rout of hapless Vancouver; Esposito joined Gordie Howe (786) and Bobby Hull (604) as the only members of the 600 Club. St. Louis finally won a game after nine tries, beating Los Angeles 7-2. Dennis Maruk's four goals gave Cleveland a 4-4 tie with the Blues, then Goaltender Gilles Meloche secured the Barons' 4-3 win over Detroit by stopping Reed Larson's penalty shot. Bryan Trottier's four goals and rookie Mike Bossy's goal and four assists powered the New York Islanders past Atlanta 9-0. Philadelphia took two from Washington, and Toronto ended Colorado's five-game unbeaten streak with a 5-2 win at Denver. Pittsburgh acquired Dave Schultz from L.A. but still ran its losing streak to five.
WHA: Winnipeg raised its league-leading record to 10-2 by sweeping two games from Edmonton and trouncing Cincinnati 6-1. The Jets scored 65 goals in those 12 games while yielding only 33. George Lyle's two goals led second-place New England to its sixth straight victory, a 4-3 decision over the Stingers. Houston was embroiled in another change-of-ownership controversy, and the Aeros were not paid on payday.
HORSE RACING—Two youngsters combined to win the $200,000 Washington D.C. International and give the U.S. its first victory in four years. Steve Cauthen, 17, took 3-year-old JOHNNY D. ($22) to the front of the plodding field at the mile pole and prodded him as he tired in the stretch to finish 2� lengths in front of Majestic Light and 16� ahead of favored Exceller. The gelded son of Stage Door Johnny covered the rain-softened mile and a half turf course in a slow 2:42.
Balzac ($5.20), masterfully ridden by Bill Shoemaker, won the $262,050 Norfolk Stakes, the richest juvenile race in the country, at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting. The 2-year-old son of Buckpasser ran the mile and a sixteenth over a slow track in 1:45[2/5] to cross the wire a head in front of Misrepresentation, thus becoming California's leading candidate for next year's Kentucky Derby.