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PRO BASKETBALL—It's that time of year when, as the saying goes, if the bus breaks down you shoot the driver. The Celtics didn't really break down: they've never gotten started. Giving up an average of 110.9 points a game, they have only once held an opponent to fewer than 100 points. "No defense" was the diagnosis, so Satch Sanders, a longtime Boston defensive stalwart, replaced Coach Tom Heinsohn. But when another former Celtic. Paul Westphal, scored 43 points, and Walter Davis added 40 more. Phoenix handed the new coach his first defeat, 121-111. The next coach to go—the fifth this season—was Phil Johnson of Kansas City, who was NBA Coach of the Year in 1975 when he led the 44-38 Kings into the playoffs. But Kansas City is 13-24 this year, and a 100-93 loss to the Knicks—the Kings' seventh straight defeat—was the last straw, so Assistant General Manager Larry Staverman took over. Chicago remained in second place in the Midwest behind Denver, but barely. Losing four straight, the Bulls were just .001 ahead of Milwaukee. Fourth-place Detroit had won eight of its last nine games, including five straight on the road, before it headed west, where it lost 107-106 to Golden State and 109-105 to Pacific-leader Portland. Seattle, which sent Slick Watts to New Orleans in midweek in exchange for cash and a first-round draft choice, took over third place; Golden State and Los Angeles are tied for fourth. In the Central. San Antonio defeated Cleveland 109-107 on two free throws by George Gervin with four seconds left in overtime to assume a 1� game lead over the Cavs, who fell to third, 314 games behind Washington. The Knicks continued to get peerless shooting from Bob McAdoo. who averaged 28.3 for the week, but remained 3� games behind Atlantic-leader Philadelphia. The cellar-dwelling Nets had one ray of sunshine: Bernard King, riled by the publicity given Walter Davis, a rival for Rookie of the Year, scored a career-high 44 points and helped hold Davis to 14 as the Nets beat Phoenix 115-83.
In Japan, MIGUEL CANTO of Mexico outpointed Shoji Oguma in Koriyama to retain the WBC flyweight championship and GUTY ESPADOS of Mexico successfully defended his WBA flyweight title with a seventh-round knockout of Kimio Furesawa in Tokyo.
CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING—In the national championships in Anchorage. KEVIN SWIGERT won the senior men's 50-km. race, BOB TREADWELL the 30 and STAN DUNKLEE the 15. ALISON SPENCER took the senior women's 20 km. and 7.5 and LYNN VONDERHEIDE the 10 (page 22).
HOCKEY—NHL: The New York Islanders closed to within three points of Patrick Division leader Philadelphia by beating Vancouver 4-1 and Cleveland 5-3 while the Flyers were losing to Atlanta 5-3 and tying Los Angeles 4-4. "We're not working hard enough," said Flyer Captain Bobby Clarke. Some Philadelphia players also were griping that Coach Fred Shero has become too lax, that he was encouraging the Flyers to play a more wide-open style rather than the close-checking system that has been their staple for six seasons. Rookie Goal-tender Jim Bedard shut out Los Angeles 4-0 for Washington, which has a 6-3-4 record since snapping a 20-game winless streak last month. Paul Gardner tied Montreal's Guy Lafleur and the Islanders' Bryan Trot-tier for the goal-scoring lead as he scored No. 28 to lift Colorado over the New York Rangers 3-1. Boston, which has lost only two of its last 27 games, took a three-point lead over Buffalo in the Adams Division as Ron Grahame shut out Detroit 7-0, Gerry Cheevers shut out Chicago 3-0 and Grahame stopped Minnesota 3-1. Vancouver played four games in five nights and lost them all by the collective score of 24-9. In the final game of their trip, the Canucks were outshot 57 to 30 in a 6-4 loss at Toronto. Montreal extended its latest win streak to eight as Ken Dryden had his fourth shutout of the year in a 2-0 defeat of St. Louis and Bunny Larocque stopped Atlanta 4-1. The Canadiens then boosted the NHL's sagging image by routing Spartak 5-2. Spartak, the seventh-place team in the Soviet Union's major league, had defeated Colorado 8-3 and St. Louis 2-1 before meeting the Canadiens, who out-shot the Soviets 16-1 in the first period.
WHA: After their recent winless streak reached 11, the last-place Indianapolis Racers had an unexpected guest in their dressing room, owner Nelson Skalbania, who thought the time was right for his first-ever chat with the boys. What Skalbania said to the Racers was not revealed, but they promptly went out and defeated Birmingham 4-1 and first-place New England 4-3. Skalbania, who bought the Racers last summer, said he stands to lose some $500,000 if the team's home attendance—the Racers currently average about 7,500 spectators a game—does not improve dramatically. "The announcement that Indianapolis led the WHA in attendance the last two years was bull," Skalbania said. "The figures were inflated. One out of three seats was free. This year I stopped all the freebies."
SWIMMING—Sixteen-year-old MICHELLE FORD of Australia broke the women's world record in the 800-meter freestyle at the KB International in Brisbane. Her time of 8:34.86 was .18 of a second better than the previous record held by Petra Thumer of East Germany.
Tracy Caulkins, 14, of Nashville broke two of her own American women's records in the first women's international meet at Brown University, winning the 200-yard breaststroke in 2:16.47 (.5 of a second better than her old mark) and the 200-yard individual medley in 2:27 (2.5 faster). She set a third American record in the 400 IM, her time of 4:16.76 being 3.88 seconds better than the previous mark. LINDA JEZEK, 17, of Los Altos, Calif., broke the American record in the 100 backstroke with a 56.26 clocking, .14 under the old standard.