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PRO BASKETBALL—NBA: Washington won four in a row to reclaim the Central Division lead from Atlanta. In the last game, a 119-104 defeat of Philadelphia, Elvin Hayes scored a season high of 37, hitting 16 of 25 shots, and grabbed 10 rebounds. In an earlier 107-99 overtime defeat of Chicago, Hayes tallied 22, including six in the extra period. Pete Maravich scored 26 points in three quarters and teammate Otto Moore gathered 18 rebounds as New Orleans beat Atlanta 111-95. Cleveland gained its 10th win in 11 starts in a 110-106 victory over Kansas City before dropping a pair to Philadelphia and Detroit (page 16). New York and Buffalo exchanged one-point, back-to-back games. Boston held a one-game edge over Philadelphia despite two losses, 133-101 to Golden State, and 125-97 to Portland, that contest ending a 17-game losing streak to the Celtics for the Trail Blazers. Golden State picked up three more games on second-place Los Angeles with back-to-back victories over the Lakers. Warrior Coach Al Attles platooned 12 players in the first game, a 113-105 win behind Rick Barry's 28 points and Jamaal Wilkes' 20. Rookie Gus Williams and backcourt partner Phil Smith each scored 27 in the second game, a 130-99 triumph. No team in the Midwest Division has a winning record, and Chicago has the worst in the league, 8-25, after three more defeats. Milwaukee and Detroit are tied for the lead, although a 98-93 loss to the Bucks briefly put the Pistons second. Then Bob Dandridge hit a season-high 34 points in a 126-101 defeat of Houston and Detroit beat Cleveland 104-100.
ABA: The Nuggets need only hold fast until Jan. 18 to stage the All-Star game on their home court. The game is set for Jan. 27 at Denver's McNichols Arena, where the No. 1 team will take on the rest of the league. The Nuggets kept a tight grip on their three-game lead over second-place New York despite two Nets victories, 104-96 over San Antonio and a 105-90 downing of Indiana. Seven players hit in double figures, led by David Thompson with 23 and Ralph Simpson with 22, as Denver beat Kentucky 141-137; the Nuggets hit 73% in the third period of a 137-125 defeat of Indiana. The Pacers fell to fourth place, while San Antonio advanced to third after beating Indiana 105-99. Kentucky remained in fifth place, seven games out. Against New York, the Colonels exploded for 16 straight first-quarter points and Artis Gilmore wound up with 25 points and 21 rebounds as Kentucky won 110-102. St. Louis defeated Denver 106-104. After trailing by eight with 1:23 remaining, the Spirits hit 10 straight points. That game attracted 9,141, the biggest crowd of the year, to the St. Louis Arena. Average season attendance had been 2,323.
BOATING—KIALOA, a 79-foot ketch owned and skippered by Jim Kilroy of Los Angeles, became the first yacht to complete the 31st running of the Sydney-to-Hobart race in less than three days, covering the 630 nautical miles in two days, 18:12.18. Australia's 40-foot sloop RAMPAGE was declared winner on corrected time.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL—UCLA upset Ohio State 23-10 to win the Rose Bowl, OKLAHOMA defeated Michigan 14-6 in the Orange Bowl and ALABAMA beat Penn State 13-6 in the Sugar Bowl (page 18). MARYLAND blanked Florida 13-0 in the Gator Bowl and WEST VIRGINIA nipped North Carolina State 13-10 in the Peach Bowl. In the Cotton Bowl, ARKANSAS rallied from a 10-0 deficit late in the second period to tie the game at halftime. The Razorbacks added three fourth-quarter touchdowns to beat the Bulldogs 31-10.
PRO FOOTBALL—Playing with gloved hands in sub-freezing Pittsburgh (page 8), the STEELERS beat Oakland 16-10 and go to Miami's Super Bowl as AFC champs. In balmy Los Angeles, DALLAS routed the Rams 37-7 to become the NFC winner.
EXHIBITION HOCKEY—Two Russian teams opened U.S. tours by demonstrating "collective rather than individualistic" games, as one coach put it. The CENTRAL RED ARMY squad beat the Rangers 7-3 and tied the Canadiens 3-3. The WINGS opened with a 7-4 shellacking of Pittsburgh, then sustained their first loss, 12-6, at Buffalo.
PRO HOCKEY—NHL: Midway through their second season, the Washington Capitals were still seeking victory No. 12 after 119 games, but General Manager-Coach Milt Schmidt will not be there when it comes. After a 6-0 shutout by Norris leader Montreal, Schmidt resigned both jobs, citing a 14-2 loss at Buffalo on Dec. 21 as the deciding factor. Tommy McVie left his head-coaching and managing duties with the IHL-leading Dayton Gems to take over. The Capitals then lost to Detroit 4-4), were beaten by California 8-5, and were shut out a second time by Montreal 7-0. In other action, Los Angeles won once in four games, a 9-6 victory over Buffalo featuring a six-goal second-period barrage. The Kings now trail by 16 points. The New York Rangers fell to Atlanta 8-1. The Flames repeated against St. Louis, winning 7-1 while scoring a team-record three goals in 1:38 of the first period. After a nine-day layoff, the Islanders beat Philadelphia for the third straight time, 6-2, and moved within six points of the Patrick-leading Flyers. Boston, once down by nine points to the Sabres, moved ahead of them by four and had a 13-game unbeaten streak on the road. A 6-1 win over Minnesota and a 3-0 shutout of Los Angeles lifted the Bruins past Buffalo into the Adams Division lead. Maple Leaf Lanny McDonald had his second consecutive two-goal game in a 5-1 walloping of California. Chicago holds a 10-point lead over second-place Vancouver in the Smythe, where it is the only team with a winning record.
WHA: After losing $2 million and averaging fewer than 4,000 paying customers, the Spurs left Denver to resettle in Ottawa, Ontario, a city the WHA Nationals quit 2½ years ago for the same reason: lack of fan support. Denver's final game ended in a 2-1 overtime victory over Indianapolis on a 30-foot wristshot by Ralph Backstrom with 18 seconds to play. Team fortunes changed with the name, however, and the new Ottawa Civics lost 2-1 to Cincinnati and 4-2 to Houston, the leader in the West. Minnesota also is facing money problems, having lost $4.9 million in the last three years; it now owes $140,000 to its players. But the Fighting Saints voted to continue playing without pay and defeated the Racers 3-1. In the Canadian Division, Winnipeg moved into the lead on two victories, a 5-3 defeat of Houston in which Bobby Hull's 25th goal was the winning score, and a 6-3 win over Calgary. Former leader Quebec slipped to second after a 4-4 tie with Minnesota and two losses, 5-4 in overtime to Cleveland and 4-1 to Phoenix. New England maintained a two-point edge over Cincinnati in the East as Larry Pleau scored a hat trick in a 5-3 defeat of San Diego and Defenseman Gordon Roberts provided the winning goal in a 3-2 victory over Cleveland. Cincinnati defeated San Diego 5-3. Crusader Jim Harrison's two goals and two assists, including the game winner in overtime, gave Cleveland a 5-4 victory over Quebec.
HORSE RACING—GALLANT BOB ($6), the 1975 U.S. sprint champion, Gerland Gallitano up, beat Our Hero by a head to win the six-furlong $55,300 Paumonok Handicap in 1:10[4/5] over a sloppy track at Aqueduct, his ninth consecutive stakes victory.
SKIING—Two-time Olympian MARTHA ROCKWELL, 31, of Strafford, Vt. will head the U.S. women's Nordic team at Innsbruck after winning all qualifying races at the trials in Telemark, Wis. JANA HLAVATY, 34, a native of Czechoslovakia, was second in all events; she is eligible for the Olympics because of a Congressional act expediting her U.S. citizenship. TIM CALDWELL, 21, of Putney, Vt. and BILL KOCH, 20, of Guilford, Vt. were selected to lead the men's team.