BASKETBALL—-NBA: John Havlicek, averaging 30 points a game in BOSTON'S (19-6) four straight wins, led the Celtics into first place and made the loss of Bill Russell to the flu less noticeable. BALTIMORE (20-7) lurked a fraction of a percentage point behind with three victories and a loss to the Royals, 129-127, when Earl Monroe's tying field-goal attempt was blocked by John Tresvant. PHILADELPHIA (16-6) closed on the Bullets, taking four straight, the last a 140-106 win over the Pistons in which seven 76ers scored in double figures. CINCINNATI (14-9) held onto fourth place with that defeat of the Bullets and an overtime loss to the Celtics. Fifth-place NEW YORK (13-14), winner of seven of its last eight games, beat the Hawks twice, back to back—126-93 at home and, lest anyone cry fluke, 121-113 in Atlanta. Paul Seymour's debut as coach of the Pistons was spoiled when DETROIT (10-15) ran up against the three division leaders and struck out. MILWAUKEE (6-20) threw a scare into the Knicks but still lost to everybody. In the West LOS ANGELES (18-9) increased its lead to 4½ games with three wins and two losses, but the lead was over SAN DIEGO (13-13) instead of ATLANTA (12-15) and SAN FRANCISCO (12-15). The Rockets took over second place after three wins and a loss, while the Hawks, who lost three straight, and the Warriors, who lost two out of three to the Sonics and two other games besides, dropped back to third. SEATTLE (13-18), feasting mainly on the ailing Warriors, who in one game had only eight players suited up, took three out of four, changing place in the standings with CHICAGO (11-18). The Bulls, who lost three out of four, could count the week a partial success because they pulled out their second victory over the Lakers, 90-81, on Jerry Sloan's 28 points and 13 rebounds. PHOENIX (6-18) broke its 12-game losing streak by beating the Warriors, but lost three and remained in the cellar.
ABA: With four wins and one loss last week, MINNESOTA (15-5) saw its lead in the Eastern Division increased to five games. Connie Hawkins (page 51), switched from center to forward, contributed 180 points, 53 of them in the Pipers' 119-118 loss to the Rockets. KENTUCKY (10-10) took two in a row and moved up to second while MIAMI (8-11) went one for four and slipped to third. NEW YORK (7-13) lost three straight but held onto fourth place, and INDIANA (6-15) lost two but managed a 118-115 win over the Buccaneers after nearly blowing a 22-point lead in the last quarter. OAKLAND (19-3) let the Chaparrals slip by 112-111 in a game in which the lead changed hands 26 times, but the Oaks won three others and extended their lead in the West to 7½ games. Larry Jones scored 34 points in pacing second-place DENVER (10-9) to the second of its two wins. LOS ANGELES (9-9), tied for second at the start of the week, beat the Nets 121-109 but lost to the Pipers 139-124 and eased back to third. DALLAS (8-9) won two and lost two to rise to fourth. For NEW ORLEANS (8-12) the week was a total disaster-four straight losses and a dive from second to fifth in the standings. HOUSTON (5-9) improved its percentage, if not its position, with two wins.
BOXING—Australian LIONEL ROSE successfully defended his world bantamweight title in a riot-provoking split decision over challenger Chucho Castillo of Mexico at Los Angeles' Forum (page 26).
FOOTBALL—NFL: After holding Quarterback Zeke Bratkowski to 113 yards passing, despite his 13 completions in 24 attempts, BALTIMORE (12-1) gained a 16-3 victory over Green Bay (5-7-1) on Saturday. The next afternoon the Colts won the Coastal Division title while watching on TV when CHICAGO (7-6) upset second-place Los Angeles (10-2-1) in a tense 17-16 game. CLEVELAND (10-3) came from behind, scoring twice in two minutes of the last quarter to win 24-21 from Washington (4-9) and clinch the Century championship. ST. LOUIS (8-4-1), eventually eliminated by the Browns' win, sent Willis Crenshaw running for 162 yards and three touchdowns to defeat New York (7-6) 28-21. DALLAS (11-2), already the Capitol Division champion, scored on three of Don Meredith's passes and a 90-yard run by Bob Hayes to down pitiful Pittsburgh (2-10-1) 28-7. MINNESOTA (7-6) remained tied with the Bears for the Central lead after a 30-20 defeat of San Francisco (6-6-1), but if the tie persists through the final games the Vikings will lose the title, since they were beaten twice by the Bears earlier in the season. PHILADELPHIA (2-11) set down New Orleans (3-9-1) for its second straight victory, 29-17, and Billy Gambrell's three scoring catches gave DETROIT (4-7-2) a 24-7 win over Atlanta (2-11), the first time the Lions have come out a winner in eight games.
December 16, 1968
AFL: The battle for the Western Division championship between OAKLAND (11-2) and KANSAS CITY (11-2) continued. The Raiders came back from a 10-point deficit in the second quarter with the help of George Blanda's four field goals, and beat Denver (5-8) 33 27. Three scoring passes from Len Dawson and seven intercepted passes, one returned for a touchdown, accounted for most of the Chiefs' 40-3 win over San Diego (9-4), which eliminated the third-place Chargers from the race. Eastern Division champion NEW YORK (10-3) beat Cincinnati (3-11) 27-14 but Bengal Paul Robinson ran for 33 yards, and that made him the first AFL rookie ever to gain 1,000 yards rushing. HOUSTON (6-7) won 35-6 over Buffalo (1-12-1) in a game enlivened by Oiler Cornerback Miller Fair, who ran two interceptions back for scores. Three touchdowns in the second quarter sent MIAMI (5-7-1) to a 38-7 victory over Boston (4-9).
HARNESS RACING—The $50,000 mile-and-a-half Nassau Pace at Roosevelt Raceway was won by longshot W. W. SMITH ($15.40), driven by Carmine Abbatiello. Overcall, the l-to-5 favorite, was sixth, 4½ lengths behind the winner.
HOCKEY—NHL: MONTREAL (15-6-4), with two wins, a loss and a tie, increased its lead in the East by one point, in spite of losing it altogether to the Rangers for a few days. NEW YORK (16-9), which defeated the Canadiens and the Maple Leafs to move into first, dropped back into a second-place tie with the Bruins when it couldn't beat the Maple Leafs a second time. BOSTON (14-6-4) won two and tied the Canadiens 2-2 when Phil Esposito got two shots past his younger brother Tony, a rookie goalie playing his first full game. TORONTO (11-7-5) remained in fourth after two wins and a loss. CHICAGO (11-11-2) dropped to a tie for fifth with the Red Wings with two losses, both to the Canadiens, and a tie. DETROIT (10-9-4) was 2-1-1 for the week. In the West LOS ANGELES (9-12-2) gained two points on division-leader ST. LOUIS (11-6-7) but the Blues were still nine points out in front and, after two ties, remained unbeaten in 11 straight games. The Kings played twice and won twice, with five of their six goals scored by Ed Joyal. OAKLAND (7-13-5), a point back in third place, played its first shutout of the season, beating the Flyers 4-0, then tied the Penguins. MINNESOTA (6-14-4), sharing second place at the start of the week, lost three straight and fell back into fourth alongside PITTSBURGH (5-13-6). One of the Penguins' two ties was a 1-1 game with the first-place Blues. Goalie Les Binkley made 30 saves to Jacques Plante's 23. PHILADELPHIA (6-15-3) lost two and tied one.
Gordie Howe scored his 700th goal in a 7-2 Red Wing win over the Penguins. A sparse crowd in the Pittsburgh Civic Arena cheered the only player ever to score 600 as he reached 700.
HORSE RACING—The two-mile, $50,000 Display Handicap at Aqueduct, the final stake of the New York racing season, was won by FAST COUNT ($5.40) by seven lengths over second-place Muse.
SKIING—By a margin of just two points, the UNITED STATES won the first French-American Challenge Cup at Aspen, Colo. The competition, unusual because it pitted skier against skier on parallel courses rather than skier alone against the clock, was decided in the slalom on the second day when Rick Chaffee of Rutland, Vt., last year's U.S. giant slalom champion, beat France's Patrick Russel in the third race of their best-of-three series.
MILEPOSTS—DEMOTED: After coaching the Pistons of the NBA to their best season (40-42) since they moved to Detroit in 1957, DONNIS BUTCHER, who had held the job for one full season, will return to his former duties as head scout. He is replaced by Assistant Paul Seymour.
HIRED: CAL STOLL, for 10 years an assistant coach at Michigan State, to replace Bill Tate as head football coach at Wake Forest. Tate resigned last month after five years and a 17-32-1 record.
RETIRED: Under pressure, from his $65,000-a-year job as commissioner of baseball, WILLIAM D. ECKERT, USAF (Ret.), after three lusterless years of a seven-year contract (page 24).
SOLD: For a reported $9 million, the WASHINGTON SENATORS to Robert E. Short, a Minneapolis executive who is treasurer of the Democratic National Committee and a former owner of the Los Angeles Lakers of the NBA.