PRO BASKETBALL—NBA: The season's first "crucial" game had nothing to do with winning teams competing for playoff berths: Philadelphia and Cleveland were playing to determine the NBA's last winless team. Philadelphia earned that questionable distinction as the Cavaliers, paced by Austin Carr (35 points) and Lenny Wilkens (25), took the clutch thriller 113-108. At the other end of the spectrum, Boston, 9-0, continued to bring back memories of the days of wine and Russell by beating Philadelphia 105-85, Buffalo 105-97 and Cleveland 123-97 to remain the only unbeaten team in either league. New York, just one game back of the Celtics in the East, got a boost when oft-injured Center Willis Reed had 18 points and 12 rebounds in 32 minutes of play during a 94-90 win over Baltimore. Midwest leader Milwaukee, like Boston, maintained its lead by feasting on leftovers: Cleveland (104-84), Buffalo (109-92), Kansas City-Omaha (114-107) and Philadelphia (96-92). After Golden State beat Los Angeles 119-91 and Jerry West hit just three of 19 shots, Laker Coach Bill Sharman closed practice session doors and ripped his players, telling them he didn't want to talk to them about losing again. Alas, even as the Lakers were idle, the Golden State Warriors took the Pacific lead by beating Atlanta 122-107, their awesome front line of Cazzie Russell, Rick Barry and Nate Thurmond contributing 83 points.
ABA: It was like a pop art painting. Nine Utah players hit double figures and the Stars set a home-court scoring record in a 151-98 win over Memphis. BIFF! Six more Utah players score 13 or more as the Stars take the West lead from San Diego 132-110. POW! Nine Carolinians hit double figures for the East leaders, who smother Virginia 141-109. BAM! And five ABA records are set in Virginia's 155-111 victory over Denver. The Squires attempt an unprecedented 92 free throws and make a record 74, including 44 of 56 in the last period. The Rockets are guilty of 56 personal fouls and seven disqualifications. And the two combine for 86 personals. POW! BAM! BIFF! But was it a record for excitement or boredom? It seems that with 4:52 left in the third period and Virginia leading by 18 points, Denver Coach Alex Hannum ordered his players to foul the Squires before they could shoot as a protest against the rules. "Teams that play aggressively, like Virginia and Carolina, are the teams that seem to win," he said. "The team comes out and establishes its aggressiveness early. They start doing something—time and again—and by the end the officials are calling only half the fouls." The Rocket players complied reluctantly with Hannum's orders, the Squires protested to the commissioner, the referee said he would file some choice words, the league P.R. man, a spectator, was embarrassed and the fans booed.
PRO FOOTBALL—AFC: In a battle of Western Division leaders, the AFC's OAKLAND humiliated the NFC's Los Angeles 45-17. Rookie Franco Harris ran for two touchdowns and caught a scoring pass to lead PITTSBURGH to a 38-21 victory over Buffalo. The Steelers remained tied for the Central Division lead with CINCINNATI, a 30-7 victor over Houston. Joe Namath picked the Patriot defense apart with short passes and Emerson Boozer scored three touchdowns as the NEW YORK Jets beat New England 34-10. Larry Csonka gained 93 yards and the MIAMI defense never allowed Baltimore to penetrate inside the Dolphin 28 as the NFL's only unbeaten, untied team won again 23-0. Bob West ran eight yards with a recovered fumble to ice KANSAS CITY's 26-14 win over San Diego. CLEVELAND beat Denver 27-20, on Mike Phipps' score with 2:50 left.
NFC: WASHINGTON stayed ahead in the Eastern Division by beating the New York Giants 23-16 (page 18). CHICAGO left Minnesota alone in the Central cellar by beating the Vikings 13-10 Monday night. Six days later MINNESOTA downed Green Bay 27-13 on fourth-quarter interception-return touchdowns by Wally Hilgenberg and Paul Krausse while the Bears outlasted St. Louis 27-10 behind Earl Thomas' 86-yard run and a 73-yard pass from Bobby Douglass to George Farmer. Steve Spurrier threw three scoring passes in SAN FRANCISCO'S 49-14 victory over Atlanta. NEW ORLEANS became the last NFL team to win a game by beating Philadelphia 21-3.
HARNESS RACING—America's top 3-year-old trotter, SUPER BOWL ($2.10), driven by Stanley Dancer, registered his 12th sub-two-minute mile with a half-length victory over Aiken in 1:59[4/5] in the $50,000 Leland Stanford Stake at Hollywood Park. Back in New York the following night Dancer drove ALBATROSS to a 2¾-length win over Nansemond in the $50,000 National Pacing Derby, a 1-mile non-betting race, at Roosevelt Raceway.
HOCKEY—WHA: Philadelphia expected plenty of color and excitement when Derek Sanderson and Johnny McKenzie arrived from the NHL. They needed both to attract fans to a winless team. Center Sanderson received two 10-minute misconduct penalties and a game misconduct, and Player-Coach McKenzie, who tossed towels on the ice, a bench penalty for complaining about calls in a 5-3 loss to Winnipeg. Three nights later McKenzie, Sanderson and Goalie Bernie Parent were all sidelined with injuries, and the Blazers beat Los Angeles 5-4 for their first win (page 22). Cleveland won two of three to continue leading the East Division and Winnipeg won three times to tie Alberta for the West lead.
NHL: The New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens had it all figured. After they tied 1-1 at Madison Square Garden, New York's Rod Gilbert said, "Sure, this was a clutch game. We're going to be 1,2 coming down the stretch, and that's why this meant a lot to us." The Canadiens, unbeaten behind Ken Dryden, who has allowed only 1.5 goals a game, were doing their part by leading the East, but where were the Rangers? In fourth, of all places, behind upstart Buffalo and Detroit. Buffalo smashed expansion Atlanta 7-2 as the Gil Perreault-Rick Martin-René Robert line had 16 points. Then the Sabres stayed unbeaten by tying Boston 2-2 and Montreal 3-3. Detroit's unbeaten string ended after six games when bearded Bill Flett scored the deciding goal in a 2-1 loss to Philadelphia. The losing way continued when the Red Wings dropped another to St. Louis 8-3. Defending champion Boston, mired in fifth, was hardly encouraged by the news that Bobby Orr would be out indefinitely with knee trouble. Chicago continued to lead the West, but Los Angeles beat California 5-0, Atlanta 3-1 and Pittsburgh 5-2 to extend its win streak to four games and jump from seventh to a second-place tie with Pittsburgh.
HORSE RACING—SECRETARIAT ($2.20) won the $133,300 Laurel Futurity, and LA PREVOYANTE ($2.20) took the $121,990 Selima Stakes in a double feature program at Maryland's Laurel Race Course (page 60).
Autobiography ($6.20), ridden by Angel Cordero Jr., beat favored Key to the Mint by a shocking 15 lengths in the $113,700 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Aqueduct. Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Riva Ridge was third, three lengths back. Autobiography's time of 3:21[2/5] for the two miles was 2[1/5] seconds over the American and course records set by Kelso in 1964.
MILEPOSTS—FIRED: EARL LLOYD as coach of the Detroit Pistons. Assistant RAY SCOTT was named to replace him as the 10th head coach since the club moved to Detroit from Fort Wayne in 1957. It has never had a winning record.
SIGNED: To two five-year, $3 million television contracts, with CBS and a Canadian network, the WORLD HOCKEY ASSOCIATION.
TRADED: By the Atlanta Braves, often-ailing RICO CARTY, whose .317 lifetime batting average is the highest among active major-leaguers, to the Texas Rangers for Jim Panther, a 5-9 pitcher this year.
WAIVED: JOHNNY NEUMANN, 22, by the Memphis Tams. First million-dollar-contract player in basketball to be dropped, Neumann averaged 18.3 points his rookie year but feuded publicly with Former Coach Babe McCarthy and played infrequently this season.
WITHDREW: From the U.S. Olympic Committee, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which said it would ask its 700 member colleges not to raise money for the 1976 Olympics.
DIED: JACKIE ROBINSON, 53, who broke baseball's color line when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947; of a heart attack; in Stamford, Conn. He was the National League's Rookie of the Year that season and the batting champion and Most Valuable Player two years later. A career .311 hitter who stole home 11 times, Robinson led the Dodgers to six pennants and one world championship in his 10 years in the game.
DIED: WILLIE KNAPP, 84, a Hall of Fame jockey who rode Exterminator to victory in the 1918 Kentucky Derby and in the 1919 Sanford Stakes was aboard Upset when he handed Man o'War his only defeat; in New York; of injuries suffered when he was hit by a car.