PRO BASKETBALL—As Philadelphia widened its lead to six games in the Atlantic Division and Denver opened a five-game margin over Detroit in the Midwest, the races in the Pacific and Central Divisions began to heat up. The 76ers defeated Atlanta 114-94 on substitute Steve Mix' 27 points, then won their ninth game in 10 outings by defeating Boston 109-94. While Philadelphia was winning, Buffalo lost all three of its games, the New York Knicks lost both of theirs and the New York Nets extended their losing streak to 13 games, scoring only 28 points in the first half of a 99-88 defeat by Washington, to fall 15½ games behind the 76ers. The situation was much the same in the Midwest, where Milwaukee trailed Denver by 19½ Kansas City showed signs of resurgence, notching its eighth victory in 11 games with a 132-104 rout of Buffalo. Los Angeles drew within one game of Portland in the Pacific by beating up on the Knicks 108-94 as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored 35 points and grabbed 24 rebounds. Golden State defeated Phoenix 107-103 on Rick Barry's six points in the final 45 seconds. The Suns won their other two games, including a 125-96 rout of Indiana in which Center Alvan Adams—apparently recovered from a series of early-season injuries—scored 29 points. Cleveland and Houston remained practically inseparable atop the Central, but Washington, by winning 10 of its last 12 games, crept to within striking distance. San Antonio and New Orleans were only three and four games off the pace, respectively, and last-place Atlanta—with Lou Hudson getting 39 points in a 121-101 win over Milwaukee—appeared capable of a run at the leaders.
BOWLING—MARK ROTH of Staten Island, N.Y. won the $14,000 first prize in the Showboat Invitational in Las Vegas, defeating Earl Anthony 237-211.
BOXING—In the first defense of his WBC welterweight crown, CARLOS PALOMINO survived a first-round knockdown to stop Mando Mu√±iz in the 15th round at Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles (page 20).
GOLF—TOM WATSON fired a 14-under-par 273 to win the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am, defeating Tony Jacklin by one stroke for the $40,000 first prize at Pebble Beach, Calif. (page 12).
January 31, 1977
HOCKEY—NHL: When St. Louis beat Chicago 5-3, Blues Defenseman Gilles Marotte, who had scored the decisive goal, said, "We're in first place in the Smythe Division to stay." The Blues then edged Colorado 2-1 and led the second-place Black Hawks by six points. Vancouver lost to Pittsburgh 3-0 and Toronto 3-1. In an obvious panic move the Canucks also traded Defenseman Bob Dailey to Philadelphia for Defensemen Larry Goodenough and Jack McIlhargey. The 6'5", 220-pound Dailey is the "big" defenseman Flyer Coach Fred Shero said his team desperately needed—or else. In his first game with Philadelphia, Dailey helped set up Reggie Leach's goal in the final minute, as the Flyers gained a 4-4 tie with Atlanta and moved one point ahead of the New York Islanders in the Patrick Division. Leach's score negated Eric Vail's hat trick for the Flames. The Islanders beat the Bruins 4-3 in Boston, their first victory in the Hub in four years. Boston routed Montreal 7-3—the Bruins' third victory in three games against the Canadiens this season—and stunned Cleveland 5-2 with five third-period goals, including three by Center Gregg Sheppard. The Bruins also regained the Adams Division lead as Buffalo suffered a 4-2 home-ice loss to Washington and then dropped a 4-3 game in Minnesota. Washington's victory gave the Capitals a 13-28-7 record, assuring them of their best season in their three-year history. Linemates Guy Lafleur and Steve Shutt of Montreal continued to jockey for the league lead in goals, Lafleur scoring his 37th in a 6-2 rout of Philadelphia and Shutt Nos. 37 and 38 in the Canadiens' 5-2 victory over Washington. Detroit hired its eighth coach in eight years, Larry Wilson, who lost his debut to brother Johnny Wilson's Colorado Rockies 3-1. The Red Wings later were shut out 3-0 by Chicago, their seventh straight defeat, and fell 47 points behind Montreal in the Norris Division.
WHA: In the All-Star game, the East defeated the West 4-2, despite being outshot 51 to 27. After that it was back to trying to keep financially troubled franchises afloat. The owners of the Minnesota Fighting Saints finally threw in the towel after a search for new investors failed. It was the second St. Paul-based WHA franchise to fold in as many years. Strangely, New England and Birmingham remained behind Minnesota in the Eastern Division standings, trailing a team that no longer existed. Quebec solidified its first-place lead in the East by beating the Whalers 5-4 and Calgary 5-3 to run its victory streak to eight. Houston handled San Diego 6-0 and beat Birmingham 6-1 on Morris Lukowich's three goals. Winnipeg defeated Cincinnati 6-5 on Anders Hedberg's second goal of the game in overtime and his 39th of the season. Phoenix defeated Cincinnati 9-4 as Roadrunner Goalie Gary Kurt set a league record for assists by a goaltender with three.
MOTOR SPORTS—CARLOS REUTEMANN of Argentina, driving a Ferrari, won the Grand Prix of Brazil at an average speed of 113 mph over the Interlagos track at S√£o Paulo. Defending world driving champion James Hunt of Britain came in second and Reutemann's Ferrari teammate Niki Lauded of Austria third.
TENNIS—BJORN BORG defeated Jimmy Connors 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 to win the $100,000 top prize in the Grand Slam tournament in Boca Raton, Fla. (page 16).
Brian Gottfried defeated top-seeded Guillermo Vilas 6-3, 7-6 to win the $20,000 first prize in the Baltimore International Indoor Championships.
Martina Navratilova defeated Sue Barker 7-6, 7-5 to win the $100,000 Virginia Slims of Houston.
TRACK & FIELD—DWIGHT STONES won the high jump at the Philadelphia Track Classic with a leap of 7'5¼", the best in the world this year. LORNA FORDE also set a meet record with a 54.7 in the women's 440 (page 46).
Rosalyn Bryant won the women's 300 meters in an American record 38.6 at the San Francisco Examiner Games. MIKE TULLY won the pole vault by clearing 17'8" and JAMES ROBINSON took the 600-meter run in 1:18.7.
MILEPOSTS—FIRED: By Baltimore Colts owner Robert Irsay, JOE THOMAS, 55, the team's general manager and executive vice-president for the last five years.
INDUCTED: Into the Baseball Hall of Fame, ERNIE BANKS, 46, only the eighth player to be so honored in his first year of conventional eligibility. A shortstop and first baseman, Banks played 19 years with the Chicago Cubs and was MVP in 1958 and 1959. He retired in 1971 with a .274 lifetime batting average and 512 career home runs.
INDUCTED: Into the National Football League Hall of Fame, GALE SAYERS of the Chicago Bears; FRANK GIFFORD of the New York Giants; BART STARR and FORREST GREGG of the Green Bay Packers; and BILL WILLIS of the Cleveland Browns.
DIED: WILLIAM C. (Baby Doll) JACOBSON, 86, former centerfielder for the St. Louis Browns; in Orion, Ill. Jacobson, who once held 13 American League fielding records, had a lifetime batting average of .312 in a career that spanned 11 seasons ending in 1927.