PRO BASKETBALL—Amidst threats of a referees' walkout in the playoffs, 14 officials struck all eight games on the last day of the regular schedule and were replaced by standby referees from the Eastern League. On the court, Portland, finishing at 49-33, was the only team in the playoffs that had never qualified for postseason play in either the NBA or the ABA. The final playoff spot in the Western Conference went to Chicago (44-38) after a spectacular race to the wire during which the Bulls won 20 of their last 24 games. The Bulls beat out Seattle (40-42) and Kansas City (40-42), the Kings losing their last six games. Los Angeles, which didn't even make the playoffs last year, had the league's best record, 53-29. At the other end, the New York Nets, last year's ABA champions, had the worst record: 22-60. Laker Center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who scored in double figures in every game but one, was voted Player of the Year by the NBA players for the fifth time in seven seasons. New Orleans' Pete Maravich won the scoring crown for the first time with a 31.1 average, while the Trail Blazers' Bill Walton won the rebounding title with an average of 14.4. And there was good news in Detroit. The Pistons welcomed 6'11" Center Bob Lanier back to the lineup after a month's absence because of a broken right hand. Detroit was 5-10 without Lanier, but Lanier returned and scored a total of 55 points as the Pistons beat Cleveland and Philadelphia.
BOWLING—TOMMY HUDSON of Akron trounced Don Bell 246-194 in the finals of the Fair Lanes Open in Springfield, Va. Hudson, who picked up $8,000, is the only two-time winner on the PBA tour this year.
GOLF—TOM WATSON broke a final-round tie with Jack Nicklaus by sinking a 15-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole and went on to a two-stroke victory in the Masters tournament at Augusta. Watson fired rounds of 70-69-70-67 for a 12-under-par 276 and collected $40,000 (page 24).
HOCKEY—NHL: The home-ice advantage meant nothing in the Pittsburgh-Toronto best-of-three preliminary series in the Stanley Cup playoffs as the visitors won all three games. The Maple Leafs shocked the Penguins (34-33-13) in the opener at Pittsburgh, then the Penguins staved off elimination by winning 6-4 at Toronto. In the decisive game back in Pittsburgh, Lanny McDonald scored three goals and had two assists as the Maple Leafs won 5-2 and advanced to the quarterfinals against Philadelphia. After seven straight losses in its brief three-season playoff history, Atlanta finally won a cup game, beating Los Angeles to tie their series at 1-1. But the Flames reverted to their losing ways two nights later as Butch Goring's hat trick gave the Kings a 4-2 victory and pitted them against Boston in the quarterfinals. Buffalo made short work of Minnesota, winning 4-2 and 7-1. The Sabres are now playing the New York Islanders, who swept the Chicago Black Hawks 5-2 and 2-1.
April 18, 1977
WHA: Edmonton won twice and Calgary got only a tie in two games, so Edmonton gained the eighth and final playoff spot by three points. Houston finished with the league's best record, 50-24-6, and was 33-3-4 at home. Quebec's Real Cloutier, a 20-year-old right wing, became the youngest player to win the scoring title, finishing with 141 points (66 goals and 75 assists). Winnipeg's Anders Hedberg was the leading goal scorer with 70. Houston's goaltending team of Ron Grahame and Wayne Rutledge won the Ben Hatskin Trophy for allowing the fewest goals (241). The AVCO trophy playoffs began in high style, as Indianapolis outlasted Cincinnati 4-3 in a five-hour, triple-overtime game. The Racers' Gene Peacosh scored the winning tally after 48:40 of sudden death, and 108:40 of play. It was the Stingers' eighth overtime loss this season. In other first-round games, Quebec beat New England 5-2 and Winnipeg topped San Diego 5-1.
HORSE RACING—YAMANIN ($14.20), Garth Patterson in the saddle, won the $125,000 Widener Handicap by three-quarters of a length over Romeo at Hialeah, Fla. The 5-year-old colt was clocked in 2:01[1/5] for the 1¼ miles.
SOCCER—The NASL kicked off its 11th season with 18 teams—two fewer than last year—and four relocated franchises. Team Hawaii defeated Seattle 1-0 in overtime in the first event in Aloha Stadium. The Las Vegas Quicksilvers introduced soccer to Nevada and surprised Pelé and the Cosmos 1-0. The Fort Lauderdale Strikers, who were the Miami Toros last year, edged St. Louis 2-1. A standing-room crowd of 18,136 turned out in San Jose, but the Earthquakes lost to Los Angeles 3-0 as Striker Steven David had two goals.
SWIMMING—Eleven American records and two U.S. open marks were set by the women, while the men broke three American records at the AAU short-course indoor meet in Canton, Ohio. There were four double winners among the women: JENNIFER HOOKER of Mission Viejo, Calif. in the 500- and 1,650-yard freestyle; JILL STERKEL of El Monte, Calif. in the 100- and 200-yard freestyle; NANCY GARAPICK of Canada in the 200- and 400-yard individual medley; and TRACY CAULKINS of Nashville in the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke. SCOTT SPANN, a freshman at Auburn, won the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke and the 200-yard individual medley, while USC's JOHN NABER picked up his 14th and 15th AAU backstroke titles by taking the 100- and 200-yard events.
TABLE TENNIS—CHINA beat Japan 5-0 in the men's competition and South Korea 3-0 in women's play to take the team titles in Birmingham, England. Japan's MITSURU KOHNO upset China's No. 1 player, Kuo Yao-Hua, 17-21, 21-9, 21-19, 21-13 to take the singles crown. Pak Yung Sun of North Korea remained the women's champion by beating China's Chang Lei 21-15, 24-22, 22-20 (page 73).
TENNIS—BJORN BORG beat Italy's Corrado Barazzutti 6-3, 7-5, 6-0 in a rain-interrupted match to take $30,000 and the WCT International in Monte Carlo.
Ilie Nastase retained the $100,000 WCT Challenge Cup by beating Jimmy Connors 3-6, 7-6, 6-4, 7-5 in Las Vegas. Connors had won 12 straight matches on the Caesars Palace court.
TRACK & FIELD—HARVEY GLANCE set a world record in the 100-meter dash, running a hand-timed 9.8 in a quadrangular meet at Auburn. The former record, held by 10 sprinters, was 9.9.
MILEPOSTS—FIRED: MONTE CLARK, 40, as coach of the San Francisco 49ers, after one season in which the team had an 8-6 record (page 68).
NAMED: MARQUES JOHNSON, UCLA forward, as the first recipient of the John R. Wooden Award given to the nation's outstanding collegiate basketball player. The 6'7" Johnson scored 21.4 points per game to lead the second-ranked Bruins to a 24-5 season.
SUSPENDED: For 30 days, LENNY RANDLE, 28-year-old second baseman for the Texas Rangers, after his assault on Ranger Manager Frank Lucchesi. Randle was fined $10,000, and the forfeiture of one month's pay will mean an additional loss of $13,407.90.
DIED: KAREN KRANTZCKE, 30, Australian tennis player and runner-up in the women's doubles at Wimbledon in 1974; of heart failure, two hours after winning the doubles final with Kym Ruddell in the Lionel Cup; in Tallahassee, Fla.