PRO BASKETBALL—It was the final straw for Seattle owner Sam Schulman. His Sonics, playing on their home floor, had just lost their 16th game—to the Nets, of all teams. That was New Jersey's first road victory and only its third win of the year. Two days later Seattle Coach Bob Hopkins was out and Lenny Wilkens was in, and the Sonics responded by winning three straight, including a 111-89 defeat of Boston in which Dave Cowens scored his 10,000th career point. That loss was too much for Tommy Heinsohn, who benched all his starters, except Cowens, the next night. The Celts still lost to the speeding Bullets 103-93. It was Washington's eighth win in its last nine games and put the Bullets in second place in the tight Central Division, half a game behind Cleveland. The Cavs, 1-2 for the week, allowed Houston its first road victory of the year. The Rockets were having a blast, exploding to a 120-103 triumph over the Knicks, a 105-92 defeat of Cleveland and a 120-116 overtime victory over Philadelphia, which ended the 76ers' 10-game winning streak, their longest since 1967. Nonetheless, Houston remained in last place. Atlanta, playing without three injured starters, was 1-2 for the week and dropped to fourth. The Sixers' loss, which came after a 117-114 win over New Orleans before a record NBA crowd of 35,077 in the Superdome, did little to create interest in the Atlantic race. No other team in the division was playing better than .500 ball. Philly's percentage of .727 was second in the NBA to Portland's .850. The Blazers' winning streak reached seven, including a 100-93 defeat of Los Angeles, which, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar still out of action, permitted Lloyd Neal, who entered the game with a 9.5 average, to score 33 points, equaling his career high. Also scoring a career high was Paul Westphal, whose 48 points gave Phoenix its sole win of the week, 115-97 over Denver. It was only the second time this season the Midwest leader had been held to fewer than 100 points. During a 126-92 victory over the Nets, the Nuggets' Dan Issel scored the 15,000th point of his pro career.
PRO FOOTBALL—Division championships or playoff berths were on the line in all but one of Sunday's games. Two titles were decided when Los Angeles' Pat Haden threw a 43-yard TD pass with 2:10 remaining against Oakland (page 67). The 20-14 win gave the Rams the NFC West; the loss gave Denver the AFC West. Oakland's only way to make the playoffs now is as a wildcard team. Dallas, already assured of its playoff berth, clinched the NFC East title with a 24-14 victory over Philadelphia. Tony Dorsett became only the third rookie in history to gain more than 200 yards in a game, amassing 206, including an 84-yard scoring run in the final period. Denver clinched a spot in the playoffs for the first time with a 24-14 win over Houston. The loss put the Oilers out of playoff contention. The Giants more than avenged an earlier 28-0 shutout by the Cardinals, their 27-7 rout clouding St. Louis' chances for a playoff berth. After having a 100-yard kickoff return nullified by a penalty, Stanley Morgan gave New England a second chance. He scored on a 33-yard pass with 4:40 remaining to defeat Atlanta and keep the Patriots in contention for an AFC berth. At the same time, Morgan virtually eliminated the Falcons from the race for the playoffs. Cincinnati kept its hopes alive by beating Kansas City 27-7. The loss dropped the Chiefs' record to 2-10, their worst ever. Minnesota rookie Quarterback Tommy Kramer threw three TD passes in the final period, including a 69-yarder to Sammy White with 1:38 remaining, to lift the Vikings to a 28-27 victory over San Francisco. Walter Payton gained 101 yards and scored the game's only TD in the final period as the Bears shut out Tampa Bay 10-0. Chicago remained in contention for both the Central title and the NFC wild-card spot. Seattle gave Pittsburgh a scare, tying the Steelers in the third quarter, but Roy Gerela kicked his third field goal of the game to break the tie. Terry Bradshaw then threw for one TD and ran for another for a 30-20 win that kept the Steelers in the AFC Central lead. Franco Harris passed the 1,000-yard rushing mark, gaining 103. San Diego routed Cleveland 37-14, virtually eliminating the Browns from contention in the AFC Central and making its own record 7-5, the best since 1969. Washington still had hopes for a wild-card berth after a 10-0 defeat of Buffalo, which also lost on Monday 34-13 to Oakland. Detroit lost all hope, losing to Green Bay 10-9. The Jets defeated New Orleans 16-13 in a game with no playoff significance whatsoever.
GOLF—HOLLIS STACY and JERRY PATE won the $200,000 Mixed Team championship with an 18-under-par 270, one stroke in front of rookies Curtis Strange and Nancy Lopez (page 22).
December 12, 1977
HOCKEY—NHL: Bobby Hull of the WHA had a bad week in the NHL. The New York Rangers' Phil Esposito not only supplanted Hull as the second-leading goal scorer in NHL history when he put in numbers 605, 606 and 607 against St. Louis, but Esposito also tied Hull for the NHL's hat-trick record at 28. Esposito aside, the Rangers suddenly turned defensive on the ice as Wayne Thomas shut out the Blues 4-0 and John Davidson followed by beating the North Stars 4-0. Peter Mahovlich, acquired from Montreal only the day before in a deal for Center Pierre Larouche, introduced himself to the Pittsburgh crowd by scoring three goals in a 6-4 victory over Detroit, which lost three straight. Chicago lost 3-2 decisions to both Buffalo and Montreal, and although they had won only six of 23, they still held a one-point lead over Vancouver in the Smythe race. Buffalo also beat Montreal 3-1, the Sabres' second success against the Canadiens in three games. Boston extended its unbeaten streak to 13 with a 4-2 win over Minnesota and a 4-4 tie at Cleveland. Philadelphia won three straight on the road, and Atlanta dropped three. Washington lost both at home and on the road, extending its winless streak to 18 games. The Islanders, who won twice and tied once on the road, still had the top scorer, Center Bryan Trottier (44 points) and the top goal producer, rookie Right Wing Mike Bossy, who had 20 (page 20).
WHA: Gordie Howe, the player ahead of Esposito in the NHL's goal-scoring race, again failed to score the 1,000th goal of his career, although he did hit the post in New England's 4-1 victory over Hull's Winnipeg Jets. After winning only two games in a month, Indianapolis won two in two nights, beating Quebec 5-4 and Houston 4-2. Quebec recovered to beat Winnipeg 6-5 and take sole possession of second place.
MARATHON—BILL RODGERS won the 12th Fukuoka International in 2:10:55, crossing the finish line in Tokyo 1:00 ahead of Leonid Moiseyev of the Soviet Union.
SOCCER—Hartwick (N.Y.) University ended the University of San Francisco's two-year reign as NCAA soccer champion, beating the Dons 2-1 (page 70).
TENNIS—Australia won its first Davis Cup since 1973 by defeating Italy 3-1 in Sydney. JOHN ALEXANDER clinched the victory by defeating Adriano Panatta in a four-hour, five-set match, 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 8-6, 11-9.
MILEPOSTS—FIRED: By the University of California, football Coach MIKE WHITE, 41, after six years and a 34-31-1 record.
INDICTED: By a Nassau County (N.Y.) grand jury, Dr. MARK GERARD, veterinarian, on nine counts, including felony charges of second-degree grand larceny and first-degree falsification of business records, in connection with allegedly entering a "ringer," the Uruguayan horse Cinzano (SI, Nov. 14), at New York's Belmont Park.
NAMED: By Northwestern University, Assistant Coach RICK VENTURI, 31, as head football coach to replace John Pont, who resigned after a 1-10 record this fall.
By the University of Mississippi, STEVE SLOAN, 33, who won 23 of 34 games at Texas Tech during the last three years, as head football coach to replace Ken Cooper, who resigned.
REPRIMANDED: By Big Ten Commissioner Wayne Duke, Ohio State football Coach WOODY HAYES, for striking an ABC television cameraman during a Nov. 19 game at Michigan. Hayes was put on one year's probation; if he draws another reprimand during that time, he will be automatically suspended for two games.
SENTENCED: By the Nassau County Criminal Court to three years in prison for second-degree grand larceny, RICHARD SORKIN, an agent for 50 professional athletes, who admits having used $1 million of his clients' money for personal investments and gambling.
SIGNED: By the New York Mets, free agent Outfielder ELLIOTT MADDOX, 29, who played out his option with Baltimore, to an $850,000 five-year contract; by the Chicago Cubs, Slugger DAVE KINGMAN, who hit 26 home runs while playing for four clubs in 1977, to a $1.2 million five-year contract.
DIED: BOB MEUSEL, 81, New York Yankee outfielder from 1920 to 1929 and a member of the famed Murderers' Row that included Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth; in Bellflower, Calif.