PRO BASKETBALL—Denver's David Thompson was really hot in Detroit on the last day of the season, tossing in 73 points to equal the third-best single-game performance in NBA history. Wilt Chamberlain twice scored 73 to go along with his record game of 100 and another of 78. Thompson scored 32 points in the first quarter, which may have been the shortest record in league history. A few hours later, San Antonio's George Gervin, playing in New Orleans, had 33 in the second period. He finished the first half with 53 points and the game with 63 to become the NBA's scoring champion with 2,232. But Thompson couldn't save the Nuggets, and Gervin couldn't help the Spurs. Denver lost to Detroit 139-137, and New Orleans defeated San Antonio 153-132. Atlanta, last in the Central Division a year ago and picked to finish in the same spot this season, has been one of the NBA's surprise teams all season. But the Hawks saved their biggest surprise for the last week when they qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 1973. By beating Buffalo 87-74, Atlanta eliminated New Orleans from playoff contention. Golden State, which was half a game behind Milwaukee, lost to Seattle 111-105 in the final game of the regular season, thereby enabling the Bucks to grab the final playoff spot. Injury-plagued Portland (2-3) lost to Seattle 101-86, Houston 101-89 and Golden State 115-96, but came back to defeat Denver 97-93 and Los Angeles 114-99 to finish with the best record in the league. That means the Trail Blazers will have the home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. Boston was out of contention for anything. A 123-111 loss to Milwaukee was Boston's 50th of the season. And to make things even sadder in Boston, John Havlicek played his final game, against Buffalo, ending his career with a 29-point performance. John Williamson became the first player to score 50 points at Indianapolis' Market Square Arena as he led the New Jersey Nets to a 129-121 victory over his former Indiana teammates.
BOWLING—Winning his 12th PBA title, MARK ROTH defeated fellow Staten Islander Johnny Petraglia 194-171 in the $70,000 Greater Hartford Open. Roth is the PBA's leading money winner this year with $72,390.
BOXING—Defending champion WILFREDO GOMEZ of Puerto Rico scored a technical knockout over Juan Antonio Lopez of Mexico to retain the WBC super bantamweight title.
GOLF—GARY PLAYER won his third Masters Tournament with a 15-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to tie the course record final round of 64 and an 11-under-par 277. Hubert Green, Tom Watson and Rod Funseth tied for second at 278 (page 16).
April 17, 1978
GYMNASTICS—Led by Bart Conner and Mike Wilson, OKLAHOMA edged Arizona State 439.350 to 437.075 to win the NCAA title in Eugene, Ore. Conner was the individual overall champion.
HOCKEY—NHL: The New York Islanders dethroned Philadelphia as champions of the Patrick Division—and earned a bye in this week's opening round of Stanley Cup play—by routing the Rangers 7-2 on the next-to-last day of the regular season. The Flyers had delayed the end of their four-year division reign by tying the Islanders 3-3 and whipping the Rangers 3-0 in a game that was marred by a 28-minute brawl. Colorado won its final game, beating St. Louis 5-2, and then made the playoffs as the Smythe Division's No. 2 qualifier when Vancouver lost to Los Angeles 5-3 a few hours later. Montreal's Guy Lafleur scored two goals to end the season with a league-high 60 and his third straight scoring championship (132 points). Matchups for the best-of-three series in round one of the playoffs: Philadelphia vs. Colorado, Buffalo vs. Rangers, Toronto vs. Los Angeles, Atlanta vs. Detroit.
WHA: Winnipeg won the league title over New England and now meets Birmingham in the first round of the playoffs. Other playoff pairings include New England vs. Edmonton and Houston vs. Quebec.
MOTOR SPORTS—Leading for the final 52 laps, BENNY PARSONS' Chevrolet averaged 127.544 mph to win the $165,000 Rebel 500 in Darlington, S.C. Parsons finished 1.9 seconds ahead of Darrell Waltrip's Chevrolet.
SOCCER—Even without Pelè, Shep Messing and Tony Field, the defending champion Cosmos showed in their opener that they are the team to beat in the North American Soccer League by defeating Fort Lauderdale 7-0. Steve Hunt scored three goals and assisted on two others. Oakland got an immediate bonus from new Goalie Messing, who stopped a penalty kick by San Jose's Ilija Mitic during regulation time and had four more saves during the game-deciding shootout. Messing's stinginess allowed the Stompers to beat the Earthquakes 1-0. San Diego needed shots by seven players during a shootout to defeat Rochester 1-0.
SWIMMING—TRACY CAULKINS set American records in the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke, the 400- and 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard freestyle at the AAU Short Course Championships in Austin, Texas. With a 1:59.33 in the 200 IM, she became the first woman to swim that event in less than two minutes (page 22).
TENNIS—Top-seeded JIMMY CONNORS defeated Raul Ramirez 7-5, 7-5 to win his fifth tournament of the year, the $175,000 World Championship in Rotterdam.
TRACK & FIELD—HENRY RONO of Kenya, a Washington State sophomore, set a world record of 13:08.4 for the 5,000 in a triangular meet in Berkeley, Calif. Rono broke the record of 13:12.9 set by Dick Quax of New Zealand last July.
MILEPOSTS—HIRED: As basketball coach at Brown, JOE MULLANEY, 53. Currently coaching a professional team in Udine, Italy, Mullaney was at Providence from 1955 to 1964, when the Friars were 271-94. He also coached in the NBA and ABA. As basketball coach at Purdue, LEE ROSE, 41, who had a 72-18 record during his three years at North Carolina-Charlotte. As basketball coach at Wyoming, JIM BRANDENBURG, 42. Brandenburg's teams had a 39-16 record during his two years at Montana. As basketball coach at Auburn, PAUL LAMBERT, 43. In eight seasons at Southern Illinois, Lambert won 127 of 211 games. As basketball coach at Long Beach State, TEX WINTER, 54. Winter directed Northwestern to a 42-89 record over the past five seasons. As basketball coach at Northwestern, RICH FALK, 35, an assistant coach for the Wildcats during the last six seasons.
RESIGNED: Chicago Bulls coach, ED BADGER, 45, after two seasons and an 84-79 record.
DIED: Baseball's third commissioner, FORD C. FRICK, 83, in Bronxville, N.Y. He was commissioner from 1951 to 1965 and before that president of the National League.
DIED: Hall of Fame thoroughbred Trainer PRESTON M. BURCH, 93, in Middleburg, Va. Burch began his racing career in 1902 and he went on to earn his greatest fame with Brookmeade Stable.