PRO BASKETBALL—For the first time since they came into the NBA, the Denver Nuggets had a five-game losing streak. Four of the defeats came during an ungolden Nugget trip through the Atlantic Division. Division leader Philadelphia held David Thompson to eight points and beat Denver 109-103 in overtime, and Washington, winner of four straight, overcame a 35-point performance by Thompson in its 119-114 victory. Boston, which had lost six in a row and 12 of 14, defeated the Nuggets 120-118 in Dave Cowens' debut as player-coach (page 24). Player Cowens came through with 17 points and 12 rebounds for Coach Cowens. The next night the Celtics made it two in a row by beating Cleveland 92-90. A 106-100 defeat of Denver helped New York run its win streak to four games under new-old Coach Red Holzman. The Knicks also beat Cleveland 97-93 and Milwaukee 102-100. The Denver losses and two Kansas City wins—109-100 over Atlanta and 114-100 over New Jersey—moved the Kings into first place in the Midwest Division for the first time in four seasons. Los Angeles edged close to first-place Seattle in the Pacific by beating New Orleans 121-109 for its 12th consecutive win. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Adrian Dantley, who had a total of 210 points during the Lakers' four victories, continued to lead the way for L.A., but they received plenty of help from Jamaal Wiikes, who scored 23 points a game. San Diego and Portland were also undefeated. Maurice Lucas, who averaged 23 points during the week, and Lionel Hollins, who scored a season-high 29 points in a 123-111 defeat of New Orleans, paced the Trail Blazers to three victories, and the Clippers won thrice behind the scoring of Lloyd Free and Randy Smith, whose season scoring averages are 26.6 and 20.1, respectively.
CROSS-COUNTRY—MARY DECKER of Colorado won the AIAW individual championship, covering the 5,000-meter course in Denver in 16:59.4. She finished 1.8 seconds ahead of Julie Shea of North Carolina State. Iowa State won its fourth consecutive team title, with North Carolina State coming in second.
PRO FOOTBALL—By making Washington its fourth consecutive victim, St. Louis enabled Dallas to move into a first-place tie in the NFC East with the Redskins. Jim Hart's two scoring passes and Willard Harrell's 70-yard punt return for a touchdown lifted the Cardinals to a 21-0 lead, and with the help of Jim Baaken's two field goals, which moved him past Fred Cox into second place on the NFL career scoring list with 1,367 points, St. Louis held on for a 27-17 win. The Cowboys spotted New Orleans a quick seven before scoring 27 unanswered points. Roger Staubach ran for one touchdown and threw for another, and Tony Dorsett rushed for 152 yards. Fullback Robert Newhouse fractured a bone in his right leg but could be back in as few as three weeks. Minnesota and Green Bay each missed an opportunity to take over sole possession of first in the NFC Central. San Diego snapped the Vikings' four-game winning streak with a 13-7 upset, and Denver kept pace with Oakland in the AFC West by beating the Packers 16-3. The Broncos held Green Bay's Terdell Middleton, the league's fourth-leading ground-gainer, to 32 yards on 14 carries, while Denver's Rob Lytle picked up 110 yards on 16 rushes to break 100 yards for the first time this season. With Mark van Eeghen scoring two TDs on runs and another by falling on a fumble in the end zone, the Raiders, who had upended Cincinnati 34-21 on Monday night, defeated Detroit 29-17. The Bengals then dropped to 1-11 by losing 7-6 to Pittsburgh. Rocky Bleier scored the only touchdown on a one-yard plunge, and the Steelers' Terry Bradshaw threw four interceptions. In another defensive struggle, Bruce Herron of the Bears blocked a punt to set up a two-yard touchdown run by Walter Payton—who was held to 34 yards on 20 carries—as Chicago ended its eight-game losing streak with a 13-7 victory over Atlanta. Los Angeles opened up a three-game lead in the NFC West over the second-place Falcons by beating San Francisco 31-28 on a last-second field goal by Frank Corral. Pat Haden, who hit on 17 of 25 passes for 267 yards, kept the game from going into overtime by throwing three completions to Ron Jessie during the Rams' final drive. New England, Philadelphia and Seattle also came away with victories that weren't decided until the final seconds of play. After the Patriots' David Posey kicked a 24-yard field goal with 2:30 remaining, the Jets drove to the New England 16, but Pat Leahy's field-goal attempt was wide. The Giants had a 17-12 lead over the Eagles with 30 seconds left and were running out the clock when Quarterback Joe Pisarcik fumbled while attempting to make a routine handoff to Larry Csonka. Cornerback Herman Edwards picked up the ball and raced 26 yards to clinch a 19-17 win. Kansas City was inside the Seattle one-yard line with 15 seconds to go, but Running Back Tony Reed fumbled, allowing the Seahawks to hold on for a 13-10 win. Tampa Bay, which has been playing without its starting quarterback, leading ground-gainer and two first-string linemen, ended a three-game losing streak by beating Buffalo 31-10, and Cleveland defeated Baltimore 45-24 as the Browns' Brian Sipe threw for 309 yards and four touchdowns—three of them to Calvin Hill.
GOLF—JACK NICKLAUS shot a final-round one-under-par 71 for a 284 total to win the $253,000 Australian Open by six strokes over Ben Crenshaw.
HOCKEY—NHL: Atlanta, which had been almost invincible so far this season, suddenly found itself only three points ahead of the Islanders in the Patrick Division after having dropped three out of four games. Two of the losses came last week to Boston, by a score of 6-2, and to Washington, 8-7. By winning twice, the Capitals doubled their number of victories this season, but their hot streak didn't extend to a game against the Islanders, who beat the Caps 4-2 and then defeated Philadelphia 8-2 and the Rangers 5-3. Following that loss, the Ranger line of Ulf Nilsson, Pat Hickey and Anders Hedberg exploded for 21 total points in a 7-2 victory over Minnesota and an 8-1 triumph against Smythe Division leader Chicago. The Black Hawks lost two other games, including a 4-1 decision to Los Angeles. The Kings went on to beat St. Louis 4-2 and Montreal 6-3 before bowing to Pittsburgh 3-1. The Penguins, fourth in the Norris Division, also beat Vancouver, 6-3, to become the week's only all-winning team. Toronto, whose record was marred only by a 2-2 tie with Buffalo, beat St. Louis 3-1 and Boston 6-4 to move within a point of the Adams Division-leading Bruins.
WHA: For the second week in a row, a single point separated the top three teams. First-place Quebec beat Winnipeg 8-2 and 5-2, as Mark Tardif scored two goals in each game. Led by the four-goal, two-assist performance of Morris Lukowich, the Jets bounced back with a 10-6 victory over Cincinnati, which is tied with New England for second. The Whalers began the week by tying Birmingham and Cincinnati, but after Mark Howe, the league's No. 2 scorer, lost two teeth and missed some action, the Bulls beat New England 7-1 and 3-2.
HORSE RACING—New Zealand's GRAND CANYON, Ron Barry up, won the $100,000 Colonial Cup, the richest steeplechase in the U.S., by two lengths over Deux Coup. The 8-year-old gelding covered the 2¾-mile, 17-fence course at Camden, S.C. in 5:10[2/5].
MOTOR SPORTS—BOBBY ALLISON, who averaged 137.783 mph in a Ford, won the $179,775 Los Angeles Times 500, the final race of the Grand National stock-car season, by 1.78 seconds over Cale Yarborough in an Oldsmobile.
TENNIS—CHRIS EVERT beat Martina Navratilova 6-3, 6-3 to win the $250,000 Colgate Series title in Rancho Mirage, Calif. (page30).
John McEnroe won two tournaments, beating Tim Gullikson in the finals of both. He triumphed 6-2, 6-2 in the $175,000 Stockholm Open, in which he defeated Bjorn Borg in the semis, and 6-7, 6-4, 7-6, 6-2 at a $175,000 Grand Prix tournament in Wembley, England.
MILEPOSTS—NAMED: Player-coach of the Boston Celtics, Center DAVE COWENS, 30. A former NBA Co-Rookie of the Year and MVP, Cowens this season is averaging 17 points and 7.8 rebounds a game. He replaces TOM (Satch) SANDERS, 40, under whom the Celtics were 2-12 this year and 21-27 last season, after he took over from Tom Heinsohn on Jan. 5.
NAMED: National League Most Valuable Player, Outfielder DAVE PARKER, 27, of Pittsburgh. He led his league in batting (.334) and had 30 home runs and 117 RBIs.
SIGNED: By the New York Yankees, free agent LUISTIANT, whose age is variously listed as 37, 40 or whatever, for a reported $850,000. The righthander, who had a 13-8 record and a 3.31 ERA last season for the Boston Red Sox, will pitch for at least two years and then serve as the team's Director of Latin Affairs.