BASKETBALL—NBA: The Washington Bullets came within one loss of not qualifying to defend their NBA championship. The San Antonio Spurs jumped out to a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven semifinal series with 116-114 and 118-102 victories. In the first of the wins, George Gervin and James Silas combined for 51 points, while the Spurs' defense held Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes to 21. Still the Bullets fought back after trailing by as many as 14 points late in the fourth quarter and could have sent the game into overtime had Charles Johnson's shot at the buzzer not missed. Two nights later Gervin exploded for 42 points, including 20 in the third quarter—18 of them in a row. Washington recovered to win Game 5 107-103 with Elvin Hayes scoring 24 points and pulling down 22 rebounds, and five other Bullets scoring in double figures. In the other semifinal series, Seattle tied Phoenix 3-3 with a 106-105 victory, after the Suns beat the Sonics twice in a row, 100-91 and 99-93 (page 24).
The U.S. trounced Canada 77-61 in Seoul to win its first World Women's Championship since 1957. The once-beaten U.S., which was led by Carol Blazejowski's 25 points, needed to outscore the previously undefeated Canadians by at least 13 points to win the title.
GOLF—TOM WATSON sank a birdie putt on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff with Bill Rogers to win his third $300,000 Byron Nelson Classic, in Dallas. The two finished regulation play at 275, five under par.
Sandra Post shot a final-round 69 for a nine-under-par 210 to win a $100,000 LPGA tournament in Atlanta by two strokes over Pat Bradley.
May 20, 1979
GYMNASTICS—NADIA COMANECI of Romania won her third consecutive European women's championship, in Copenhagen, scoring 39.45 points in the combined exercises to beat second-place finisher Emilia Eberle, also of Romania, by .60 points. Comaneci won the vault and floor exercises as well.
HOCKEY—NHL: Some funny things happened on the way to the Stanley Cup finals: the Montreal Canadiens almost didn't make it, and the New York Rangers did. Yvon Lambert steered a pass from Mario Tremblay past Boston Goalie Gilles Gilbert at 9:33 of overtime in Game 7 to give Montreal a 5-4 win and a berth in the finals for the fourth straight year (page 58). Boston had evened the series at three games apiece with a 5-2 win as Stan Jonathan scored three goals and lost two front teeth. The Rangers sent the city of New York into a frenzy and nearby Long Island into a funk with a 2-1 Game 6 triumph over the favored Islanders that put the Rangers in the finals for the first time since 1972. Don Murdoch and Ron Greschner scored second-period goals to erase the Islanders' 1-0 lead. An even funnier thing happened in the opening game of the finals: the Rangers stunned the Canadiens 4-1 in the Forum to steal the home-ice advantage.
WHA: Teen-age millionaire Wayne Gretzky scored two goals to lead the Edmonton Oilers to a 6-3 victory over New England in the seventh and deciding game of their semifinal playoff series. After the victory, owner Peter Pocklington promised his players and their wives an all-expenses-paid vacation at an undisclosed place if Edmonton could beat defending champion Winnipeg for the league title. The incentive didn't work in the first two games of the finals. The Jets opened with a 3-1 win in Edmonton, with Rich Preston scoring two goals and Goalie Gary Smith stopping 10 Oiler shots in the last period. Winnipeg then took a 2-0 series lead with a 3-2 victory on three goals in the third period.
HORSE RACING—CZARAVICH ($3.60), ridden by Jean Cruguet, beat Instrument Landing by 1¼ lengths to win the $55,550 Withers at Aqueduct. The 3-year-old was clocked in 1:35[3/5] for the mile.
MOTOR SPORTS—RICK MEARS won the pole position for the Indianapolis 500 by averaging 193.736 mph in his Penske-Cosworth (page20).
Jody Scheckter of South Africa, averaging 111.24 mph in his Ferrari, won the Belgian Grand Prix by 15.36 seconds over Jacques Lafitte of France, driving a Ligier.
SOCCER—NASL: A Tampa Stadium crowd of 40,701 got its wish as the Rowdies beat the archrival Cosmos 3-2 in a rematch of the 1978 Soccer Bowl. The victory was the first for Tampa Bay over the Cosmos in five games since 1977, and the loss was the first for the Cosmos in eight games this year. Yugoslavian Midfielder Peter Baralic scored two goals for Tampa Bay and assisted on the other. Giorgio Chinaglia, the NASL's leading scorer with nine goals (page 76), had tied the score at 2-2 with his second goal of the game, but Baralic booted in the winner with just under 22 minutes left. Earlier in the week the Cosmos won 3-0 over Houston. San Jose lost two more games, 3-0 to Detroit and 2-1 to Seattle, giving the Earthquakes seven defeats in seven games by a total of only nine goals.
ASL: The New Jersey Americans and New York Eagles both won for the first time this season. The Americans beat the Indianapolis Daredevils 1-0 on a goal by Cliff Simmons, who had been signed only a few days before. Sal Scalici's header gave the Eagles their 1-0 victory over Las Vegas. The Columbus Magic won two games to pull within three points of the Eastern Division-leading New York Apollo. The Magic defeated Pennsylvania 1-0 and Cleveland 2-1, and the Apollo lost its second game, 2-1 to the Daredevils.
TENNIS—TRACY AUSTIN defeated Sylvia Hanika of West Germany 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 to win the $100,000 women's Italian Open in Rome. In the semifinals Austin broke Chris Evert Lloyd's six-year, 125-match clay-court winning streak with a 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 victory.
TRACK & FIELD—RUDY CHAPA of the University of Oregon set an American record in the 3,000-meter run at a meet in Eugene, Ore. His time of 7:37.7 bettered by five seconds the mark set by the late Steve Prefontaine in 1974.
Evelyn Ashford of Los Angeles established an American women's record in the 100-meter dash, in Kingston, Jamaica. Her time of 11.07 was .01 of a second faster than the mark set by Tennessee State's Wyomia Tyus in 1968 and Brenda Morehead in 1976.
MILEPOSTS—ANNOUNCED: By EARVIN JOHNSON, 19, that he would pass up his last two years of eligibility at Michigan State to make himself available in the June 25 NBA draft. The 6'8" sophomore, who led the Spartans to the NCAA basketball championship this year, is expected to be selected by the Los Angeles Lakers, the first team to choose in the draft.
HIRED: As coach of the Denver Nuggets, DONNIE WALSH, 38, who served as interim coach after Larry Brown resigned Feb. 1. Under Walsh, the Nuggets went 19-10 and made the playoffs.
PLACED ON PROBATION: By the NCAA, Auburn University, for football and basketball recruiting violations. The football team was banned from bowl and television appearances through 1980, and the basketball team was barred from postseason play and TV games during the 1979-80 season.
RETIRED: Quarterback FRAN TARKENTON, 39, holder of every major NFL career passing record, after 18 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings (1961-66, 1972-78) and New York Giants (1967-71). Tarkenton set the marks for most passes (6,467), most completions (3,686), most yards passing (47,003), most touchdown passes (342) and most yards rushing by a quarterback (3,669), while leading the Vikings to NFC titles in '74, '75 and '77 and six consecutive Central Division championships (1973-78). Tarkenton will become a broadcaster for ABC and WXIA-TV in Atlanta.
Running Back PETE BANASZAK, 34, after 13 seasons with the Oakland Raiders. Banaszak, the Raiders' alltime leader in rushing touchdowns with 47, will become a scout for Oakland.
SIGNED: By the San Diego Clippers, BILL WALTON, 26, to a seven-year contract for an estimated $6 million, making him the highest-paid player in the NBA. Walton, who led the Portland Trail Blazers to the NBA championship in 1977, sat out the 1978-79 season with a foot injury.
DIED: CLYDE KLUTTZ, 61, director of player development for the Baltimore Orioles; of heart and kidney ailments; in Salisbury, N.C. Kluttz spent 42 years in professional baseball, nine of them as a catcher for six major league teams.