PRO BASKETBALL—NBA: Closing in on Pacific leaders Seattle and Los Angeles was Phoenix, which swept six games to run its winning streak to nine. Two of the victories came against Kansas City, with Paul Westphal scoring 30 in a 115-111 win and adding 31 more in a 118-112 triumph. Those victories left the Suns one game behind the SuperSonics and just .008 in back of the second-place Lakers. L.A. beat the Sonics 102-97 behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 32 points and won five of eight other games, including a 129-118 victory in Chicago and a 123-105 win over the Atlantic Division-leading Celtics. While Abdul-Jabbar's 39 points put away the Bulls, it was balanced scoring—six Lakers with 15 or more points—that led to Boston's loss. The Celtics lost only one other game, 126-113 to Philadelphia, as they clung to a two-game lead over the 76ers. Julius Erving, who scored 37 in a 114-102 defeat of Detroit and 39 as Philly beat Houston 117-106, had 37 more in the defeat of Boston that avenged an earlier 112-89 Celtic win and stopped a seven-game Boston victory string. But no one scored more against the Celtics than New Jersey Guard Mike Newlin. In a 115-112 overtime loss he poured in 52 points, a league high this season. Newlin also had 37 in a 116-104 win over the sagging Bullets, who dropped into fourth place in the Atlantic. Washington did manage a 117-108 victory over Milwaukee on the strength of Greg Ballard's career-high 27 points. The Bucks, after ending a six-game losing streak by beating Utah 104-79, defeated division rival Kansas City, which had won eight in a row. The 120-109 triumph moved Milwaukee half a game ahead of the Kings in the Midwest. The third-place Nuggets, 8½ games behind the Bucks and hardly in need of more problems, lost 6'8", 235-pound Forward George McGinnis, who was given a three-game suspension for having steamrolled 5'10", 165-pound referee Jeff Kersey while running upcourt in Seattle. Without him, Denver lost 114-98 to Detroit, which had suffered eight straight defeats. Despite the win, the 10-29 Pistons sank below Utah and became the league's losingest team.
WBL: The Washington and Philadelphia franchises folded, leaving the league with 12 teams in three slightly realigned divisions. New York remained atop the East with three wins and a 10-2 record, while Minnesota stretched its Midwest lead over Iowa to two games by going 3-1. San Francisco tied Houston for first place in the West by defeating the Angels 79-75.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL—PITTSBURGH defeated Arizona 16-10 in the Fiesta Bowl at Tempe, Ariz.
In the Sun Bowl, WASHINGTON upset Texas 14-7.
Penn State won the Liberty Bowl at Memphis 9-6 over Tulane.
In the Gator Bowl at Jacksonville, NORTH CAROLINA defeated Michigan 17-15.
LSU beat Wake Forest 34-10 in the Tangerine Bowl at Orlando, Fla.
In the Holiday Bowl at San Diego, INDIANA defeated Brigham Young 38-37.
PRO FOOTBALL—Houston, which had defeated Denver 13-7 in the wild-card game, upset San Diego 17-14 to reach the AFC finals. The Oilers will face Pittsburgh, a 34-14 winner over Miami. In the NFC, Philadelphia won the wild-card playoff 27-17 over the Bears before losing to Tampa Bay 24-17. The Bucs will play Los Angeles, which beat the Cowboys 21-19, for the conference title (page 12).
HOCKEY—While one record-breaking streak ended, two other streaks became record setters. Atlanta Center Garry Unger, bothered by a torn shoulder muscle, finally sat out after having played 914 games in a row, the most ever—by 284 games—in the NHL. The Flames' 7-3 win over St. Louis was the first game he had missed since Feb. 24, 1968. Meanwhile the Flyers couldn't lose and Los Angeles Left Wing Charlie Simmer couldn't stop scoring. Philadelphia, with four victories and three ties, broke the league record of 28 successive unbeaten games. Two days after their 1-1 tie with Pittsburgh equaled the mark, the Flyers' 5-2 win in Boston broke it. Philly then defeated the Whalers 4-2 on rookie Brian Propp's two goals, tied Hartford 4-4 as Propp again scored twice and beat Winnipeg and Colorado to extend the undefeated string to 33. For the Kings, who lost just one of five outings, Simmer raised his league-leading goal total to 34. With a pair of scores in Toronto he tied the modern NHL record shared by Andy Bathgate, Bobby Hull and Mike Bossy of having at least one goal in 10 straight games. Simmer slapped in his own rebound to break the record in a 5-3 loss to the Sabres and scored again against Edmonton and Quebec before Minnesota ended his streak at 13. He fell three games short of the alltime record set in 1921-22 by Harry Broadbent of the Ottawa Senators. The Bruins, third in the point standings, with 45, behind the Flyers (58) and the Sabres (51), began their own streak of sorts: four wins against teams not from Philadelphia. Wrapped around its loss to Philly. Boston defeated Buffalo 5-1, Atlanta 5-3 and Toronto 10-0 on a Gerry Cheevers shutout. The fourth win came in New York, where three last-period goals sparked both a 4-3 Bruin win over the Rangers and a brawl between Boston players and heckling fans. On the same night in Chicago, the Islanders suffered their only defeat in four games, 8-0 to the Black Hawks. Montreal continued to stumble, losing its sixth in a row 4-3 to Minnesota, which got five goals and five assists from Al MacAdam in its three wins. After the Canadiens ended their longest slump in 40 years by defeating Vancouver 4-2, they fell again, to the Islanders 7-3. A more traditional loser, the Red Wings, hoped that moving to new Joe Louis Arena would bring better luck. A crowd of 19,742 fans, a Detroit record, showed up for the opener at the new rink, but the only other new aspect of the evening was louder booing as the Red Wings lost to St. Louis 3-2.
SPEED SKATING—At the U.S. Olympic Trials in West Allis, Wis., ERIC HEIDEN broke his own 1,000-meter world record by .62 with a time of 1:14.37.
MILEPOSTS—FIRED: As a result of the controversy over University of New Mexico basketball players obtaining phony credits. Coach NORM ELLENBERGER, 47, who had been suspended by the school on Nov. 30.
Baltimore Coach TED MARCHIBRODA, 48, after two successive 5-11 seasons. He had led the Colts to AFC East titles in each of his first three years (1975-77).
Pepper Rodgers, 48, as Georgia Tech football coach. The Yellow Jackets were 4-6-1 in 1979 and 34-31-2 in Rodgers' six seasons.
HIRED: As coach of the Bengals, FORREST GREGG, 46, who coached Toronto of the CFL to a 5-11 record in 1979. He replaces Homer Rice, who was fired following Cincinnati's second straight 4-12 season.
NAMED: LPGA Player of the Year for the second year in a row, NANCY LOPEZ MELTON, 22, who won a tour-record $215,987 and nine tournaments.