BASKETBALL—Philadelphia's Moses Malone returned to Houston for the first time since having been traded by the Rockets in September. A sellout crowd was on hand to watch him score 24 points—five fewer than teammate Julius Erving—and grab 17 rebounds as the 76ers defeated the Rockets 104-93. One night later, Malone had 24 rebounds, but his 32 points were again second—to Andrew Toney's 36—in a 126-116 overtime win in Dallas. Even if Moses can't stand alone atop statistical peaks every night, as he did as a Rocket, his team can: The 76ers' 24-5 record at week's end was the best in the league and put them two games in front of Boston in the Atlantic Division. Milwaukee beat the Mavericks 111-99 and Rockets 103-82 at home and the Bulls 113-103 in Chicago to open a 5½-game lead over Detroit in the Central Division. Kansas City and San Antonio remain abreast in the Midwest, with the Spurs, winners over San Diego, Chicago and Cleveland, holding a half-game advantage but behind in percentage by .007. Detroit beat San Diego, last in the Pacific Division, 117-105, but not before Clipper Bill Walton had accumulated 30 points, his best scoring performance of the season. He may have rounded into form too late: 32 games into its season, San Diego trails Los Angeles, the Pacific Division leader, by 19½ games.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL—North Carolina upset Texas 26-10 in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, while in the inaugural Aloha Bowl in Honolulu, Washington edged Maryland 21-20. Alabama beat Illinois 21-15 in Coach Bear Bryant's finale, the Liberty Bowl in Memphis; Florida State romped past West Virginia 31-12 in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville; Air Force surprised Vanderbilt 36-28 in the Hall of Fame Bowl in Birmingham; Iowa defeated Tennessee 28-22 in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta; and in the Blue-bonnet Bowl in Houston, Arkansas topped Florida 28-24. Arizona State beat Oklahoma 32-21 in the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz.; UCLA won the Rose Bowl in Pasadena 24-14 over Michigan; SMU concluded an undefeated season with a 7-3 victory over Pitt in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas; Nebraska shaded LSU 21-20 in the Orange Bowl in Miami; and in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, Penn State repulsed previously unbeaten Georgia 27-23 (page 14).
PRO FOOTBALL—On the final Sunday of the regular season, 10 teams battled for four remaining playoff berths. Of the 12 teams already qualified, most had as incentive the possibility of securing a home-field advantage. In the AFC, Buffalo and New England, both 4-4 at the start of the game, played head to head for the right to a 10th Sunday, the Patriots prevailing 30-19 behind Steve Grogan's three touchdown passes. The other unclaimed AFC spot went to Cleveland, a 37-21 loser to Pittsburgh, but a winner—on the basis of a better interconference record than the Bills'—all the same. AFC matchups: The Browns will travel to Los Angeles to meet the Raiders, who concluded an 8-1 season with a 41-34 defeat of San Diego. The Patriots will visit Miami, a 34-7 winner over Baltimore, which ended the season with an 0-8-1 mark; the Chargers and Steelers, both 6-3, will meet in Pittsburgh; and Cincinnati, which defeated Houston 35-27 on the strength of Ken Anderson's NFL-record 20 straight completions, will host the Jets, who were upset 37-13 in Kansas City. In the NFC, Tampa Bay pulled out a 26-23 victory over Chicago when Bill Capece hit a 33-yard field goal 3:14 into overtime to boost the Bucs into the playoffs. Detroit edged Green Bay 27-24 and got a berth when San Francisco, last year's Super Bowl winner, lost 21-20 to the Rams. With the exception of Detroit at Washington, matchups in the NFC hinged on Monday's Minnesota-Dallas game; besides the Lions, Redskins, Cowboys, Vikings and Buccaneers, qualifiers are St. Louis, which the Redskins shut out 28-0, the Packers and Atlanta, 35-6 loser to New Orleans.
HOCKEY—Two superpowers—Wayne Gretzky and the U.S.S.R.—clashed in Edmonton in the opener of the Soviet All-Stars' six-game exhibition series with NHL teams. The Oilers emerged triumphant, thanks to Gretzky's two goals and to the absence of U.S.S.R. Goalie Vladislav Tretiak. Back in the net after reportedly fighting off the flu, Tretiak fought off 37 Quebec shots and 30 from Montreal to earn shutouts of, respectively, 3-0 and 5-0. Then in Calgary, the Soviets fell 3-2 when Tretiak's substitute, Vladimir Myshkin, gave up the game winner to Lanny McDonald. As for the Oilers, they went on to score 14 goals in their next two NHL games, leaving second-place Winnipeg 10 points behind in the Smythe Division. Meanwhile, in the Patrick Division, Philadelphia moved past the New York Islanders into first place. The Flyers' sixth consecutive victory put them five points up on Washington, which claimed second from the suddenly limp Islanders. Boston, which had surprised Montreal in similar fashion last week, snatching the top spot in the Adams Division from the Canadiens, blanked St. Louis 3-0. It was the first shutout of the Blues in 120 games, but the fourth of the season for Bruin Goalie Pete Peeters, the league leader in that department. The NHL's best team, Norris Division leader Chicago, went 1-3 on the week but managed to maintain a solid eight-point lead over Minnesota.
INDOOR SOCCER—MISL: After 10 straight wins, Cleveland led Baltimore by two games in the Eastern Division, and perhaps more significant, the Force was outdrawing the hometown Cavaliers of the NBA by more than 1,000 per home date. Then, in Baltimore, the Force fell 5-4. After Chicago blasted Cleveland 10-3 the next night, its lead had shrunk to half a game. Meanwhile the Sting, with two other victories on the week, 7-6 in overtime against Golden Bay and 9-3 over Los Angeles, leaped over New York to assume third place. Another Eastern Division winner was Memphis, whose Stan Stamenkovic picked up three goals and as many assists in an 8-4 defeat of St. Louis. Stamenkovic leads the league in points with 46. In the Western Division, Phoenix balanced an 8-4 loss to Kansas City with an 8-5 win over New York and emerged with a 1½-game lead over Wichita.
TENNIS—Unseeded MIKE BAUER defeated Chris Johnstone 4-6, 7-6, 6-2 to win the $75,000 South Australian Open in Adelaide.
Pat Cash beat countryman Rod Frawley 6-4, 7-6 to win the $75,000 Victorian Open in Melbourne.
MILEPOSTS—FINED: By the NBA, Phoenix Suns Assistant Coach AL BIANCHI, 50, $2,000 for throwing a clipboard at a referee during a game with Houston on Dec. 12.
NAMED: As football coaches: at Army, JIM YOUNG, 47, who in four years at Arizona and five at Purdue had a combined record of 69-32-1; at Kansas, MIKE GOTTFRIED, 38, who in two years at the University of Cincinnati guided the Bearcats to a 12-10 record; at North Carolina State, TOM REED, 37, who had a 34-19-2 record in five seasons at Miami of Ohio; at Connecticut, TOM JACKSON, 34, an assistant to recently resigned Walt Nadzak for the last five years; at Tulane, Miami Dolphins Quarterback Coach WALLY ENGLISH, 43, replacing Vince Gibson, who resigned.
ORDERED: By the WBA, a rematch of the Dec. 10 heavyweight title fight in Las Vegas in which Mike Weaver was dethroned when Referee Joey Curtis abruptly awarded Michael Dokes a TKO at 63 seconds of the first round.
SIGNED: By the San Diego Padres to a five-year contract worth a reported $6.6 million, free-agent First Baseman STEVE GARVEY, 34, formerly of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
TRADED: By the New York Yankees, First Baseman-Outfielder LEE MAZZILLI, 27, to the Pittsburgh Pirates for four minor-leaguers; by the New York Mets, Pitcher PAT ZACHRY, 30, to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Outfielder JORGE ORTA, 32; by the Texas Rangers, First Baseman PAT PUTNAM, 29, to the Seattle Mariners for Pitcher RON MUSSELMAN, 28.
By the Indiana Pacers, Guard JOHNNY DAVIS, 27, to the Atlanta Hawks for an undisclosed amount of cash and a second-round draft pick in 1983, and future considerations.