PRO BASKETBALL—NBA: Philadelphia continued its search for a fourth victory (page 44) and Detroit also was having troubles. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar froze the Pistons by scoring 44 points and pulling down 28 rebounds in Milwaukee's 115-91 win. He held Center Bob Lanier to just eight points while doing it. The next night Lanier vented some of his frustration on New York by scoring 38 points and grabbing 26 rebounds. But the Knicks still won 99-94, with Walt Frazier scoring 24 points, half of them in the fourth quarter. The Knicks kept the pressure on first-place Boston in the Atlantic Division by winning their 21st game in 22 contests at home, 100-98, over Baltimore on a last-second jumper by Dave DeBusschere that bounced around the rim and dropped in as the buzzer sounded. The Celtics, meanwhile, beat the 76ers 117-107 as John Havlicek netted 28 points for Boston. In the Central Division, Baltimore and Atlanta remained in a virtual tie for first place. The Hawks defeated Buffalo 120-110 as Pete Maravich, Lou Hudson and Herm Gilliam scored 31, 29 and 22 points respectively. Chicago gained in the Midwest Division in a head-on meeting with first-place Milwaukee. The Bulls took a 99-92 victory as Bob Love scored 28 points while Abdul-Jabbar was held to 24. On successive nights Los Angeles and Golden State, the one-two teams in the Pacific Division, defeated the Kansas City-Omaha Kings. The Lakers did it 121-92, holding Nate Archibald, the NBA's top scorer, to 21 points. Archibald busted out against Golden State with a 45-point game, but the Warriors were a 113-107 winner. Rick Barry had 36 points. Phoenix, behind Charlie Scott's torrid second-half shooting in which he scored 31 of his 38 points, took a 107-104 win over Portland.
ABA: Something had to give when Carolina, with a five-game winning streak, met Kentucky, which had won seven straight. The Cougars won 104-91 as Tom Owens picked an excellent time to record career highs in both scoring (30 points) and rebounding (21). Utah, the new leader in the West Division, defeated San Diego 111-89 as Gerald Govan supplied the ball for the fast break by picking off 25 rebounds and Jimmie Jones led the scoring with 27 points. Slumping Indiana finally ended a five-game losing steak at the expense of Dallas, 109-101. George McGinnis had 27 points, including his team's last five, and Gus Johnson, recently signed as a free agent by the Pacers, contributed 18 points. Not only did the New York Nets lose to Denver 136-98 but playmaker Bill Melchionni injured his ankle again. Ralph Simpson scored 40 for the Rockets. Melchionni had scored 23 points the night before as the Nets ended a five-game losing streak by beating San Diego 114-104.
HARNESS RACING—R.R. Fastball ($3.20), driven by Glen Garnsey, won the $36,348 Florida Breeders Stake for 2-year-old trotting colts by 2¾ lengths over Rum Fizz, trained and driven by John Walker Sr. The winner set a track record of 2:07[4/5] at Pompano Park, Pompano Beach, Fla.
HOCKEY—NHL: After a slow start, the Boston Bruins have gained a share of first place in the East Division with Montreal (page 54), the leader all season. For a day, the Bruins took sole possession of first by defeating Minnesota 2-0 in a nationally televised game. The shutout was Goalie Eddie Johnson's third and he stopped 37 North Star shots to earn it. Boston scored the only goal it really needed in the first period when Bobby Orr put one in after a return feed from Phil Esposito. It was Orr's 10th goal. Later, Mike Walton netted his 20th goal by slapping the puck past Goalie Cesaro Maniago. Montreal gained only a share of the top position as expansionist Atlanta played the Canadiens to a 1-1 tie. Yvan Cournoyer scored for Montreal and Reynald Comeau for the Flames. Buffalo and the New York Rangers were deadlocked for third place in the division. The Sabres, with two former Rangers scoring goals, posted a 4-1 triumph over New York. Alumni Jim Lorentz and Don Luce netted goals as did Rene Robert and Gil Perrault. Buffalo has beaten the Rangers in all three meetings tins season. Injuries continued to plague the New Yorkers and even Trainer Frank Paice was not safe. He suffered a gash above his right eye when Pete Stemkowski accidentally hit him with his stick while trying to pry loose from a pileup in front of the Ranger bench. Chicago and Minnesota were the one-two teams in the West Division. The Black Hawks ran into tough Buffalo on the road and suffered an 8-2 loss to follow a 5-3 setback to St. Louis at home the night before.
WHA: New England, the top team in the East Division, played red-hot Houston and suffered a 4-2 defeat. It ran the unbeaten streak of the Aeros to six games as Larry Lund scored a pair of goals to give him 10. Second-place Cleveland gained on the Whalers by beating Quebec 5-3. Paul Andrea scored twice as the Crusaders ran their winning string to four games. Last-place Chicago gave the West leader, Winnipeg, a close game before losing 3-2 on Jean-Guy Gratton's goal midway in the last period. Gratton took a pass from Danny Johnson and skipped the puck past Cougar Goalie Jim McLeod for his ninth goal of the season.
HORSE RACING—The top sprinter of 1972, CHOU CROUTE, scored a¾-length victory over Generous Portion to win the $35,700 Las Flores Handicap at Santa Anita Park. The winner covered the six furlongs in 1:09[1/5] and paid $3.60.
Ancient title ($5) won the 33rd running of the $61,175 California Breeders' Champion Stakes for 2-year-olds at Santa Anita. The winner covered the seven furlongs in 1:22[2/5] and finished 4¾ lengths ahead of River Lad.
SAILING—AMERICAN EAGLE, skippered by Ted Turner of Atlanta, finished first in a field of 79 in the 630-mile Sydney-to-Hobart race. The 68-foot sloop covered the course in three days, four hours, 42 minutes and 39 seconds, some 15 minutes ahead of Greybeard, a Canadian ketch.
The University of Southern California won the 11th annual Intercollegiate Sugar Bowl Regatta on Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana, finishing ahead of the Merchant Marine Academy and the University of Texas.
SKIING—Austria's REINHOLD BACHLER defeated competitors from nine nations in winning the Christmas jumping event on Olympic Hill, St. Moritz, Switzerland. He had jumps of 81 and 85 meters for a 218.5 point total.
SOCCER—Mike Seerey scored two goals within 61 seconds as ST. LOUIS defeated UCLA 4-2 for the NCAA title at Miami (page 50).
SQUASH—GLENN WHITMAN, a Harvard junior, won the 34th annual invitational racquets singles championship by defeating Princeton's David Page 15-12, 15-11, 15-9.
MILEPOSTS—FIRED: As head coach of the Baltimore Colts, JOHN SANDUSKY and his five-man staff of Bob Boyd, Hank Bullough, Red Miller, Dick Bielski and John Idzik. Joe Thomas, general manager, wanted "a new approach, a new look."
HIRED: As head football coach by the University of Cincinnati, TONY MASON, a former Purdue assistant, replacing Dan Radakovich, who was first named as successor to Ray Callahan but then withdrew for personal reasons.
MISSING: Pittsburgh Outfielder ROBERTO CLEMENTE, when plane carrying him and four others on a relief flight to Nicaragua crashed in the Atlantic. A nightlong search yielded no survivors.
SIGNED: By Tennessee Football Coach BILL BATTLE, a contract extending his job for five years through the 1977 season.
SIGNED: By Coach NICK SKORICH of the Cleveland Browns, a three-year contract extending his job through the 1975 season, after a 10-4 record and a wild-card playoff berth.
SWITCHED: From head football coach at Indiana to Northwestern, JOHN PONT. He had a 31-51-1 record in eight seasons at Indiana and was 5-6 last year.
WITHDREW: From the World Championship Tennis tour, DENNIS RALSTON, because of an arthritic condition in his knees.
DIED: Mail-order muscle-building millionaire CHARLES ATLAS, 79; in Long Beach, N.Y.
DIED: HUGH (Jumbo) EDWARDS, 66, who won two Olympic gold medals in 1932 for rowing, and later coached British Olympic crews; in Southampton, England.
DIED: CHARLES LEO (Gabby) HARTNETT, 72, Hall of Fame catcher for the Chicago Cubs; after a long illness; in Park Ridge, Ill.
DIED: Former New York Giant Defensive Back JIMMY PATTON, 39; in an automobile accident; near Villa Rica, Ga.
DIED: A founder of the Hungarian National Sports Federation, COUNT ANTHONY SZAPARY, 66, who helped members of the 1956 Hungarian Olympic team escape to the West from Melbourne; in New York City.