PRO BASKETBALL—NBA: Each time Dave DeBusschere was introduced in pregame ceremonies this week the New York forward, in his last NBA season, drew prolonged applause. And the rest of the Knicks also gave him a big hand: they won four of four and closed to within three games of stumbling Boston. First, New York edged the Celtics 108-102 in overtime to clinch a playoff berth. DeBusschere, not one to rest on reputation, had 26 points and 11 rebounds, while Bill Bradley hit 11 of 13 for 25 points. The Knicks closed out the week with an impressive 88-75 triumph at home against Milwaukee, holding the Bucks to the lowest point output in their six-year history. Meanwhile, Central leader Capital became the first team to clinch a division title, by downing Portland 106-103 behind Phil Chenier's 30 points and Elvin Hayes' 16 rebounds. Second-place Atlanta, only three losses (or three Buffalo wins) away from playoff elimination for the first time in 12 years, upset Chicago 106-99. In the Midwest, Milwaukee loped to victories against league lightweights Houston and Kansas City-Omaha (twice), but then lost to Golden State 97-95 when Rick Barry threw in a 20-foot Buck-beater at the buzzer. Chicago scored successes at Phoenix 111-91 and Houston 105-93, but remained four games off Milwaukee's pace. Detroit won two of three and led Los Angeles by 4½ games in the race for the Western Conference wildcard. In the Pacific, the Lakers sandwiched wins against Golden State, Boston and Detroit around a 107-102 loss to Portland, and still trailed Golden State by ½ game.
ABA: A man of many facets, Indiana's Freddie Lewis figured prominently in two triumphs and kept the Pacers in a virtual tie with San Antonio for second spot in the West. First, as Coach Lewis, filling in for the flu-stricken Bobby Leonard, he pulled himself out of a New York game at the half, with Indiana behind 60-40. He directed the second half from the bench and the Pacers scored 80 points and a 120-99 win. Three nights later, as Player Lewis, he hit 24 points and paced Indiana to a 92-82 win over San Antonio. The Indianans went on to swamp Memphis 115-103 before falling to East leader Kentucky 113-108 in overtime. Utah led the West by 10 games as the Stars' offense, run by Willie Wise and Ron Boone, "began to look the way an offense ought to look," according to Coach Joe Mullaney. Utah dropped Memphis 119-103, Denver 132-111 and Virginia 109-103. Against the Squires, Wise and Rick Mount hit for 24 and 21 points. San Antonio won three of four, with George Gervin the sharpest Spur, netting 106 points. The fight for the West's final playoff spot tightened when San Diego whipped Denver 100-96 and climbed within 2½ games of the Rockets. Meanwhile, New York Coach Kevin Loughery bemoaned his club's lack of leadership in losses to Indiana and Kentucky. The Colonels won three of four games and snatched first place in the East from the Nets. Carolina split two games and Virginia lent respectability to its fourth-place playoff position by upsetting Utah 107-106.
FIGURE SKATING—Despite a spill in her final freestyle number, and the usual ruckus over nationalism in judging, East Germany's CHRISTINE ERRATH, 17, won the world championship in Munich. U.S. entry Dorothy Hamill was second. In the men's competition, favored East German JAN HOFFMAN outpointed Sergei Volkov of Russia. In pairs, IRINA RODNINA and ALEKSANDR ZAITAEV of the U.S.S.R. won their second consecutive title.
GOLF—BUDDY ALLIN fired a final-round 67 to win the $150,000 Doral-Eastern Open in Miami. Alton's 272 beat Jerry Heard by one stroke.
Carol Mann carded a final-round 69 for a 219 to capture the $100,000 S&H Green Stamp Classic at Houston by two strokes over Kathy Whitworth.
HOCKEY—NHL: Boston learned about the power of positive playoff thinking this week. The Bruins, who own the best won-lost record in pro hockey, went up against four teams fighting for Stanley Cup berths and came away with just one win, 8-0 against St. Louis. It started when Toronto, the fourth-place team in the East, scored its first win in Boston Garden since March 1968, downing the Bruins 6-4. Then Atlanta—in a three-way tussle with Los Angeles and St. Louis for the last two playoff spots in the West—blasted the Bruins 4-1 in Atlanta. Boston Coach Bep Guidolin said of the fired-up Flames, "They thought they were Tarzan." Los Angeles also was tough: with Gene Carr's hat trick leading the way, the Kings forced Phil Esposito to salvage a 4-4 tie for Boston with his second goal of the game and 58th of the season. Los Angeles, with wins over California 2-1 and Chicago 3-2, and Atlanta (three wins in as many games), ended up in a third-place tie in the West. Floundering St. Louis, which has lost 12 of its last 16, was five points off the playoff pace. Atop the West, Philadelphia won three and led Chicago by five points. While Boston was having its troubles in the East, Montreal faced teams already assured of playoff spots. But that was bad, too. Philadelphia blasted the Canadiens 6-0 on Bernie Parent's 11th shutout of the year and third-place New York humiliated them 9-2 to give Coach Emile Francis his 300th win. The Canadiens won a 4-2 rematch with the Rangers, ending New York's unbeaten string at 10 games. Fifth-place Buffalo won twice and moved to within eight points of Toronto.
WHA: Minnesota's Mike Walton continued to shoot up the league in a manner that threatened to steal headlines from his basketball namesake, Bill. The left wing scored three goals to lead the Fighting Saints to a 5-3 win at Los Angeles, added four more in an 8-6 decision over New England and finished the week with four more goals as the Saints extended their unbeaten streak to 11, against Quebec 9-5. The Saints have cut Houston's lead in the West from 11 points to seven. Edmonton moved into a third-place tie with Winnipeg by beating Houston 4-2. In the East, New England held a seven-point lead on Toronto. Cleveland went unbeaten in four games and moved into a third-place tie with slumping Quebec. And Chicago found itself within six points of a playoff spot when Larry Mavety's goal beat Winnipeg 5-4 in overtime.
HORSE RACING—Angel Cordero rode TRUE KNIGHT ($3.20) to victory in the $118,000 John B. Campbell Handicap at Bowie, Md. The 5-year-old finished the 1¼ miles half a length ahead of Delay.
Judger ($4.40) won the $217,000 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park and established himself as a favorite for the Kentucky Derby. Ridden by Laffit Pincay Jr., the bay colt took the 1‚⅛-mile event by ¾ lengths over Cannonade in 1:49.
MOTOR SPORTS—Inaugurating the 1974 Indy-car season at an average 157.017 mph, BOBBY UN-SER rolled home just .58 seconds ahead of brother Al to seize the $300,000 California 500. Favorite A.J. Foyt dropped out with a pierced oil tank after 57 miles.
SKIING—PIERO GROS of Italy clinched the World Cup championship with one race still to go by winning the giant slalom at Vysoke Tatry, Czechoslovakia. Gros leads the field with 181 points to 162 for runner-up Hans Hinterseer of Austria, who finished third in the giant slalom. Defending champion Gustavo Thoeni of Italy was disqualified for missing a gate on the foggy course.
TENNIS—CHRIS EVERT downed Virginia Wade 7-5, 6-2 to win $10,000 at the Maureen Connolly Brinker International in Dallas.
Jimmy Connors defeated Ilie Nastase 6-4, 6-4 to win $10,000 and the Coliseum Mall International at Hampton, Va. It was Connors' second victory in the 10 times the two have met.
TRACK & FIELD—TONY WALDROP ran his seventh consecutive sub-four-minute mile at 3:59.5 to highlight the NCAA Indoor Championships in Detroit. TEXAS-EL PASO won its first team title with 19 points, edging Colorado by one.
MILEPOSTS—NAMED: Cincinnati's new franchise in the World Hockey Association, the STINGERS, after a contest that drew 1,255 tries.
RESIGNED: As basketball coach at Memphis State, GENE BARTOW, to accept the same post at Illinois, succeeding Harv Schmidt. Bartow coached the Tigers to an 81-31 record in four years, including a second place in the NCAAs last year.
RETIRED: MARILYN, 24, and BARBARA ANN COCHRAN, 23, the mainstays of the U.S. Alpine Ski Team for six years. Marilyn cited an ankle injury, the team's coaching changes (father Mickey Cochran resigned as head coach of the national team six months after taking the job), and her concern that "I'm not developing as a person." Barbara Ann, the 1972 Olympic slalom gold medalist, said: "You've got to want it and I don't anymore."
DIED: FRED CRAWFORD, 62, All-America lineman at Duke under Wallace Wade in 1931-33, then with the Chicago Bears; in Tallahassee, Fla.
DIED: ROBERT LEE SUFFRIDGE, 58, All-America guard on Tennessee's undefeated football teams of 1938-40 and star of the 1939 Volunteers, the last major college team to go unbeaten, untied and unscored upon.