PRO BASKETBALL—The NBA playoffs were a month away, yet only two Western Conference berths remained open. Houston and Utah clinched spots last week, leaving San Antonio, Sacramento, Seattle and Phoenix fighting for their lives. The Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Lakers lost five of their last eight games, including two of three last week. The reason: the absence of Magic Johnson, who missed six games with a groin pull. He returned for the Lakers' lone victory of the week, a 117-95 defeat of the Rockets, but was out of the game again when Denver's Michael Adams hit a 15-foot jumper at the buzzer to beat L.A. 120-119. The 5'10" Adams, the only NBA starter standing less than six feet, also stretched his league-record streak of nailing at least one three-pointer in a game to 30. Though the Nuggets were a perfect four for four on the week, they couldn't make up any ground on Midwest pacesetter Dallas, which also was unbeaten. In the East, only Boston. No. 1 in the Atlantic Division, and Detroit, tops in the Central, have clinched playoff berths, but the entire Central Division seemed destined to follow suit. That left Washington, Philadelphia and New York battling for the final berth. On Friday night the Celtics fell victim to the 76ers' determination. Boston had a 30-point lead midway through the third quarter, but Philly shut out the Cells for the last 4½ minutes of the game and won 97-93. The Knicks' playoff hopes dimmed the next night when embarrassed Boston was unrelenting in a 118-106 victory. "It wasn't particularly directed at the Knicks," said Celtics forward Kevin McHale. "We were ready to take it out on anyone."
CROSS-COUNTRY—At the world championships in Auckland, New Zealand. JOHN NGUGI of Kenya beat countryman Paul Kipkoech by 22 seconds to win the men's title for the third straight year. Ngugi ran the 12-km course in 34:32. KENYA, with eight of the top nine finishers, won the men's team crown. In the women's division, INGRJD KRISTIANSEN of Norway finished first, with a 19-second win over Angela Tooby of Great Britain. She ran the 5,962-meter course in 19:04.
GOLF—MARK McCUMBER fired a record 15-under-par 273 to win The Players Championship, in Ponte Vedra, Fla. His four-stroke victory over Mike Reid was worth $225,000 (page 32).
Ok-Hee Ku defeated Awako Okamoto and Dot-tie Mochrie by one stroke to earn the 552,500 winner's check at an LPGA event in Phoenix. Ku shot an 11-under-par 281.
HOCKEY—With 12 of 16 playoff spots already filled, the real action last week was at the bottom of the NHL as the remaining teams scrambled to stay alive. In the Adams Division, Hartford won all four of its games and took a comfortable seven-point lead over last-place Quebec, a three-time loser, for the division's final playoff berth. Buffalo landed the Adams's third spot. Los Angeles beat out Vancouver for the Smythe Division's final berth. In the Kings' crucial 9-5 win over Chicago, center Jimmy Carson had three goals and became only the second American-born player to score 50 in a season. The two worst teams in the league. Minnesota and Toronto, were about equally inept in their quests for the final Norris Division postseason spot. The North Stars could manage only one win in three outings—a 5-4 defeat of Chicago—and the Maple Leafs lost all three of their games by a combined score of 6-15. That comedy of errors left Minnesota and Toronto lied at 50 points apiece with three games remaining. Patrick Division leaders Washington and the Islanders secured their places in the playoffs. Philadelphia, only two points back, was surely playoff-bound. Pittsburgh had a clutch week in which it defeated Washington 7-1, knocked off Quebec 6-3 and ended Montreal's 15-game unbeaten streak with a 5-2 victory. The three wins tied the Penguins with the New York Rangers, 1-1-2 on the week, in a battle for the Patrick's final berth.
HORSE RACING—PERFECT SPY ($10), Robbie Davis up, won the Bay Shore Stakes at Aqueduct over favored Success Express by three quarters of a length. The 3-year-old gelding ran the seven eighths of a mile in 1:22[3/5] and earned $98,460.
Creme Fraiche ($7.60), Angel Cordero Jr. in the saddle, upset favored Cryptoclearance by a nose to win the Tropical Park Handicap at Calder. The 6-year-old gelding ran the 1¼ miles in 2:05[4/5] to break the course record by 1[1/5] seconds. The victory was worth $131,760.
INDOOR SOCCER—Parity continued to reign in the MISL as only two teams, Western Division leader San Diego and Eastern leader Minnesota, had winning percentages of better than .521. With less than three weeks remaining in the regular season, no additional teams clinched postseason berths, but St. Louis was eliminated from playoff contention.
MOTOR SPORTS—LAKE SPEED, driving an Olds-mobile, outdrove Alan Kulwicki, in a Ford, by 19 seconds to win $49,435 and a NASCAR event in Darlington, S.C. Speed averaged 131.284 mph for the 367 laps around the 1.366-mile Darlington International Raceway.
SWIMMING—Four world records were set at the U.S. national indoor championships in Orlando, Fla.: JANET EVANS of Placentia, Calif., regained the 800-meter world record with a clocking of 8:17.12, which was 2.41 seconds faster than the 1987 mark set by Anke Mohring of East Germany; Evans also bettered her own world record in the 1,500 free by 8.63 seconds with a time of 15:52.10; TOM JAGER of Collinsville, Ill., set a 50-meter freestyle standard of 22.23 seconds, surpassing his own '87 record by .09; and ARTUR WOJDAT of Poland established a world 400-free mark of 3:47.38. beating the record set by Michael Gross of West Germany in '85 by .42.
TENNIS—MATS WILANDER defeated Jimmy Connors 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 to win the International Players Championships and $112,500, in Key Biscayne, Fla. In the women's final, STEFFI GRAF earned the $112,500 winner's check by beating Chris Evert 6-4, 6-4.
MILEPOSTS—BARRED: By the International Amateur Athletic Federation, runner ZOLA BUDD, 21, from international competition, pending a review of whether she competed in her native South Africa in 1987. The IAAF prohibits its members from participating in events in South Africa because of that country's apartheid policy.
HIRED: As basketball coach at Weber State, DENNY HUSTON, 47, who had been an assistant at Stanford.
RESIGNED: As coach of the Golden State Warriors, GEORGE KARL. 36. The Warriors were 16-48 this season and had a 58-88 record in Karl's two seasons. ED GREGORY, 56, will serve as interim coach.
As basketball coach at Providence, GORDON CHIESA, 37, who in his first season guided the Friars to an 11-17 record.
DIED: Former New York Giants and Cincinnati Reds outfielder EDD ROUSH, 94; of a heart attack; in Bradenton, Fla. (page 21).
Boxing manager JIMMY JACOBS, 58; after a nine-year battle with leukemia; in New York City (page 22).