PRO BASKETBALL—Two streaking Eastern Conference upstarts met in Cleveland, where an NBA record—tying 21 blocked shots helped the Central Division—leading Cavaliers to a 104-96 defeat of the Atlantic Division pacesetter, the Knicks. Cavs forward Larry Nance blocked 11 New York shots, and guard Ron Harper scored 30 points in Cleveland's 11th straight victory. Four teams ended the week bunched within 1½ games of the Midwest Division lead. In one game between two members of the quartet, 24 assists and 26 points by the Jazz's John Stockton weren't enough to prevent a 104-102 Rocket triumph. The two other leaders, the Nuggets and Mavericks, played in Denver, where the Nuggets' Walter Davis scored 24 points in his team's 115-94 victory, which moved Denver into a tie for first with Houston. Before 3,729 at the Capital Centre, the smallest crowd in the NBA so far this season. Tom Chambers scored 29 points to boost the Suns past the Bullets 125-122. Two nights later Chambers hit for 33 more as Phoenix ended a nine-year Boston Garden losing streak by defeating the Celtics 106-104. Thus the Suns moved within a game of the Pacific Division—leading Lakers, who lost 116-106 at Seattle for their seventh straight defeat on the road. The Celtics, third in the Atlantic Division, six games behind the Knicks, received the comforting news that Larry Bird's heels have responded well to surgery to remove bone spurs. He should be back in action by March 1st. League scoring leader Michael Jordan lit up the Clippers with a 41-11-10 triple double in a 126-121 Bulls overtime win, and the next night the lights went out for Los Angeles as Danny Manning, the No. 1 choice in last summer's draft, suffered knee ligament damage in a 110-102 Clipper loss to Milwaukee. Moody Portland split four games to stay three off the Pacific Division pace (page 22).
PRO FOOTBALL—In the NFC Championship Game the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Chicago Bears 28-3, while in the AFC final the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Buffalo Bills 21-10 (page 14).
GOLF—STEVE JONES shot a nine-under-par 279 to win the Tournament of Champions and $135,000 by three shots over Jay Haas and David Frost, in Carlsbad, Calif. (page 34).
HOCKEY—At the season's midpoint, only one division race, the Patrick, remained hotly contested. Four teams were within four points of the top, including the Rangers and the Capitals. Sparkling goaltending by Pete Peeters helped Washington move into a tie for the division lead with the Rangers. He turned away 51 of 54 shots in a 3-3 deadlock in New York. Philadelphia had been getting some nifty goaltending of its own from Ron Hextall: with Hextall in the nets in each game, the Flyers won 10 of 11, including a 4-1 triumph over the Islanders, before the lowly North Stars surprised them 5-3. The Penguins went 0-2 and dropped from first place in a rare off week for Mario Lemieux. Still, his two assists brought his season's totals to 43 goals and 63 assists, which kept him on target to break Wayne Gretzky's single-season scoring record of 215 points. In the Smythe Division, which Gretzky (89 points) still calls home, the Kings, his new team, and the Oilers, his old one, were going in opposite directions. The Kings are 23 points better at midseason than they were a year ago and in second place, just ahead of the Stanley Cup champion Oilers, who were two points worse off than a year ago. Neither, however, was exactly threatening division leader Calgary: The Flames used Joe Mullen's four goals and two assists to cool off the Kings 8-6 and improve their home record to 16-1-4. All eyes in Detroit were on Stevie (Wonder) Yzerman, who had scored points in 28 consecutive games for the Norris Division—leading Red Wings. Yzerman failed to get a point in number 29, however, a 2-2 tie with the Canucks. It was business as usual in the Adams Division: The Canadiens smothered the second-place Bruins 3-1 and moved 19 points ahead of them, 24 ahead of Buffalo and 27 ahead of Hartford, which also lost in its spare time, 6-3, to the Soviet Central Red Army team (page 30).
HORSE RACING—BIG STANLEY ($5.80), with Jacinto Vasquez in the saddle, won the Tropical Park Derby by 1¾ lengths over Appealing Pleasure at Calder Race Course, in Miami. The 3-year-old colt covered the 1‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬µ, miles in 1:52[2/5] to earn $100,170.
INDOOR SOCCER—Dallas picked up two games in the standings to move into a first-place tie with Baltimore. The Sidekicks forced the deadlock with a 7-4 victory, over last-place Kansas City, in which Michael King, Richard Chinapoo and Beto scored two goals apiece.
SKIING—VRENI SCHNEIDER of Switzerland won her third World Cup victory in three days by taking the slalom race at Mellau, Austria.
MILEPOSTS—AWARDED: By major league baseball to ESPN, a four-year. $400 million contract for the cable-TV rights to telecast four nights of baseball a week nationally, beginning in 1990 (page 9).
FINED: By the NBA, New York Knick coach RICK PITTNO, $3,000, for refusing to remain in the dressing room after his ejection from a game against the Bulls on Dec. 29.
FIRED: As coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, FRANK GANSZ, 50, who had an 8-22-1 record in his two seasons at the helm.
NAMED: As winners of the 1988 Eclipse Awards, as voted on by the Daily Racing Form, the Thoroughbred Racing Associations and the National Turf Writers Association: 2-year-old colt, EASY GOER; 2-year-old filly, OPEN MIND; 3-year-old colt, RISEN STAR; 3-year-old filly, WINNING COLORS; older male horse, ALYSHEBA; older filly or mare, PERSONAL ENSIGN; sprinter, GULCH; steeplechaser, JIMMY LORENZO; male turf horse, SUNSHINE FOREVER; female turf horse, MIESQUE; owner, OGDEN PHIPPS; breeder, PHIPPS; trainer, CLAUDE (Shug) McGAUGHEY; jockey, JOSE SANTOS; apprentice jockey, STEVE CAPANAS.
As Horse of the Year and Trotter of the Year, by the U.S. Trotting Association and the U.S. Harness Writers Association, MACK LOBELL, who won 17 of 19 starts; and as Pacer of the Year, MATT'S SCOOTER, who won 11 of 22 races.
As coach of the Indiana Pacers, DICK VERSACE, 48, formerly an assistant coach with the Detroit Pistons. Versace, the Pacers' third coach this season, replaced George Irvine, who guided Indiana to six wins in 20 games since succeeding Jack Ramsay, who quit on Nov. 17.
As football coach at Stanford, DENNIS GREEN, 39, former Northwestern head coach and current San Francisco 49er assistant; at the University of Cincinnati, former Maine coach TIM MURPHY, 32; and at Temple, JERRY BERNDT, 50, who was 6-27 while at Rice the last three seasons.
PLACED ON PROBATION: The OKLAHOMA STATE football program, by the NCAA, for four years, for recruiting violations. The Cowboys are also banned from bowl appearances for three years and prohibited from appearing on live television for two years (page 9).
SUSPENDED: For the second time in two years, by the NBA, Dallas Maverick forward ROY TARPLEY, 24, while he undergoes rehabilitation for substance abuse.