The Bucks managed to win Game 5, 113-108, without Moncrief, though Barkley scored 29 points, grabbed eight rebounds and, in the midst of a sudden, startling, midcourt fourth-quarter fury, knocked Mokeski to the floor with a crushing left forearm to the face. Barkley said later that he felt Mokeski had thrown a cheap shot at him. Mokeski denied it. Barkley was anything but apologetic after the game; he taunted the Milwaukee fans verbally one more time. When they were handing out brass, Barkley must have gone for it as if it were an offensive rebound. Or a jelly doughnut.
With a 3-2 lead, Nelson surely sensed that he wasn't going to win the series at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. Moncrief didn't even dress for Game 6, and Nelson used his reserves for much of the fourth period, when the Bucks were down but not necessarily out. Philly won 126-108. Barkley was good for 23 points, 21 rebounds and no quotes. That's because his mother and grandmother had communicated to him that his jawboning was getting tiresome. "So I'm saying nothing," said Barkley, who continued his silence on Sunday with the terse statement: "My speaking career is over." Let's hope it's not true.
Game 7. Moncrief played, of course. His condition, known as plantar fasciitis or "jogger's heel," is a painful one that can be brought on by chronic irritation or stress. The only cure is rest. "But we knew he'd be there," said St. Jean. "These guys believe in him so much. In terms of poise, heart and concentration, we believe that Sidney and Larry Bird are the best in the league." Moncrief knows about playing with pain. Aching knees bother him constantly, but he never says a word.
"The key is concentration," says Sidney. "I knew my body couldn't take me 30 minutes [he played 35 Sunday], but if you concentrate, if you're tough mentally, you can go a long way with your body at 50 or 60 percent. First, you have to accept pain. Second, you have to know what hurts the most and try not to do that particular move as much. And be prepared for the pain when you do do it."
Every time Moncrief planted his left heel he felt a stab of pain. But that didn't stop him from hurting the Sixers. Down the stretch, his three-point play at 3:02 and his two free throws with 53 seconds left gave Milwaukee one-point leads. After the latter, Barkley put the Sixers back in front, 112-111, with a twisting layup, but Craig Hodges got loose underneath and forced Barkley, scrambling to help out, into a goaltending call. That gave the Bucks a 113-112 edge. So it came down to the final Sixer possession.
Barkley inbounded to Sedale Threatt with seven seconds left, five on the shot clock. The first option was for Barkley to post up and get the ball back inside, but Threatt spotted a wide-open Erving. Erving's miss concluded what Cummings called "a character-building series."
But now what? In the Eastern finals it should become evident that two heads—those belonging to Celtic centers Robert Parish and Bill Walton—are far better than Milwaukee's three. As for Moncrief, if he's able to play, he will have to deal with Dennis Johnson, one of the strongest guards in the league. "My biggest problem with the injury is walking and trying to jump," said Moncrief, ever the stoic. Then he thought about that statement and smiled. "I guess in my occupation that can be a serious problem." Bird and Kevin McHale will be two other serious problems.
The Bucks just don't have the goods to upset the varied Boston game plan, which Pierce called "forty-eight minutes of execution," a possible description of Milwaukee's game-by-game fate, too. The Bucks get out on the break infrequently—and usually under the leadership of a forward, Paul Pressey—and oftentimes disintegrate in the half-court offense because no one on the team is a consistent threat down low. They achieved the third-best record in the NBA this season behind the all-around brilliance of Moncrief, a tenacious team defense and the deft button-pushing of Nelson. But they'll need more than that against the Celtics.
Still, Milwaukee did have the satisfaction of muzzling Barkleymania. Minutes after the final buzzer on Sunday, Charles sat alone on the Sixer bench. He didn't respond as dozens of celebrating Milwaukee fans jeered at him. He looked spent. By Game 7, even Barkley's wide shoulders had drooped under the pressure of making up for the absence of Moses Malone over the last six weeks. Barkley had scored only 18 points Sunday, just four during a missing-in-action first half in which he didn't even attempt a field goal. Finally, Maurice Cheeks came over and pulled Barkley to his feet.
No such helping hand will be extended to the Bucks in Boston.