He was the Monroe well remembered in Baltimore but rarely seen since he moved into his $1,000-a-month Manhattan apartment early last season. He has had to undergo an operation for bone spurs in his left foot and perform some surgery on his game as well to accommodate the less individualistic, defense-oriented Knick system; in the last two years Monroe has missed 26 games and averaged only 14 points. His mood was further clouded by the death of his mother in January.
"It's been difficult for me," he says. "I had to bring things out of hiding because the things I had to do with the Bullets are different from what I do now. I curtailed some of the magic and I had to work on my defense. I knew I could do it because I had the quickness you need. But until these playoffs I've been disappointed. I guess this is the first time I feel I've really helped. I think maybe the turning point was when my mother died. I'm sort of playing for her now, and I know she wanted me to be dedicated, to work on the things I've been a little lackadaisical about."
When the series moved to Baltimore the Bullets were concentrating on Monroe and the other Knicks' one-on-one play, and that permitted New York's standard offense to operate more freely. In the third game each of the five starters attempted between 14 and 16 field goals and each scored 16 to 23 points.
"This just proves again that the playoffs are not the regular season," said Bradley. "In the regular season you have to deal with the other team and the schedule. In the playoffs you get rest, and all you have to do is deal with the other team. You scout them during the year, and when it comes to the playoffs you know what they're going to do and how you can stop it. The thing that wins in the playoffs is sound, free-lance, fundamental basketball. You have to play together for awhile for that to happen, to know what to expect of each other. The Bullets are really a whole new team and they'll be better next year when they've played together more. Of course, by then we'll be a year better, too. So we'll always have the edge on them."
Very briefly, the Bullets narrowed this edge on Friday. Down 0-3, Shue created new-matchups by having Unseld and Hayes switch men, something Clark and Chenier had already done in the third game. This strategy plus aggressive team defense and good shooting—notably by Hayes, who scored more than 30 points for the second straight game—resulted in a 97-89 Baltimore win.
But revived Bullets and revised matchups were not enough in Sunday's fifth game back in New York. Baltimore won the first and third periods, but the Knicks' defense and their marvelously fluid, intuitive offense enabled them to win the second and fourth periods, and by a greater margin.
Trailing by five points, New York shut out Baltimore for the first 4:56 of the second quarter while scoring 14 in a row. There were Knick steals and long, wild heaves by the Bullets as they failed to penetrate the New York defense and, most of all, there was Monroe, who scored 20 first-half points, including six in a row to drop Baltimore out of the lead for good. All three of those baskets came on eccentric jumpers after the Pearl had spun into the foul lane and got sharp passes. "It wasn't a play as such, nothing we called coming up the court," Monroe said. "But after you run something like that a few times and it works, it becomes a play."
Following a Bullet rally that cut New York's lead to two points at the start of the fourth quarter, the Knick defense once more forced Baltimore into a series of ball-handling errors and bad shots. In the first 5:46 of this period New York outscored the Bullets 13-1, relying more on its normal style, of hitting the open man rather than the hot one, and the series was over. But Dancing Harry had made what was really the last point with 3:57 still to go. Once again shuffling through the only step he apparently knows, he revived an old NBA tradition and lit up a victory smoke. For Baltimore, which has now lost four of five playoffs to the Knicks, it meant that all those changes still added up to no cigar.