Bob McAdoo and Walt Frazier were on the bench in their street clothes and Spencer Haywood was back in New York. But the New York Knicks didn't need them yesterday against the Washington Bullets because they still had the Pearl.
The Pearl is Earl Monroe, the former Bullet magic man.
He was at his best yesterday as he dazzled the Bullets and 14,875 Capital Centre onlookers in leading the Knicks to a 109-95 victory over the lackluster home team.
The defeat snapped a four-game Washington winning streak and severely damaged their chances of overtaking Houston in the Central Division title race.
Monroe scored 31 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter. He also had six steals and two assists.
McAdoo, the Knicks leading scorer, and Frazier were both injured in Chicago Friday night and sat out Saturday night's loss to the Bullets at Madison Square Garden. Haywood is on the injured list.
"I thouhgt we compensated well with those guys out," said New York coach Red Holzman, who is retiring after this season. Most of the compensating was done by Monroe.
He had to handle the ball more than usual with Frazier out and shoot more than with McAdoo sidelined.
"I just try to get everybody else flowing," Monroe said. "All you can do is hope for the best."
Bullets' center Wes Unseld, who played with Monroe when Monroe was a Bullet, called him "the best clutch player I ever played with. He can get a shot off just about anytime he wants. He's just good."
Coach Dick Motta was disturbed at the Bullets performance. As happy as he was after Saturday's 98-92 victory, he said at that time that he feared some sort of letdown.
"It's hard to beat them, or any team, back-to-back," Motta said. "But still, they just outhustled us and outplayed us from the start. They didn't have some of their stars, but those other guys played hard and we got flustered."
These "other guys" included former Maryland star Tom McMillen, Phil Jackson, Lonnie Shelton and Ticky Burden. All scored in double figures and helped the Knicks outrebound the Bullets, 44-41.
The Bullets started getting into trouble in the second quarter. A Mitch Kupchak fast break gave them a 41-33 lead early in the period, but they then fell apart.
Shelton and Burden combined for 10 straight Points and the New Yorkers took a two-point lead.
Monroe showed some of his fancy stuff in the third period and two straight layups by him gave the Knicks an 11-point flead midway through the third period. They led by 10 going into the fourth quarter and Monroe controlled the rest of the game.
Once again, Evlin Hayes and Phil Chenier were something less than dynamic.
Hayes led the Bullets with 23 points, only eight came after the first quarter. He sat out the final 7 1/2 minutes of the game at his own request.
"E asked to come out in the fourth quarter," Motta said matter-of-factly. "He just didn't want to play."
Hayes left the game with the Bullets behind, 95-83. He said he was exhausted and tht he was also suffering from tennis elbow and it stiffened on him.
"I couldn't even move it this morning," Hayes said. "I just hope I can get it together for San Antonio." The Antonio against the Spurs Tuesday night.
Chenier suffered through his fourth straight subpar game, making only five of 14 shots and finishing with 10 points. He has now scored only 45 points in the last four games and shot only 38 per cent from the field.
In the three previous games, Dave Bing has made up for Chemier's troubles. Not yesterday. Bing went 0-4 in 11 minutes.
The Bullets were plagued by 25 turnovers, and generally looked as if their minds were elsewhere much of the game.
"Although they outhustled us, we had some nice shots," Motta said. "We just didn't hit them."