Sitting on the visitors' bench at the Spectrum during Game 3 of the NBA Eastern Conference semifinals went a long way toward convincing Milwaukee guard Sidney Moncrief that if he has a future in basketball after his playing days have concluded, it won't be in coaching.

"I don't think that I could do it," said Moncrief. He was forced to sit out the Bucks' 107-103 loss to the 76ers Saturday because of a torn muscle in his left foot. "It's got to be a tremendous burden, just watching and not being able to hit the jumper or make the pass whenever the team needs it."

Moncrief's status for Game 4 Monday night is uncertain, although he admitted the prospects were dim.

"I'll be all right, but it's going to take some time," said Moncrief, who played an inspirational 37 minutes in Game 2 of the series, Milwaukee's only victory. "I know I played in that one, but the difference is that I had about a week to rest and try to get ready. It's a lot tougher when you don't have that kind of time."

Time may be running out for all the Bucks, who are trailing by 2-1 in the series. That easily could have been reversed on Saturday if it were not for a series of plays that stunned Milwaukee and its coach, Don Nelson, and were responsible for Moncrief's queasy feelings about the coaching profession.

"It might be even worse if you played the game, like Nelson or Philadelphia Coach Matt Guokas," said Moncrief. "Then there's got to be a lot of conflicts. You remember what you could do as a player and wonder why the guys out there now can't do the same things."

But Guokas, in his first season as a head coach, said that one of the biggest lessons he learned this year was just how little control a coach has in the closing moments of a game.

"Very good players make mistakes at times. Crazy plays are going to happen," Guokas said. "All you can really do as a coach is make sure the players are alert, playing hard and trying to stay within your system of doing things.

" Saturday neither team had very much control of things. We led by nine points, but it was much too early in the game to be comfortable. They led by four, but the crazy plays got them. They could have won just as easily as we did. It really grates on you to lose a close game."

Particularly under the circumstances that doomed the Bucks in Game 3. During the final minute, the 76ers' Julius Erving banked in a jumper from deep in the left corner just before the 24-second clock expired; forward Terry Cummings had the ball stolen from him in what seemed to be an ideal situation; and Erving made a perfect one-handed pass while falling out of bounds to a cutting Bobby Jones for the three-point play that put Philadelphia in front for good.

"It's hard to get used to the lack of control you have over what goes on," said Nelson. "You try to put the ball in the hands of the right person in the right area of the floor, and things usually come out okay. We were in a good situation, the ball in the hands of one of our best players Cummings , with a clear side in front of him and no double team. What happened a steal by Clemon Johnson was just a freaky thing.

"In that last stretch Saturday there were four or five plays that dictated whether the game would be won or lost. If Johnson fouls Cummings then, we win. If Cummings scores, we win. If Erving falls out of bounds before making the pass, we probably win. If we intercept it, we probably win. You don't like to see them all go against your team, but those are the things that make the game great."

It also was heartwarming to see Erving and Jones making the big plays down the stretch for the 76ers. Jones, 34, will, in all probability, retire at the conclusion of the playoffs. Erving, 36, will remain for another season, to the consternation of some who would prefer that he bow out as a star, not a role player.

But according to Nelson, it was precisely because of their experience that the duo was able come through when the 76ers needed them the most.

"In those situations, a tight game, needing the ball to be delivered to the right person at the right time, age isn't a factor in that scenario. If anything, it's an asset," Nelson said. "That's where you want veteran players, and in Doc, Jones and Maurice Cheeks, they've got three of the best in the game."

In Sidney Moncrief, Nelson also has one of the NBA's better clutch performers. Entering Game 4, the only question is whether he will be participating or once again reduced to spectating.