LANDOVER -- It only seemed as though Bernard King popped the popcorn, toasted the hot dog buns, sold the pennants and locked up the Capital Centre when he was done last night.
Maybe if he had, the Washington Bullets might have held off the Sacramento Kings, and denied them their first win of the year in eight tries.
As it was, King only scored 45 points, to match Boston's Larry Bird for the NBA's top single-game scoring output this year.
But the rest of the Bullets scored 37 points. Not an individual player, mind you, but the rest of the squad.
Your final score: Sacramento 87, Washington 82.
"We did everything but score points," said Washington coach Wes Unseld. "When you hold a team to 87 points, you should win that game."
That would be true if someone other than King had a road map to the basket. During the only period in which King took a prolonged rest, namely the second, the Bullets proceeded to score an all-time team low nine points.
"This is very hard to swallow," said forward Harvey Grant, who scored 14 points. "It's a game we could have won and should have won. We're all professionals and we get paid large amounts of money to play and the intensity should be there every night."
Ah, intensity. That's the missing link. How else to explain a 12-for-23 free throw shooting night or how King, Grant and Darrell Walker (10 points and 13 rebounds) were the only players in double figures or even seemed to know how to score.
"We've got to get a little bit more from a few more people," said Unseld. "And it's got to come from within [the team].
"I'm not asking guys who are not shooters to shoot, or guys who are not scorers to score. All I'm asking is to give me what you've got. Just give me what we pay you for."
King, who has scored 30 or more points in seven of the Bullets' nine games this year, has given more than his money's worth, even with seven missed foul shots last night.
"It's a frustrating experience for all of us, when we don't win close games. We are getting some good shots and the execution has been there, but we're just not hitting them," said King.
It is not a pretty situation that King finds himself in. Until Ledell Eackles and John Williams are healthy enough to play, he is the only bankable, fourth-quarter dependable player the hapless Bullets (2-7) have.
Yet, if no one else steps forward to assume some of the crunch time load, it will fall on King, and every team in the league knows that.
"It has a lot to do with team confidence," said King. "Teams become far more aggressive in the fourth quarter. We haven't been able to read that.
"I don't see it as a vicious circle," said King. "If a man's open and in a position to score, I'm going to get him the ball. No one can accuse me of being a selfish player."
"It's frustrating for B [King] down the stretch," said Walker. "They send two or three guys at him and he needs help."
The Kings, who are blending four first-round draft choices into their system, broke out to a 17-point lead early in the third quarter, before the Bullets came back to tie the score at the end of the quarter on a King jumper at the buzzer.
But the Bullets could never pull away and when rookie center Duane Causwell completed a three-point play with 38 seconds left, the Kings had a three-point lead.
King and rookie A.J. English missed shots down the other end of the floor, and Sacramento rookie Travis Mays made two more foul shots as the Kings became the last team in the NBA to get a win.
Things don't promise to get much better for the Bullets, who wander into Detroit to meet the two-time champion Pistons Friday night.
"It's one of those games that can come back to haunt you," said Walker.
Especially if they don't clone King.