INGLEWOOD,CALIF. — INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- The Washington Bullets couldn't seem to find the right time to get hot last night in a 106-99 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers at the Great Western Forum.
The Lakers, who started off slowly this season, have turned things around in the past month, winning nine of their past 11 games, including seven consecutive at home.
The Bullets, who have lost two straight road games and dropped to 6-13 on the season, started fast against the Lakers, building a 15-12 lead with 4 minutes, 16 seconds remaining in the first quarter. They went cold after that and had trouble stopping Magic Johnson, who finished with 13 first-half points and 19 for the game.
Washington trailed, 29-20, at the end of the first quarter and by 60-48 at halftime.
But just when it appeared the Bullets would be content to pack their bags and get out of Los Angeles, they surged again in the third quarter.
Paced by 14 points from Bernard King, who scored a game-high 40 points, and 10 from Harvey Grant, Washington outscored the Lakers, 26-19, in the third quarter to cut the lead to 79-74. King's short jumper with 1:03 remaining in the quarter brought the Bullets to within 73-71.
"Every shot they took seemed to come from Bernard King," said the Lakers' Vlade Divac, who scored 18. "He's a very good player and tough to stop. Maybe next time we should double-team him."
That's when the scoring streak ended, however. The Lakers converted two shots and a pair of free throws in the final minute to increase their lead to five.
Lakers coach Mike Dunleavy said: "I've played against Washington before, and this was a typical Bullets team. They played hard and are well-coached."
Los Angeles, coming off its worst loss of the season in a 101-79 defeat at Utah on Friday night, quickly took charge in the fourth quarter. Terry Teagle hit a 12-foot baseline jumper to put the Lakers up, 81-74, and they would maintain a comfortable lead throughout the quarter.
The loss continues the Bullets' woes at the Forum. They have lost 17 of their past 18 here.
They appeared as if they might reverse their long-standing misfortune early on last night. Spearheaded by Grant's six points, the Bullets controlled the tempo and jumped out to an early lead. But as soon as Johnson warmed up, Washington was doomed.
Johnson's 13 first-half points were complemented by James Worthy and Vlade Divac, who added 12 and 11 points, respectively, to lift the Lakers (11-6) to a 60-48 halftime lead. Worthy finished with a team-high 20.
The Lakers' Byron Scott hit a baseline jumper with 3:20 remaining in the first quarter to put Los Angeles ahead for good, 16-15.
Holding a six-point lead, the Lakers extended the margin to 29-20 when Scott connected on a 30-foot jumper at the buzzer.
Washington was outscored in the second quarter, 31-28, despite eight points from King. Although King hit four of six shots from the field in the second quarter, he finished the first half just six of 15.
"We don't make a couple of mistakes late in the third quarter, and this could've been a different game," King said. "I don't look at my 40 points as carrying the burden, because it's my job. But it would be nice not to have to carry the burden every game."
The rest of the Bullets fared little better. Grant started fast but slowed in the second quarter and finished with only eight points in the first half, hitting four of 11 from the field. He finished the game with 20 points. Washington shot 42 percent as a team (19 of 45).
The Lakers shot just 41 percent from the floor in the first quarter. but hit 52 percent of their shots in the second quarter to finish the first half at 46 percent (25 of 54).