LANDOVER -- The Washington Bullets defused the Houston Rockets, 106-93, last night at the Capital Centre, proving for the first time this season that they can win a game without a big scoring night from Bernard King.
"Bernard can't carry us the whole season," said Darrell Walker, Bullets team captain and point guard. "Some nights, other guys have to step up and do the job."
He did more than talk about it. With King playing the second half on a gimpy left ankle and limited to 13 points on 5-for-18 shooting, Walker recorded his second triple-double with a season-high 22 points, plus 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
"Early in the game, the Rockets were running two and three guys XTC at Bernard," Walker said. "I found myself open and just concentrated on making the shot. Tonight, they were going in."
Walker had plenty of help from his friends. Forward Harvey Grant continued his strong play with 20 points and a season-high 13 rebounds. But the biggest boost for the Bullets (7-14) came from the oft-maligned bench.
Rookie guard A.J. English contributed 21 points in 25 minutes, putting further pressure on veteran Ledell Eackles, who was upbraided by coach Wes Unseld and fined for missing practice Thursday morning.
Fellow rookie Greg Foster scored only four points, but in his 15-minute stint, the 6-foot-11 center did an excellent job of containing Houston superstar Akeem Olajuwon, who appeared to sleepwalk through the first three quarters before finishing with a deceptive 22 points and 15 rebounds.
Houston coach Don Chaney did not single out players, but criticized his entire team for its desultory effort.
"We just weren't ready to play, and that is the bottom line," Chaney said. "We played very well in beating Philadelphia Wednesday night, and felt we could just walk in here and get a win. We figured we could sweep this road trip, but we lost all perspective."
Unseld said he saw things differently.
"This was just a good all-around team effort," he said. "A.J. did a lot of good things, Haywoode Workman made some clutch shots, Bernard played an excellent floor game, even though he didn't score a lot of points, and Foster gave us a lift defending Akeem. And, of course, Darrell did just about everything.
"The big thing was that we accomplished pretty much what we wanted to do tonight, especially on defense. Except for one stretch when Sleepy Floyd [17 points] hurt us with his outside shooting, we did a good job rotating our defense and doubling down on their big guys -- Olajuwon and Otis Thorpe."
After trailing, 53-49, at halftime and being out-rebounded, 29-19, the Bullets became more aggressive in the second half.
With Walker leading the fast break and challenging Olajuwon with his drives down the lane, Washington opened the third quarter with a 9-0 run for a 58-53 lead and never was overtaken.
The Rockets kept it close, trailing, 82-77, with 8 minutes, 34 seconds remaining. But Grant and English then led a 13-6 surge for a 95-83 cushion, and the Rockets seemed to give up the struggle.
"That's the difference between good and great teams," said Olajuwon. "We just don't have any consistency."
The Rockets (12-10) concentrated their defense on stopping King, who was averaging 29.5 points, third best in the league. Instead, they were burned by Walker and English, who, after a slow start, has scored in double figures his past four games while shooting a sizzling 34 of 56 from the field.
"He [English] looked real good," said Floyd, a former Georgetown All-American who has been relegated to a bench role. "I never saw him or heard of him before. But he can play this game."
Said English: "It's finally coming together. I want to have 15 good games in a row, not just four or five. But the big thing now is knowing I'm going to get to play. Guys are setting good picks for me, and I'm shooting the ball well. It's been a big boost in confidence."
Asked whether he thought he was benefiting from an out-of-condition Eackles' continuing struggle, the former Virginia Union star said, "Right now, I have to worry more about A.J. English than Ledell Eackles."
Percentages: FG .435, FT .850. 3-point goals: 2-13, .154 (K.Smith 1-2, Floyd 1-3, Thorpe 0-1, Wood 0-1, Maxwell 0-6). Team rebounds: 6. Blocked shots: 7 (Olajuwon 6, Johnson). Turnovers: 19 (Thorpe 4, Olajuwon 4, Maxwell 3, K.Smith 3, Johnson 2, Feitl, L.Smith, Jamerson). Steals: 11 (L.Smith 4, Johnson 2, Floyd 2, Thorpe, Maxwell, K.Smith). Technical fouls: Coach Chaney, 4:26 fourth; Olajuwon, 4:26 fourth. Illegal defense: None.
Percentages: FG .474, FT .538. 3-point goals: 0-0. Team rebounds: 13. Blocked shots: 3 (Grant 2, Jones). Turnovers: 13 (Walker 4, Alarie 3, Grant 2, King 2, Workman, Foster). Steals: 10 (Walker 5, Grant 2, Jones, English, Workman). Technical fouls: None. Illegal defense: 1.
Officials: Joe Crawford, Ken Mauer, Bill Spooner.