LANDOVER -- Leave it to Bernard King to think of an encore.
The veteran forward followed up his 52-point game against the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night with 46 points against the Charlotte Hornets at the Capital Centre last night. Only this time, all of King's scoring in the fourth quarter proved meaningful, as the Washington Bullets fought off a Hornets rally for a 118-108 victory.
Trailing by 11 at halftime, the Hornets used the perimeter shooting of Rex Chapman (22 points) and rookie Kendall Gill to produce a 91-91 tie.
Forward Harvey Grant (27 points), rookie guard A.J. English and King then combined to give Washington a 101-96 lead. But the Hornets stayed within range, and it took 10 points by King in the last six minutes to seal the victory for the Bullets (12-17).
Over the past five games, King, 34, has averaged 41.6 points. Turning back the clock to his vintage years with the New York Knicks before a severe knee injury in 1985, he has scored more than 40 points six times this season.
It has reached the point where his numbers almost are taken for granted. Both Bullets coach Wes Unseld and Charlotte counterpart Gene Littles were surprised in reading the final box score to discover King had scored a "quiet" 46. He made 17 of 24 field-goal attempts, few of a flashy nature.
Said Unseld: "I had no idea he was that close to 50 again. I'd have loved to see him score four more and get the game over with sooner."
Added Littles: "I honestly didn't realize he had that many, but it's not surprising. The Bullets figured no one on my team could stop Bernard, and they were right.
"He's a slasher when it comes to driving to the basket. We're a small team, and we don't have any shot-blockers to stop him once he gets by his man."
King, who got out of the locker room almost faster than he got past his Hornets defenders, credited Darrell Walker (14 assists) with getting him the ball in excellent scoring position.
The Bullets, who out-rebounded the Hornets, 50-35, capitalized on their superior board work to generate a running game and move to a 16-point lead late in the first half.
"We kind of relaxed and let them back in the game," said Walker. "In the last six minutes, we started running again and built the lead back up."
King was the most obvious reason, but the Bullets also received strong performances from Harvey Grant (27 points) and Pervis Ellison (11 points, 12 rebounds) to more than offset the Hornets' two big men -- Armon Gilliam and J.R. Reid.
Reid, a No. 1 draft pick from North Carolina in 1989, all but vanished offensively. He was held scoreless in the first half and finished with four points, contributing a single field goal.
Gilliam, who burned the Bullets for 39 points in November in a 120-105 Hornets victory, was also rendered ineffective by Ellison. In 30 minutes, he managed nine points and five rebounds.
"We concentrated our inside defense in stopping Gilliam," said Ellison. "We tried to keep the ball out of his hands and make someone else beat us."
Ellison's interior defense has been a key element in the Bullets' recent surge of five victories in seven games. The slender, 6-foot-10 forward/center has averaged 11 rebounds and more than three blocks a game in the past six.
But Grant's play most impressed the two coaches. The third-year forward from Oklahoma continues to perform in All-Star fashion.
"He's the best thing we've got going with his defense and everything," said Unseld. "You know he's going to get his points, but he's also become a defensive stopper."
When Littles was reminded that the Bullets could welcome back all -purpose forward John Williams by the end of the month, he said: "I'm sure John will help them. But when he got hurt, Grant really benefited. He got to play a lot of minutes, and now you can see that he is just brimming with confidence."
Back in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt, the Bullets take to the road for games in Minnesota tonight and Milwaukee on Tuesday before returning home to play the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night.