LANDOVER -- The Washington Bullets, who have beaten mediocre and bad teams in recent weeks, proved they were ready for prime time last night by routing the Boston Celtics, 116-99, before a Capital Centre sellout crowd of 18,756.
"This was a major, major win for us," said Bernard King, who scored a game-high 37 points and put in 47 minutes before Bullets coach Wes Unseld, enjoying a 16-point lead, felt it was safe to rest him.
"The Celtics [29-6] had been scoring a lot of points and playing great defense," added King. "But we were able to run against them tonight and also did an excellent job of containing Kevin McHale and Robert Parish inside."
Added Unseld: "That was our best defensive effort of the year. We did a great job with our interior defense. We were active, intense and effective."
In winning for the eighth time in their past 11 games, the Bullets (15-18) also broke a six-game winning streak by the Celtics, who boast the league's best record.
And they did it convincingly. The Bullets not only out-rebounded the bigger Celtics, 47-33, but consistently beat them down the floor for easy baskets, including six dunks by Harvey Grant, who scored 30 to continue his recent scoring binge. The slender forward has averaged 28 points and shot 54 percent from the field over the past five games.
All-purpose Bullets guard Darrell Walker added 22 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, and Haywoode Workman chipped in 10 points and eight assists while igniting the fast break.
The Celtics had re-established themselves as championship contenders this season by adding Brian Shaw, who played in Italy last season, and drafting jet-legged Dee Brown. Joining Reggie Lewis and Kevin Gamble, they revitalized Boston's long dormant fast break.
But playing without All-NBA forward Larry Bird (back spasms) for the fourth game, the Celtics simply ran out of options against a Bullets defense that double-teamed McHale and Parish down low.
McHale managed only 10 shots and 12 points while the 7-foot Parish all but vanished, attempting only four shots in 33 minutes and scoring six points. Only Lewis, the Baltimore native, who scored 34 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, and Gamble (23 points) kept the Celtics in contention for 42 minutes.
"We didn't want McHale or Parish to beat us," said Walker. "We made them give the ball up. We did a good job of rotating to the open man and Boston had to mostly settle for long jump shots."
A jumper by Gamble made it 97-87 with just under six minutes remaining. But Grant, Walker and Charles Jones built the lead back to 102-87 in the next two minutes, and the Celtics never threatened again.
One of the significant Bullets statistics was the 29 points produced by their fast break. It was hardly by accident.
"We want to get out and run consistently against the Celtics," said Grant. "That is how we have beaten them in the past. We know they have the best half-court game in the league, and we can't win playing that way."
The Celtics also helped the Bullets run again by commiting a season-high 25 turnovers.
"A lot of that was due to the Bullets' aggression," said Celtics coach Chris Ford, "but a lot of them were also 'no-brainers.' "