LANDOVER -- Bernard King added a giant exclamation point to being named a starter in Sunday's National Basketball Association All-Star Game by scoring 47 points, leading the Washington Bullets to a 124-117 victory over the New Jersey Nets at the Capital Centre last night.
Bouncing back from a 12-point performance against the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night, King added another footnote to his amazing comeback story after a knee injury almost ended his career six years ago. It was the ninth time this season the forward, 34, has topped 40 points.
He had received a lift yesterday when he learned that Boston Celtics coach Chris Ford had chosen him to replace Larry Bird, nursing a sore back, as a starter for the Eastern Conference All-Stars.
"Naturally, I'm excited about it," he said. "I've been an All-Star three times, but I've never started one before. This goes along with the way the story is panning out for me this year. But my scoring 47 points was a direct result of making up for a real bad game in Philadelphia. I wanted to go to the All-Star Game on an upbeat note."
All of King's points were meaningful last night, as the rebuilt Nets (14-34) fought to end their six-game losing streak.
Led by imposing rookie power forward Derrick Coleman (24 points), the first player chosen in the 1990 NBA draft, and the backcourt combination of Reggie Theus (33 points) and recently acquired Drazen Petrovic (27 points), New Jersey rallied to pull into a 100-100 tie with less than seven minutes remaining.
After King broke the tie with a free throw and swiped the ball from Theus for a dunk, the Bullets never were headed.
But it took the clutch shooting of reserve guard Ledell Eackles to hold off the Nets and reclaim third place for the Bullets (21-27) in the Atlantic Division.
Eackles, fighting the flu and a shooting slump, saved nine of his 13 points for the final six minutes, reviving memories of his play last season with several acrobatic layups.
The injury-riddled Bullets, minus their usual backcourt starters, Darrell Walker (knee) and Haywoode Workman (groin), also got a big lift from rookie A.J. English. Unfamiliar with point guard, English filled in admirably, doling out a career-high 11 assists -- 10 in the first half) to ignite Washington's fast break.
Coach Wes Unseld credited center Charles Jones with providing solid defense after the Nets had opened a 74-66 lead early in the third quarter. And forward Harvey Grant, an emerging All-Star, had 26 points and 12 rebounds.
But, in the end, the Nets could not control King.
"He makes the game look like he's the only one out there," said Nets coach Bill Fitch, who watched King work himself into top physical condition at a New Jersey health clinic in the summer. "When he gets it going, he's just phenomenal. The great ones have a feel for it, and you can enjoy it if you're not the rival coach or the man guarding him."
That unenviable task fell to Chris Morris, who said: "I've been playing him for three years and nothing is different. When Bernard is focused and has his rhythm, it's hard for anyone to stop him. Basically, I know his moves, but he's got 10 or 11 of them and you can't stop them all."