LANDOVER -- Before tackling the Washington Bullets, Los Angeles Lakers superstar Magic Johnson voiced concern about his team's inability to score during its three-game losing streak.
Not to worry, Magic. The Lakers managed only 87 points las night, but that was more than enough to beat the Bullets, 87-72, before a Capital Centre sellout of 18,756.
In losing their ninth straight, the Bullets (22-39) scored thei fewest points since managing only 71 here against the Golden State Warriors, Nov. 22, 1975. Conversely, it was the Lakers' best defensive job since limiting the then-St. Louis Hawks to 67 points in 1955, when some players still shot with both hands.
Believe it or not, the Bullets still were alive with 5 minutes, 40
seconds remaining when two free throws by Haywoode Workman made it 76-72.
But Washington would not score again. Johnson (25 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists) put it out of reach by converting five straight free throws for an 83-72 spread.
Johnson had been listed as questionable with stomac problems, but with the Lakers having lost three straight, he refused to take the night off.
"I've got diarrhea, and my stomach was bubbling out there," sai Johnson. "I was hoping I wouldn't get elbowed, or something embarrassing might have happened."
But it was the Bullets who were embarrassed, losing their sixtstraight at home, the past four coming against the San Antonio Spurs, the Utah Jazz, the Phoenix Suns and the Lakers -- all Western Conference powers.
The playoffs now seem light-years away, but Bullets coach WeUnseld took heart in his team's effort after a lackluster performance the night before, when the Suns romped, 117-91.
"My guys came out, worked hard and busted their butts to ge things done tonight," Unseld said. "That's the most important thing to me. We had the shots in the fourth quarter, but we just couldn't score. We can't just get good shots. With our present team, we have to get easy shots."
With starting forward Harvey Grant missing his third straigh game with a sore right ankle, more of the offensive burden than usual has fallen on Bernard King, the league's No. 2 scorer, with a 29.7 average.
In his previous meeting with the Lakers, at the Great Wester Forum, Dec. 9, King scored 40 points, as the Bullets lost, 106-99.
The All-Star forward started fast again, contributing six points to
a 14-3 Bullets lead. But King scored only 10 more and was limited to 16 shots by a swarming defense.
"Everyone had a piece of Bernard tonight," said Lakers coac Mike Dunleavy. "We didn't wait to see how he'd get off. We tackled him from the opening tip."
The Lakers overtook the Bullets quickly and enjoyed a 62-4 cushion late in the third quarter.
Pervis Ellison (10 points, 10 rebounds), becoming more active offensively, ignited a fourth-quarter Bullets rally with two dynamic slam-dunks. John Williams followed with a layup, and ++ Washington suddenly trailed by only three points with 9:39 left.
But Washington would score only one more field goal -- a layu by King, before the Lakers applied the clamps.
"The way we've been playing, we've got to score or draw a foul
every trip down the floor in the last quarter," said Workman, who scored a team-high 17. "But when we had to do the job, we just couldn't get it done."