CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Try figuring this one out: The Washington Bullets played without Bernard King for the first time in 181 games. They lost Darrell Walker and Tom Hammonds during the game. They turned the ball over 26 times . . .
And they broke a nine-game losing streak, beating the Charlotte Hornets, 103-100, last night at Charlotte Coliseum.
Unbelieveable? Not so, says Bullets center Pervis Ellison, who scored a career-high 28 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
"Most of the time we play tough," said Ellison. "Mistakes down the stretch have hurt us, and tonight we didn't make any."
True enough, though they flirted with several, particularly with 41 seconds left. That's when the Bullets' offense stagnated, and John Williams was forced to put up an 18-footer in traffic with the 24-second clock about to expire. Charles Jones nearly touched the ball on its descent into the basket, which would have been goaltending.
"I heard the clock go off [before Williams released]," said Hornets forward J. R. Reid. "And definitely Charles Jones tapped it."
That's not how the officials saw it, and the basket gave the Bullets a 99-94 lead. Ellison hit one of two free throws and Haywoode Workman hit three of four to give the 23-39 Bullets their first victory since Feb. 17 against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
But this victory cost the Bullets. King's lower back pain broke the second-longest appearance string in the NBA (the Houston Rockets' Otis Thorpe has 389 straight appearances), and the Bullets were also without Harvey Grant, down with a sore right ankle.
Hammonds, who started for King, suffered a cut above his left eye in a collision with teammate Ledell Eackles.
"I knew I was in trouble when I saw blood on my wristband," said Hammonds, who missed the game's last few minutes.
Walker's twisted knee might be more serious. He's been troubled by the knee most of the season.
"It's going to be like this until I can sit it down for a couple of months," said Walker.
But for a night, the Bullets felt good about themselves again.
"We moved, we ran, we set picks," said Hammonds, who scored a career-high 19 points. "That's not to say Bernard and Darrell don't play team ball. But we came together tonight."
NOTES: Hammonds was a little embarrassed but able to laugh yesterday about his arrest this week for transporting a handgun. Hammond was pulled over for speeding, and the arresting officer saw the gun in his car. "That was probably the first speeding ticket in my life," said Hammonds. "I keep a little .22 in the console of my car that is registered in Florida, where I live. I use it on my property. I've got 22 acres and whenever I see a rabbit or something, I use it. I'd forgotten about the gun being in the car." Hammonds said he spent just about two hours with police before being released -- mostly talking basketball.
King will be re-evaluated today, along with Walker. . . . The Hornets played without starting shooting guard Rex Chapman, who missed his second game after a collision last week with Indiana Pacers forward Chuck Person. Chapman suffered a hyper-extended left knee and pulled groin muscle in the collision. . . . Hornets director of scouting Dave Twardzik talked to his alma mater, Old Dominion, Sunday about becoming that school's next head coach. Twardzik said last week that he is very interested in the job. He is considered the top candidate.