LANDOVER -- With flashy rookie guard Kendall Gill scoring 24 points, the third-year Charlotte Hornets posted their first victory at the Capital Centre by defeating the Washington Bullets, 102-92, before 6,711 yesterday.
It was the third straight loss for the Bullets (26-45), who moved closer to elimination from the National Basketball Association playoffs. Any combination of New York Knicks victories and Bullets losses totaling two eliminates Washington.
Still playing without team scoring leader Bernard King, plus frontcourt reserves Charles Jones and Mark Alarie, the Bullets turned in one of their most listless performances in this unremarkable season.
They managed only 92 points against the Hornets, who allow an average of 108. But most upsetting to coach Wes Unseld was the Bullets' lackadaisical defensive play.
Gill and former Bullets point guard Muggsy Bogues consistently beat Washington off the dribble. But that was only part of the problem in the second half when the Hornets used a 23-6 tear to wipe out a four-point deficit and take an 82-69 lead.
"We just didn't get any weakside help from our forwards, especially Harvey Grant and John Williams," said Unseld. "All they had to do was see the ball and step up. But we just had a total breakdown of concentration. Obviously, we didn't put much thought into what we were doing.
"I told my guys at halftime that if we let Charlotte hang around, some of their players will get hot, and that's just what happened with Kendall Gill."
Aside from rapidly developing center Pervis Ellison, who contributed 22 points on 8-for-12 shooting, the offense also was out of sync.
After the Bullets managed only 41 points in the first half, Unseld started the second half with three guards -- Darrell Walker, Haywoode Workman and Ledell Eackles. But the three combined for 9-for-29 shooting from the field, allowing the Hornets to concentrate on stopping Ellison from scoring down low.
"We just threw the ball away carelessly," Unseld said of his team's 20 turnovers. "We didn't react to the switching. It just wasn't getting done out there."
The Bullets, who had won all five previous games here against the Hornets, still were in contention when Eackles made two free throws to close to 88-80 with 4 minutes, 40 seconds remaining. But Gill and Bogues combined for six straight points to stretch the lead to 14 points, and the Hornets (22-50) were not threatened again.
NOTE: Team orthopedist Steve Haas ruled out any quick return for King (sore back), Jones (groin muscle) and Alarie (tendinitis in knee). All were examined Friday and ordered to continue resting their injuries. Alarie likely will miss the remaining 11 games.