LANDOVER -- Early in the second half, with Washington trailing the Orlando Magic, 62-43, a fan in the Capital Centre crowd of 6,165 shouted to Bullets coach Wes Unseld, "Put your regulars in!"
Unseld bit his lip, or he might have responded, "What regulars?"
He had a better lineup dressed in business suits than in uniforms last night, as the Magic routed the Bullets for the second time in a week, 95-82.
Point guard Michael Adams and forward Pervis Ellison, nursing a sore back, were the only legitimate Bullets starters playing significant minutes, as Washington (2-5) dropped its fifth straight.
Adams scored 30 points and added 10 assists and eight rebounds, almost single-handedly reducing a 19-point third quarter deficit to pull the Bullets within 84-79 with three minutes left.
But Orlando center Greg Kite beat the Bullets trap for a slam, and Scott Skiles (24 points, six assists), followed with a breakaway layup to put it out of reach. The Magic then coasted to its fourth win in six games.
It was a game in which Unseld was left with few options. He started the season with forwards Bernard King (knee), Mark Alarie (knee), guard LaBradford Smith (ankle), forward John Williams (suspended) and guard LaBradford Smith, his No. 1 draft pick, on the sidelines.
Last night, they were joined by forward Harvey Grant (foot) and guard Ledell Eackles (groin), leaving Unseld with 10 able bodies.
His patchwork starting five included defensive-specialist Charles Jones (0-for-3) and shooting guard David Wingate (3-for-16), playing in place of slump-ridden A. J. English.
"We weren't very good," said Unseld. "In fact, we were terrible. But it wasn't for a lack of effort. The best barometer of a team's effort is defense, and that was the only reason we were still had a shot in the fourth quarter.
"You get mad, but it's not so much the frustration as the reality of the situation. You can't sit on the bench with six of your best eight players in suits and hope to beat anyone."
Adams, who continues to show the wisdom of Washington's preseason trade with Denver, was less understanding of the latest defeat.
"You can always use injuries as an excuse," he said. "Sure, you miss your key guys, but you still have only five guys on the floor, and we're all supposed to be pros getting paychecks.
"But we still came out real flat. We better make a better showing than this, or we'll get our butts kicked like this every night."
How ugly were the Bullets? At halftime, they had more turnovers (14) than field goals (11).
They shot 30 percent from the field (11-for-37) but trailed 41-32 because the Magic shot almost as poorly, 18-for-55 for 33 percent.
It grew worse in the third quarter, when Skiles and Dennis Scott (24 points) combined to stretch the lead to 62-43.
In desperation, the Bullets began trapping all over the floor, and the Magic began to turn the ball over with regularity.
Adams kept creating shots and got the crowd, which had spent most of the game deriding the Bullets, to rally behind the home team.
He converted two free throws to make it 84-79, but the Bullets scored three in the last three minutes, turning the ball over and allowing Greg Kite and Nick Anderson (24 points) to break loose for dunks.
The Magic, off to the best start in its three-year history, had no sympathy for the Bullets.
"They still made us earn it," said Magic coach Matt Guokas. "We haven't played well these last three road games, so it's a good feeling just to get a win."
Skiles, who has blossomed into one of the NBA's top playmakers, put it into perspective.
"Over the course of an 82-game season, you'll have 15 ugly games like this. If you can win almost half of them, they'll show up big in the standings at the end of the year."
The Bullets return to action to tonight against the Minnesota Timberwolves in Minneapolis, but Unseld was informed that Grant and Eackles will not be in his traveling party.
"Injured players may be tempted to try and play when a team is going bad," he said. "But it's up to our doctors and trainer to decide when they're ready."
Opponent: Minnesota Timberwolves
Site: Target Center, Minneapolis, 8
Radio: WTOP (1500 AM)
Outlook: The Timberwolves have a new head coach, Jimmy Rodgers, who replaced Bill Musselman. Their only victory came over the Kings in Sacramento Saturday. They are averaging a league-low 87.6 points. G Tony Campbell leads scorers (13.4), and point G Pooh Richardson averages 7 assists. C Felton Spencer is averaging 8 rebounds. Top draft choice Luc Longley, the 7-foot-2 center from Australia, is unsigned.