LANDOVER -- In the first quarter last night, Pervis Ellison couldn't find his uniform shirt. In the third quarter, the Washington Bullets couldn't find the basket.
It added up to a 113-100 rout by the defending champion Chicago Bulls (18-3) before a sellout crowd of 18,756 at the Capital Centre. The Bullets (6-16) lost their seventh straight.
With Bulls superstar Michael Jordan bothered by fouls in the first half, the Bullets were competitive, trailing by 53-51 at the break. But everything turned sour in the third quarter, when Washington managed only two field goals in the first eight minutes.
In the meantime, Jordan scored 10 of his game-high 29 points to help the Bulls build an 82-68 lead. Chicago cruised from there, winning for the 17th time in its past 18 games.
"We just couldn't score at the start of the third quarter," said Bullets coach Wes Unseld. "Their defense was pretty good, but too many of our guys were trying to create shots on their own."
The only encouraging news for the Bullets was the return of Ellison, who had missed four of the past five games with a sore left knee.
The 6-foot-11 center, who has been the Bullets' second-leading scorer and top rebounder, had the knee drained of fluid Friday afternoon, and that helped ease the pain.
The only pain for Ellison last night was of embarrassment. Unseld signaled for him to replace Charles Jones with 4 minutes, 29 seconds left in the first quarter. Ellison removed his warm-up jacket to discover he was wearing a T-shirt underneath. Unseld shook his head in amazement and sent Ralph Sampson in the game.
Ellison regained his uniform and his composure to contribute 16 points and 10 rebounds. But aside from reserve guard A.J. English's 19 points, the Bullets had trouble getting high-percentage shots in the second half against the Bulls' fast-switching defense.
"We finally established the tempo in the third quarter and brought the game under control," said Bulls coach Phil Jackson.
While the Bullets kept missing the mark, the Bulls shot 63 percent (12-for-19) in the third quarter. When Washington concentrated on stopping Jordan, it allowed his backcourt partner, John Paxson, to break loose for eight points as the Bulls pulled away.
Small forward Scottie Pippen, who is becoming a superstar in his own right, contributed 20 points, and power forward Horace Grant chipped in with 17 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
Said Pippen: "Our confidence level is extremely high now. We go on the road and feel like we can win every game."
The controversial book, "The Jordan Rules," in which Jordan is described as sniping at his teammates, has been as distracting as a gnat on an elephant as Chicago threatens to run away with the Central Division title.
For the record, the Bulls are 9-2 on the road, best in the league. The Bullets have difficulty winning even at home, where their record stands at 2-8. They have lost eight of nine at the Capital Centre since beating the Boston Celtics in their home opener Nov. 2.
Scoring has been the biggest problem. Washington had failed to score 100 points in its previous six games.
One of the main reasons has been point guard Michael Adams trying to play with a dislocated middle finger on his left hand. Adams, who leads the Bullets in scoring, has had difficulty controlling his dribble and setting his right hand for shooting.
In his past five starts, he has scored a total of 58 points, making only 18 of 69 field-goal attempts.
"When Michael grips the ball, it's still painful," said Unseld, "but he's too tough to sit it out."
Adams offered no excuses.
"Tonight, we just didn't come out and compete in the second half," he said. "If we get solid play from everybody, we'll turn this thing around."
The Bullets begin a four-game road trip Tuesday with stops in Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and Denver before returning home Dec. 27 to play host to the Rockets.