LANDOVER -- After struggling through eight games and three weeks without a victory, the Washington Bullets found a team yesterday with more troubles than theirs.
Both the Bullets (15-29) and point guard Michael Adams ended prolonged slumps by beating the last-place Orlando Magic, 114-104, before 9,223.
With center Pervis Ellison limited to 20 minutes of playing time because of early foul trouble, Adams took command of the offense with a game-high 38 points, including five three-pointers. It was the first time he has scored 30 or more points since Dec. 18, when he had 35 against the Spurs in San Antonio.
In the past month, teams have made a point of double-teaming or jumping out at Adams any time he had the ball or disappeared behind a pick. This strategy resulted in Adams shooting less than 40 percent from the field and less than 30 percent from three-point range.
But he corrected all that yesterday. The Magic, lacking quickness in both its guards and big men, had trouble denying open shots to the 5-foot-8 Bullets floor leader.
"Michael is so quick," Magic point guard Scott Skiles said. "We tried doubling him, but he would worm his way out and hit the threes. He has the confidence to keep taking three-pointers even after he's had a long shooting slump."
The Magic (11-34), thanks mainly to a 37-point effort by emerging superstar Nick Anderson, trailed only 93-89 with a little more than six minutes left when Adams took control of the game. In one minute, he hit a jump shot and consecutive three-pointers for a 101-93 cushion.
Harvey Grant followed with a tip-in, and Orlando could not draw closer than six the rest of the way.
"It just feels good to finally win one," Bullets coach Wes Unseld said. "I'm sick of losing. Frankly, I was frightened today because Pervis played limited minutes and Harvey also had early foul problems."
Ellison made the most of his 20-minute stint, scoring 15 points and grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds. Grant scored 23 points in 37 minutes.
But the day belonged to Adams, who showed signs of ending his offensive slump Friday night when he scored 20 in the second half against the New York Knicks.
"For us to win, I've got to be more offensive-minded," Adams said. "I've been concentrating on being more aggressive and driving to the basket. But the Magic weren't coming out on me, so I took more jump shots. I was able to come off picks or shoot behind screens."
Said Ellison: "It's obvious we need Michael's offense. He dictates how we're going out there. If he's shooting well, that opens things up for the rest of us."
Like the Bullets, the Magic relies heavily on the offensive skills of one player. In this case, it is Anderson, who has averaged more than 25 points in his past eight games, winning NBA Player of the Week honors.
The third-year swingman from Illinois displayed an assortment of shots in making 16 of 25 field-goal attempts, hitting acrobatic layups and both of his three-point attempts in the fourth quarter to keep the Magic close.
"We tried everything to stop him," Unseld said. "We even put our best defender [David Wingate] on him, and that didn't help. Nothing stopped him from scoring."
But the Magic, which had beaten the Bullets in its two previous meetings, had little else offensively, playing without injured starter Dennis Scott (leg) and sixth man Jerry Reynolds (rotator cuff).
The Bullets, and Adams, in particular, took advantage of their absence.
"This was a must win for us," Grant said. "We have to beat this kind of team. Now if we can close out before the All-Star break with wins over Charlotte and New Jersey, we might get things turned around."