LANDOVER -- It would have taken something on the order of harmonic convergence -- that moment when all the planets become aligned -- to have expected the Washington Bullets to put together an effort like the one they exhibited Friday night against Golden State.
Trouble was, their performance last night against the Seattle SuperSonics was completely at the other end of the spectrum, as they fell behind by as much as 40, and eventually were blitzed 120-92 before 10,015 at the Capital Centre.
How bad was the Bullets' effort? So bad, that Rich King, the Sonics' human victory cigar and hardly used first-round draft choice from last season, got six minutes of playing time, which surpassed the five minutes he had since this season began.
"We weren't very good in any stretch of this one," Washington coach Wes Unseld said. "I think it was one of those nights that it wasn't fun to be out there."
Seattle's Derrick McKey led seven Sonics in double figures with 23 points. Ricky Pierce had 19 points, and Shawn Kemp had 14 points and nine rebounds.
Washington's Pervis Ellison had 20 points to lead the Bullets, and LaBradford Smith chipped in 15.
To be sure, the Bullets (13-31) couldn't possibly have duplicated their effort Friday, when they scored a season-high 138 points against the Warriors on a season-high 64 percent shooting from the floor.
"They [the Bullets] have a young team, and last night [Friday] they had a big night," said Sonics coach George Karl. "Defensively, we wanted them to know they were going to feel double-teams and traps. They were going to have to play with better execution than last [Friday]night."
And, to be doubly fair, Washington starting forward Harvey Grant missed the game with a sore lower back.
To add to that, the Sonics (29-15) have one of the NBA's five-best records and a young and rapidly developing front court. They committed one turnover in the first half, when the outcome was already decided.
But even with all those factors at play, there was nothing to indicate such a tremendous Bullets' turnaround from one night to the next.
"It just goes to show you what one day can do," said Ellison, one of the few Bullets available in the locker room after the game. "I think it's all concentration. It's got to be. Physically, you're thinking that you're doing all the right things, but when you see the films, you see differently."
The blowout came at the worst possible time for the Bullets, who begin a seven-game road swing, which begins tomorrow night in Houston.
"We don't have much time [to forget last night]," Washington forward Tom Gugliotta said. "We have to regroup. We have a long trip, and we've got to put this behind us."
What had simply been a blowout became a laugher in the third quarter as the listless Bullets looked more like the team at the end of a cross-country trip than the Sonics.
After outscoring Washington 8-3 at the start of the period, Seattle applied the additional touches to the spanking by running off nine points to lead 88-48 with 6:28 left in the period.
McKey, who got a put-back on the fourth try to boost the lead to 40, was seen laughing with Kemp as they ran up the floor. Their laughter was appropriate, because the Bullets' play was nothing short of laughable.
With their pride wounded, Washington ran off nine straight points, but that only cut the Seattle lead to 29, hardly enough to quiet the Capital Centre boo-birds.
The Bullets trailed 94-65 at the end of the third.
Kemp made his presence felt almost immediately, with five points and five rebounds in the first six minutes of the game, but Seattle's interior dominance was in no way limited to him.
When Kemp rested, McKey went to work, stringing 12 points in the last 2:24 of the first period on shots from 11 feet in or closer to give Seattle a 32-22 lead at the end of the quarter.
The Sonics, who had lost three straight -- their longest losing string since coach George Karl took over the club last January -- opened the second quarter with a 9-0 run, fueled by six more points from McKey, again all on shots within easy range of the basket, to extend their lead to 17 with three minutes gone in the period.
Nothing the Bullets tried inside worked against the stronger, more mobile Sonics front line.