"Moses Malone doesn't say anything, he just works hard," said the Washington Bullets' Mitch Kupchak.

Thursday night, Malone didn't have to say a word or utter a sound. His actions were loud enough as he led Houston to a 124-118 overtime victory over the Bullets to square their best-of-seven NBA Eastern Conference semifinal series at one game each.

Game No. 3 will be played Sunday at Capital Centre starting at 1:30. A Bullets spokesman said yesterday there about 7,000 tickets remaining for the game.

The 23-year-old Malone scored 31 points and grabbed 26 rebounds, 15 of them offensive, as the Rockets got off 31 more shots than the Bullets.

The Rockets are a fine shooting team, and when they have so many opportunities to score, they are tough to beat. In Thursday's game, Malone's 15 offensive rebounds led directly to 20 Houston points.

It is frightening to Bullet coach Dick Motta think that his team could shoot 55 per cent from the field, as it did Thursday, and still lose.

"If you give one guy 15 offensive rebounds, you have to shoot at least 55 per cent just to stay in the game," Motta said.

Motta started bulky Wes Unseld on Malone, but Malone proved too quick and jumped too high for Unseld to get in position to use his body on him.

Kupchak also had a hand in trying to contain Malone, but Malone was able to outmuscle the Bullets' 6-10 rookie.

Malone, who set an NBA offensive-rebounding record this season with 437, had 27 in a game against the Bullets April 1.

What the Bullets will probably do Sunday is alternate Unseld and Kupchak on Malone and try to be more aggresive.

Despite Malone's dominance in the second game of the series, the Bullets accomplished what they had hoped - a split out of the first two games in Houston.

However, Kupchak said, "If we can go in there (Houston) and take it from them, what's to keep them from doing it to us?" Kupchak said.

"I just hope we don't give the home court too much credit," Motta said. "They (the Rockets) beat us in the showdown game of the regular season at our place. I just don't think the home court will be that important. This will be a long series."

John Lucas, the former Maryland star, blamed himself for the Rockets' loss in the first game and came out Thursday determined to make up for it. He made 10 of 14 shots and had six assists before fouling out. He calmed the Rockets down when they needed it but whenever a fast-break opportunity was there, he made sure they took advantage of it.

Phil Chenier was the man for the Bullets Thursday. He made 16 of 24 shots and scored 37 points. He had eight of Washington's 10 overtime points. But Mike Newlin, Calvin Murphy and Rudy Tomjanovich combined for 14 overtime points for the Rockets.

One of the key matchups in the series so far has been that between Elvin Hayes and Dwight Jones.

Hayes won't admit it, but Jones refuses to be intimidated by him and he has taken Hayes out of the game in two of the last three he has faced him.

Thursday, Hayes missed eight of his first nine shots and went into the fourth quarter with only three points. He finished with 12, but made only four of 12 shots from the field. He did get 15 rebounds, however.

Jones held Hayes a season-low five points in their last regular-season meeting.