To ride the waves of zaniness that have dominated this NBA championship playoff. Charlie Johnson offers a raft of logic: "I think what you have is two teams who were unprepared (mentally) for one another, because neither expected the other to be there."

After four games, the Bullets and Sonics have at time been brilliant and bumbling, like two talented fighters that possess every skill except a knockout punch. We have seen:

The Bullets grab a 19-point lead in the third quarter of game one and lose.

The Sonics grab a 15-point lead at almost the same time in the third quarter of game four and lose.

Washington shoot a putrid 33 percent an entire game - and have a chance to win in the final three seconds.

A fellow whose high-school career was so ordinary he drove a fork lift for a year nearly dominated the series.

A man 7-foot-1 refuse to take the easy scoring path against a man 6-foot-7.

A crowd of nearly 40,000 make much less noise than a crowd of nearly 15,000.

"I was worried at halftime (of game four)," Bullet Coach Dick Motta admitted yesterday. "For the first time this year, I could sense the stench of defeat. When we got down 15, I said: 'If you're going to go out, go out like men. Don't just stand there and watch them do this to us.'

"They responded."

To Motta and assistant Bernie Bickerstaff, the difference between the 19-point lead the Bullets botched and the 15-point lead the Sonics blew was more than four points.

"We got up 19 but really weren't playing well at all," Bickerstaff said. "But when Beattle got up 15 they were hitting everything. JJ (John Johnson) Sikma, everybody was hitting. And the ball was going off our hands. That had me worried as much as anything.

'You know how sometimes whatever you touch slips off to the other team - and then they go down and score? That's an indication of trouble. And I was worried."

But the Bullets all of a sudden got loads of help from two previously unproductive areas - their guards and their bench - and managed to even the series at two games with a four-point victory in overtime.

From doing little more than shake off the splinters in earlier games against the Sonics, nearly every Bullet reserve who played Tuesday night contributed in ways that loomed especially large after the game.

Mitch Kupchak took on an attitude seldom seen in months, Greg Ballard grabbed one important rebound and sank two even more important free throws. And the guards, Kevin Grevey, Larry Wright, Tom Henderson and Johnson, at least partially regained their shooting form.

"You break out of a slump the same say you break into it," Johnson said, "by shooting.

"You have to try to still be a factor, although you'll try to get a shot just a little closer than before, so the chances of making it will be better. But the worst thing you can do, probably, is to stop shooting."

Although the former fork lift operator, Dennis Johnson, has been dazzling the entire series, CJ insists the Sonic guard who ultimately will determine the Sonics' fate is Freddy Brown.

"Seattle goes as he goes," Johnson said. "They look to him coming off the bench, rolling 'em in, kicking 'em in. When he does his thing, they roll up leads.

"For instance, we come down and work out butts off to get a turnaround jumper from T. Then Brown gets just beyond half-court and swishes one. We come back down and Bobby Dandridge works like crazy for that little go-by-you jumper - and Freddy goes down and slips behind a pick and cans another bomb.

"If we can contain him, we'll be most successful."

The Bullets were most grateful the Kingdome crowd of 39,587 did not create as much noise as expected, certainly not the dian the near-15,000 sellout Friday in the Seattle Center Coliseum will generate.

"E was right," Bickerstaff said. "He said all the noise in domed baseball parks just goes up, toward the roof. It doesn't have anything to bounce off of."

One mystery, this series has been why the Sonics' Marvin Webster has made getting an open shot for himself so tough against the Bullets' Wes Unseld. A little Sikma in him would be helpful.

Because Webster is six inches taller than Unseld, all he needs to get what is known in the trade as "a baby jumper" is to face Unseld with the ball, raise it over his head, leap and shoot. To make matters even simpler, Unseld rarely leaves the floor.

Instead, Webster has been playing into Unseld's hands. What Unseld has going for him is bulk, and Webster has been trying to maneuver around him for hooks or often allowing himself to be bumped out of reasonable range on his turnaround jumpers.

A small change in style might work wonders.

"Shhhhh," said. CJ.