The charismatic Boston Celtics humiliated the struggling Washington Bullets for the second time in 2 1/2 weeks last night with a convincing 118-97 thrashing at Capital Centre.

The Celtics (8-2) have now won four in a row on the road.They dropped the beleaguered Bullets to 3-6.

The Celtics buried the Bullets by 37 points in their first meeting this season in Boston Oct. 17 and even though last night's margin of victory was only 21 points, the Celtics were every bit as dominating as they were the first time around.

Most of the 17,635 in attendance came to see Larry Bird. He didn't disappoint very many of them as he scored 18 points and had 12 rebounds, four assists and four steals. But it was the overall Celtics play as a team that had the fans cheering more for them at the end than for the home team.

The celtics shot 54 percent from the field, mainly because they had many fast-break baskets and a whopping 40 assists.

As an indication of how the game went, the Celtics got 30 points off fast-break opportunities while the Bullets got only three.

Even with their fast break nonexistent, the Bullets still seldom ran any set plays, instead choosing to run a free-lance offense most of the game. They looked disorganized and overmatched as a result.

"It's probably a bit of both -- they're that good and we're this bad," said Bullet center Wes Unseld.

"They just ran us to death," said Bullet Coach Dick Motta. "We got caught in all sort of mismatches on transitions and they took advantage of all of them."

Tiny Archibald was the man leading many of the fast breaks and he finished with 16 points, nine assists and only one turnover.

"Once we started running, it was all academic," Archibald said. "We overplayed their outlets to keep them from running and then we took control of the boards and ran ourselves.

Cedric Maxwell was Boston's high scorer as he made all his six shots from the field and 12 of 14 free throws for 24 points.

His big quarter was the third, in which he scored 13 points, and the Celtics turned what was a tight 54-52 game at halftime into an 86-70 cakewalk going into the final quarter.

The celtics were ahead, 63-62, with 8:12 to play in the third period when they exploded for 15 unanswered points.

Maxwell had two fast break baskets, Archibald two and Bird one in that spurt as the Celtics ran circles around the Bullets who didn't have the antidote needed to slow them down.

The play that perhaps typified the difference in the two teams came during that spurt. Cowens was overplaying Unseld and reached over his shoulder to deflect a pass away.As the ball headed out of bounds, three Bullets just stood there while Cowens lunged for it and knocked it back to Bird, who started another successful Boston fast break.

During that span, the Bullets went scoreless for 5:04, missing eight straight shots and losing the ball twice.

For the game they shot a lowly 39 percent. Phil Chenier was the biggest nonshooter, as he missed 14 of the 17 shots he took. Kevin Porter, who had another off night, made one of six and the other Bullet guards who played, Gus Bailey and Larry Wright, shot a combined two for eight. That meant the Bullet guards missed 25 of the 31 shots they put up.

The big Bullet scorer was Greg Ballard, who in 21 minutes, scored a team high 23 points. He made seven of 10 shots from the field, including three of three tries for three-point goals.

The Bullets played without two of their best shooters -- Kevin Grevey and Roger Phegley. Grevey has two bad hamstrings and was put on the injured list Friday, while Phegley sat out last night's game with a sprained ankle. He is expected to be ready by the time the Bullets play San Antonio next Friday.

"We're all disappointed with our progress so far this season," said Motta. "We've got a lot of things we have to work on. Things start getting hard now."