The struggling Washington Bullets were so bad tonight that captain Wes Unseld said he was ashamed to have been a part of what happened.

The Bullets were in a nonproductive doze most of the game and snapped out of it only after they were down 33 points in the third quarter.

The Hawks appeared bored, but still have enough to withstand the late rally and bury the hapless visitors, 98-82, at the Omni.

It was the Bullets' lowest point production of the season and their seventh loss in the last nine games.

"We've played bad a lot of times this season, but I think this is the first time where nobody did anything to snap us out of it," Unseld said.

The Bullets shot 22 percent from the field in the first quarter, scored only 12 points and were never in the game.

"We tried to lull them to sleep, but our game plan went awry," said Bullet Coach Dick Motta, trying to laugh to keep from crying. "The plan was to only get down by 25.

Both teams shot 39 percent for the game and the Bullets made two more field goals than the Hawks, but Atlanta converted 34 to 43 free throws to only 14 of 21 for Washington.

John Drew and Dan Roundifeld had 20 and 19 points, respectively, as every Hawk on the roster scored. Roger Phegley led the Bullets with 17 points. Greg Ballard added 14.

The Hawks expaned their 22-point halftime lead to 73-40 after a 10-0 spurt midway through the third period. Tree Rollings had four of those points and Drew three.

That's when the Bullets started their move.

They cut the lead to 25 by the end of the period and then started the final quarter with a 9-0 spurt to cut the lead to 79-63. Ballard had four of those points.

The closest the Bullets got was at 88-80 after two more Ballard jumpers and a Phegley turnaround with 3:30 left.

Atlanta raised the lead to 11 on a three-point play by Roundfield, and that was it for the Bullets.

The Bullets play the Indiana Pacers at Capital Centre at 8:05 p.m. Wednesday and then host the Boston Celtics Thursday.

This was Atlanta's first game minus Tom McMillen, who tore a ligament in his right knee Sunday and underwent surgery earlier today to repair it. John Brown came out of retirement and signed a 10-day contract to replace McMillen.

The Bullets opened the scoring with a fast-break by Kevin Grevey off the tap, but went scoreless for the next five minutes while Atlanta scored 10 straight.

Three Hawk starters, center Wayne (Tree) Rollins, forward John Drew and guard Armond Hill were all in early foul trouble with three personals.

But it didn't matter. The Bullets were imept, tallying a meager 12 points in the first period. It was their worst start ever and the second lowest scoring single quarter in the league this season.

To add insult to injury, the Bullets also own this season's lowest scoring period; 11 in one quarter against New Jersey last week.

The Hawks shot a dismal 38 percent in the first quarter, yet they still led by 15 points, 27-12.

The second period was more of the same, as the Hawks led by as much as 24 points, settling for a 54-32 advantage at the half.

That is the Bullets' lowest scoring half of the season.

The Hawks scored on fast breaks, tap-ins, long jumpers and just about everything, while the Bullets had more first-half turnovers than field goals.

Back-to-back baskets to open the second period by Larry Wright encouraged the Bullets for a moment, but Atlanta, on baskets by Eddie Johnson and Jack Givens got those right back and then started padding their lead.

The Bullets' sad state of affairs was illustrated by the fact that three players shared scoring honors ins the first half with six points each -- Roger Phegley, Wright and Kevin Porter.

The Bullets shot 30 percent in the first half, making 12 of 40 shots.

"The key was that we played excellent defense," Atlanta Coach Hubie Brown said. "They (the Bullets) are a very, very poor shooting team this year and we didn't foul them and keep putting them on the line."